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Roger Hensley

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  Railroads of Madison County
Maurice Lewman

Michigan Division
A Close Call and Sweaty Palms

Nov 09, 2000
Dear Mr. Hensley,
Here are a few stories that happened on the Michigan Division that could be of interest in memories. I like to call this " A Close Call."

South Anderson circa 1955 On a Wednesday in late summer of 1953, I was firing on the So. Anderson-Greensburg local for engineer R.C. "Smoke" Hoover. This job was on duty at 8 am. I had driven from Knightstown through some very heavy rain 3-4 miles north of Knightstown on my way to work at So. Anderson. When we came to the rainy area, on the local, we crossed a little stream called dry run. The stream runs parallel with the track on the east side and makes a 90 degree turn and goes under the track.

As we passed over the stream I remarked about how high the water was. Nothing more was said about the water and we continued on to Knightstown and Carthage. While doing the work at Carthage the dispatcher made a meet with number 76 at Carthage. Meanwhile the farmer that lived west of the ridge at dry run saw that half of the bridge was washed out. Instead of calling the Knightstown operator he called the Shirley operater. The operator at Shirley thought it was a crank call and hung up. The man tried again with the same results.

Then he finally called the Knightstown operator, Lawrence Stroup, and identified himself. Stroup threw the signal red as #76 was coming over highway US 40 two blocks away. The engineer Farrell Aldridge stopped the train and I believe ran around his train and returned to Greensburg. We made Greensburg-Knightstown turns Thursday and Friday and run through on Saturday.

They repaired the bridge in a little over 48 hrs. This included driving the piling and a new span. From the block signal at Knightstown to the washed out bridge , time wise, was about 9 or 10 minutes. If the train had passed K- town it would have been impossible to have stopped it because they were operating under manual block rules and the next signal was at Shirley.

"Sweaty Palms"
John R. Ruhling mentioned the interlocking at Alexandria. Before the NKP installed CTC, the protection at the B-4, NKP crossing was a gate. After the installation of CTC , signals were installed on the B-4. After stopping, the brakeman would place his key in a box on the signal and if the NKP did not have a movement, you received a clear indication and proceeded.

NYC Mikado Alex was a sweaty palm stop because it was down hill and a curve about 8-10 car lengths south of the signal. This curve caused a depth perception problem. You looked straight at the signal and the track curved. There was about 6 car lengths from the little bridge south to the signal and you had to keep this in mind when stopping. Most of the Michigan Division engineers power braked with 20 or 150 cars and tried to stop about 1-2 cars from the signal. A fireman, J.C. Simmons, asked me when my hands quit sweating at Alex when making a stop. My answer was, they still get sweaty and I had been running on the road for at least 10 years. Coming south was easier because of lighter trains.

M.E. Lewman

Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."

Picture Credits:
South Anderson Yard circa 1955 with NYC L4A Mohawk - Photo by M.D.McCarter - Ron Buser Collection.
NYC Mikado under load. H10a photo by Ray E. Toby / Collection of Ray S. Curl.

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