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Back When, part 3
As we approach Marion, we hit the yard limits and we slow just in case the yard engine could be out in this direction. A little farther and we come to a signal and this is another reason we slowed down. This is an automatic signal in non-automatic territory, it tells you the condition of the track from this signal to the next one. The signal head has 3 lights, red, yellow and green. After passing this signal, the track curves to the right and Kent interlocking is out of sight. If the signal is yellow, the signal at Kent will be red at this time. If green, Kent will also be clear.
Today the signal is clear and we will pull down to 18th Street, which is about 15 cars south of the signal at Kent, cut our Marion cars from the train and set them off in the yard. The cut has been made and we pull down to the switch that will let us into our yard. This move is interesting because the basics of railroading must be used to enter this yard. The NKP runs beside us so we must cross their main to enter the yard. First the brakeman will see if any traffic is coming and will then move a lever to change the gate or in this case a board about 15ft. high on a post, the board is about 6ft. long by 12in. wide, with lights on each end from vertical to horizontal.
This gives us control of the NKP at this point. He then removes the derail and walks out to the main and lines the main track switch into the yard. The brakeman sets 10 off and the operator told him to pick up 5 and the bills are in the telephone box. Pulling out of the yards with a pick up, he swings us down when we are on the main. He now reverses the system of closing up the yard. Anytime in railroading you must have control of the track to operate. We have coupled up to the train and are ready to leave, Bill gives 4 toots for the signal at Kent, the signal goes green and we move north. At Third Street, we have a signal and the operator is out with a hoop. The message tells us the yard engine is on duty at Wabash and the order says, #74 meet #75 at Wabash.
With 63 cars it is going to be a hard pull up Marion hill. The speed is 30mph through Marion and up the hill. There is a reverse curve on the hardest part of the hill. It is 1.3% up with that reverse curve. We are on the hardest pull and Bill is working the engine close to the corner with the throttle wide open. The speed is down to about 14 mph and pulling steady. After he second curve, the danger of slip is past and Bill takes the reverse a little out of the corner as the speed increases. When we were ready to leave Marion, I put a little extra heel in, getting ready for the hill. About half way up the hill, I had to roll in another heel.
After we were over the hill and running 40mph, I like to watch the smoke as it comes out of the stack and try to keep the smoke where I can see through it at all times and still maintain steady steam pressure.
Starting down the 1.75% grade at Wabash, Bill again draws off 7 lbs. of air. You might wonder why it always seems to be 7 lbs. The engineers on this division were always light brakers and as the longer trains came, it paid off and we kept braking the same way. We would brake with 180 cars about the same as with 80. But back to the hill.
As the train slowed again, to maintain the trainline the release and lap method was used until we arrived at the bottom where the track leveled out. Coming across the bridge at 15mph the operator gives a go ahead and hoops up a message. The message said #75 was coming at North Manchester which gave us plenty of time to make the set off, we are in yard limits. Set off all of your short cars north of Wabash including the Marion pick up, in #11 track and bring the engine through an empty track to the house. We know the yard engine is going to switch the short cars they have into ours so that they will be in station order and give us a shove over the hill.
Spotting the engine for water, we climb down from the engine, the hostler will fill the tender with water and after we come back from eating, we will head north, and in about 5 hours we will be off duty at Elkhart.
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."