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  Railroads of Madison County
AL Turner
A veteran E9, No. 92


Date: Tue, 29 Nov 1994

Its 6:50 pm, and I step off my nondescript commuter train in suburban Maryland. It is dark and after a rainy day, water glistens on the remaining parked cars, and it is strangely warm. Tonight this unheralded rail conveyance is made up with three MARC cars, shoved westward by a locomotive numbered 92. After exchanging pleasantries with departing commuters, I linger to light up a cigarette. I place my attache case on the ground, heavy with papers I haven't read and a brown bag lunch I did not eat. I take in a deep breath of smoke and view the scene.

It has been a hard day, very hard. Re-organizing and discussing "ownership of processes", projected shortfalls, strawmen and benchmarking. Real people's livelihoods, daily activities, professional careers and outlooks depend upon these discussions from on high, yet one could never detect that amongst the charts, presentations and new management mantra real people are at stake. I stare at the locomotive intently, taking it in, much like the cigarette I am consuming. An E9. A veteran. And, I think to myself, where have I heard this sound emanating from within its carbody before?

I have heard it in Croton Harmon, on a cold night, as these monsters of speed and stamina backed down upon the Knickerbocker, or the Wolverine. I have seen these units light the cypress and pine trees along the rights of way on speeding Florida trains through the Carolinas and Georgia. I have heard this gutsy, yes macho, roar echo off the mountains climbing into the sky at Horse Shoe on a snowy night. I have heard them pass my office window, rattling them, bringing the Crescent into Washington. This particular unit called Cicero, and McCook and Osceola and LaCrosse home, on torrid summer nights, or pulling Zephyrs through ice and snow in the vast, sometimes forbidding plains.

But here is #92, strangely in Maryland, making those magical and emboldening sounds, shoving three cars. Like so many times in its life, its replacements are on the property, ready to substitute for it at the slightest hint of major failure, yet it works on. From Zephyrs, to leading commuter train charges bellowing west from Chicago's Union Station to this outpost, it has gone from racehorse to curiousity with dignity, and grace and pride.

Somewhere, for some reason, this locomotive has so far escaped, the P&L statements, the ROI studies and other hard nosed business decisions, so it can do what its maker intended. It's movement remains seemingly oblivious to its eventual fate. The sound of the unit fades into the evening's stillness. I extinguish my finished cigarette, and walk to my car. Unit 92 and I, have something in common today. Another analysis, another discussion has left us intact, so that we may roam the rails some more.

Al Tuner


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