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  Railroads of Madison County
Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

Incident at DJ
By Jim Peters

Dec 31, 2002
When I hired out as an Operator at Erie in 1942 I was 18. Bad legs kept me from train service and from the Draft. I was sent out to post the tower at Dock Jct. You had to learn the various jobs on your own time. The 1st Trick Op was burly and surly. I think he was one of the Bovee brothers; the other one was at Girard Jct.

He copied a 19 order and told me to hand it on to a yard engine moving east on Track 3, against the current of traffic. That 0-8-0 looked like a mountain bearing down on me. Someone in the gangway grabbed the order from my hand and I started back to the tower. Just as I was about to cross track 2 an eastbound fast freight appeared and I turned to get out of its way. I fell ignominiously into a mud puddle between the tracks. When I got back to the tower he yelled at me for tracking mud onto his clean floor, never mind I'd almost gotten killed.

Just west of the tower was an emergency transfer track to the Nickel Plate. The PRR had trackage rights between DJ and GJ, and their passenger trains between Myrtle St. in Erie to GJ. In addition to handling PRR freight to and from their yard, the Op had to retrieve consists thrown from NYC westbounds and telegraph them to ND office at Collinwood. All in all, a busy place to work.

Jim Peters


Wartime Commuting
By Jim Peters

Jan 2, 2003
Eventful aspects of the job were getting to and from home. When I was at Irving,(1944-1946) I usually drove to Dunkirk to catch #83 for Erie on Saturday. I'd stop at a bakery on the east side of Central Ave., pick up a couple glazed donuts, then cross the street to wash them down with a few beers. One time, as I emerged from the bakery, 83 was already in the station. No time to make the train, it meant driving all the way home. With the "B" ration I could do that at least once a month.

Traffic was sparse then and you had the road all to yourself. But if you broke down between towns you were SOL. Somewhere west of Barcelona on Route 5 the old Ford lurched to the right, but I stopped safely and got out to check. The right front tire had a hole in the casing you could put your fist through. I managed to put the spare on, but with four "baldies," driving had to be curtailed. Eventually, the Ration Board OK'd a new set.

One morning I got off #18 at Dunkirk with an extra man, Tommy Furlong, who was to get a bus to his assignment at Gerry. This was before the new NYC passenger station was built, everything being handled by the adjacent Erie RR station/hotel. The old Ford was dead. "Let's push her out to the street and onto the downgrade under the NYC overpass." I was pushing on the door jamb, Tommy pushing behind me, and once rolling I jumped in and slammed the door on poor Tommy's hand. Still dead. Then I noticed a small piece of paper tucked under the windshield wiper. It was a note from someone at the Erie depot: "You left your headlights on and we disconnected your battery."

Early one morning in late 1946 I was on the way from Erie to Warren, PA. It was snowing very hard, and about four miles south of Wattsburg the lights went out. I couldn't see a thing and tried to stop without skidding, but ended up in a ditch on the left side. One of my big, heavy mitts had nudged the headlight switch, which was mounted in the center of the steering wheel. I struggled out of the passenger side door, spotted a light way ahead, and started out for same, which I surmised was the village of Beaver Dam. Two guys in a Model A Ford showed up and gave me a lift to Corry, arriving there about 6 AM. I stopped at a diner and called for a AAA tow, telling him where to pick me up. Got the car back on the road and arrived at work an hour or so late, but all in one piece.

Jim Peters


Jim Peters "Tales of the Rails" stories are Copyrighted by Jim Peters Ja76peters@aol.com and may not be used without his express permission.
"My Dad, Al Peters, was a Trainman and Conductor, starting with the NYC in 1916. Retired in 1968. I started in 1942 as Agent-Operator, and worked on the Erie Division until retiring on disability in 1981. Some of the positions I worked were Freight Agent, Ticket Agent, Teletype Operator, Dispatcher Report Clerk and Train Dispatcher in the Cleveland Union Terminal, when the Erie Division and Cleveland Divisions were consolidated in 1963. Altogether I worked at 20+ stations and offices in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Main Line and Valley Branch. - Jim Peters

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