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  Railroads of Madison County
Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

Bars- In Front Of and Behind
By Jim Peters

Jan 8, 2003
It was raining and freezing the morning of January 18, 1943 when I drove to the new job at Willoughby. The Agent, Ralph Dean, had a slight frame, thin face and small mustache, and his greeting was polite as he poked life into the coal stove. I followed him around as he showed me the various tracks involved in the morning yard check. From the east end there was a coal company, house track, team track, No. 1 Yard and the West Spur. Branching off from the West Spur were two tracks into the Ohio Rubber Co. and another into the JHR Chemical Co. Just west of Vine St. was Jordan Coal Co. On the south side were the emergency transfer to the Nickel Plate, the Wolwin Chair Co. and the passenger depot. We went into ORCO for me to be fingerprinted and given a badge, because of their war work. East of Erie St., on the north side was Victor D. Browning Co., builder of overhead cranes. Two eastbounds stopped here- M&E #32 around Noon and #44, a Cleveland-Buffalo Local, around 4 PM.

The yard check each morning consisted of writing down each car number, type of car, loaded or empty, and spotted for loading or unloading. It was the basis for demurrage accounting, on hand reports and switching instructions. Ralph inquired as to my experience and I told him all I had was a month at Derby. I had read the Consolidated Freight Classification, and that was it. He called the Chief and said, "Why are you sending me another greenhorn? For the past year I've been nothing but a schoolmaster, breaking people in who soon leave or the Army grabs them!" When he got off the phone he told me, "Art Hyder says you're all he's got, I have to take you."

Bill Reno, the BRC Clerk, went to the Army and his job went begging, leaving Ralph and me to handle the whole thing. I was doing the yard check, inbound billing, outbound LCL billing, OS&D records, daily cash reports and remittances, on hand reports, carloads in and out, various demurrage accounts and keep track of dozens of freight tariffs. Also, the P&D records for the trucker, Ralph Jamison. In addition to all this I moved the LCL freight into and out of boxcars and trucks. Ralph was tolerant of my mistakes and whenever I showed initiative he'd say, "Now you're steamboating!" The pay was 75 cents an hour, but the training and experience were valuable in qualifying me for future Agents' positions.

Outlets for recreation were the movie theater and saloons. No, I never patronized houses of ill repute. Anyway, on the evening of April 1st I didn't see any familiar faces in the Three Arches Saloon, so after a couple beers proceeded to the theater. I tried to hit up the gal in the box office for a date, and ended up getting run in for intoxication. As I was led to a cell I asked to phone my boss, but was refused. It was one miserable night. Around 9:00 AM I was told I'd be released if I signed a waiver and paid a fine, which was the total amount in my wallet, $18.00.

After work on Saturday I drove to Painesville to get #6 for Erie. Get home at 9:00 PM and then up at 4:30 AM Monday, a cab to the station for #21 to Painesville. Every eight weeks or so we'd get advance notice that #21 would stop at Painesville on a Monday to pick up a contingent of draftees. Ralph would let me quit a little early to get on #44, meaning train service all the way home and back. You could say I was a war profiteer.

One day the Local was working in the yard and they were picking up the Collinwood cars off the West Spur. Archie Crocker, the Conductor, decided to couple the air hoses there and not wait for the cars to be switched into his train. When the engine backed onto them a wheel rolled over his foot. Ralph used his necktie for a tourniquet. and he and Brakeman O'Brien got Archie into the Ford's back seat. They propped up the remainder of his left foot on the folded front seat back. I drove uptown and the doctor gave him a shot for the pain. An ambulance was called to take him to Euclid General Hospital.

I was eight from the bottom of the 1943 seniority list, lucky to be holding a regular position, such as it was. Now it was January again. After a year in this workhouse Ralph said I could handle any Freight Agency. It was just a question of waiting for an opening somwhere.
(Continued on Redskins and Firewater)

Jim Peters

Jim Peters "Tales of the Rails" stories are Copyrighted by Jim Peters 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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