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  Railroads of Madison County
Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

Branching Out
By Jim Peters

Jan 11, 2003
At most stations the Agent's position came under the ORT (Telegraphers) category. Those at larger towns were appointments, such as Dunkirk, North East, Erie, Conneaut, Ashtabula, Painesville, Warren and Titusville. An appointee was usually someone from the Operator's ranks. An exception was Ed Boyd, who as a Trainman lost his hearing in a wreck, and was offered the Agency at Warren, PA. Anyway, I landed the job of Ticket-Clerk Operator at Warren, taking over there on August 5th, 1946. There was no passenger service on the Valley Branch, but Warren did a fair amount of business in tickets and Pullman reservations for people who boarded their trains in Westfield or Dunkirk on the Main Line.

There were also two BRC Clerks here, leaving little for the Agent to do. In addition to train orders, signal work and interchange reports with the PRR, I also did the morning yard check. The yard check should have taken no more than 25 minutes, but Mr. Boyd insisted on recording all car seal numbers. This meant checking both sides of every box and refrigerator car. In winter this was finger-numbing, in the damp, frigid air rising from the Allegheny River.

One time I stepped way out of line with a practical joke. The Engine Hostler, Ted Kamen, was a grumpy old complainer. His biggest gripe was the onset of Diesels, which would eliminate his job. Just before going off duty I composed a fake message and laid it on the counter for all to see. It was addressed to ALL CONCERNED, WARREN, PA, and went something like this: EFFECTIVE (date) DIESEL LOCOMOTIVE NO 107 WILL BE PLACED IN SERVICE ON THE WARREN SWITCH RUN, with a false signature. The next morning I asked Freddy Schmotzer, the Car Inspector, how Ted had reacted. "Pretty bad, he was almost crying." "But you told him it was a gag, right?" "No, we didn't."

Now, I was scared. I waited for Ted to come in that night in hopes I could wriggle out of it. I told him, "The message was sent here in error. It was supposed to go to Warren, OH." What I had done was a dischargeable offense, and I was lucky no one had reported it. But what really made me feel bad was when I learned later why he was so unhappy. His wife was an invalid, and what was intended as a bit of fun was really a cruel hoax.

Shortly thereafter I bid a temporary vacancy at Fairview, PA and promptly got into trouble with the Superintendent's office.

Jim Peters

Winter Wonderland?
By Jim Peters

Jan 12, 2003
On November 6, 1946 I went to Fairview on a temporary vacancy, and was dismayed to learn that the stop of #60 had been discontinued. No provision had been made for the handling of Railway Express shipments. There were a number of nurseries in the area and they shipped by Express. Arrangements had to be made for a special stop of M&E #32. In winter it ran quite late every day. It was a very long train, and the depot was on the outside of a gentle curve, putting the engine out of sight. This meant wading through snow in a field so the engineer could see my fusee in order to spot the Express car at the short platform.

The Chief disallowed my timeslips for the overtime, claiming that I was being compensated by the REA's commission. I turned them over to the ORT rep, and a few days later was advised that they'd be paid. The Company had been getting away with this ploy with "nons," who had no recourse to the Union.

Since there was no more passenger service I bundled up all the tickets and sent them via Registered RR Mail to the Passenger Dept. in Detroit. A week or so later I received a call from the Superintendent's Chief Clerk, Leon Calvert. He angrily demanded to know where I got the authority to dispose of the tickets. I wanted to say, "The same place you got the authority to cancel the service." Instead, I said, "Since the tickets couldn't be sold, I didn't want to be responsible for them." "Well, you shouldn't have done it!"

The TV ended on January 21, 1947 and the next day I was back on my regular job at Warren. But another TV came up at Sinclairville, NY. Without taking a day off I arrived there on February 1st. There was so much snow it looked like an Arctic outpost.

Carload business was brisk for such a small town. The Borden Co. received, processed and shipped powdered milk to New York for export under the Marshall Plan. The GLF feed mill got a car every week and Swanson Lumber Co. shipped ash logs to AF&H for True Temper tool handles. A.J. Colborn ran a coal yard and cider mill. Wilde Oil Co. was the wholesale distributor for Texaco gasoline. One month they unloaded six cars a day, requiring two switches, one by the Falconer Turn in the morning and one by #14 at night.

The TV ended March 22nd, but I landed another at Gerry, the next station south. A week later I went to Cassadaga on a TV and it was the turning point of my life.

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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