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  Railroads of Madison County
Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

Another Bump, Another Move
By Jim Peters

Jan 20, 2003
Every year the Volunteer Firemen from various communities held parades and mini-fairs. When it was Dunkirk's turn to play host we attended the festivities. As the seven of us started down Deer St. with the youngest in a stroller, the neighbor across the street hollered, "Are you going to the parade?" I yelled back, "When we go to town, it IS a parade!" As with all good things the summer of '61 passed much too quickly. Due to the closing of stations Everett Meredith bumped Walt Gifford at 2nd Painesville Ticket, and he bumped Bob Ohrn at 2nd Trick Westfield Ticket who bumped me. There were no freight or ticket jobs I could land, meaning I had to learn something entirely different. I bumped Ray Meyers, 1st trick MS Telegraph Office in Erie.

To qualify at MS you had to be able to read the combination of holes punched into the teletype tape. It was perforated by the keyboard unit, similar to a typewriter. The tape was fed into the sending unit for transmission to other offices. We could send direct to BO Buffalo, UY Youngstown, SC Chicago and ON Cleveland, which was a relay office. You needed 30 words per minute to pass.

With a sample tape and code sheet, Sally drilled me at home on memorizing the letters and numbers. When It was time for the test, the Wire Chief, Wally Rhinehart, pulled out a strip of used tape and said, "Show me an 'e'." Instead, I started to read the message thereon. He said, "Oh, shit!" and threw the tape into the wastebasket. For the wire test I was given a half-dozen messages to punch, after which they were fed to a printer monitor for comparison with its rate of 70 WPM. Then I was sent to the Chief's office to wait. The Chief's Clerk, Chuck Tulledge, came in and said, "Showoff! Some guys had to take the test more than once to make 30, and you did about 50."

My job in MS was abolished November 3, 1962, leaving just the Wire Chief on 1st Trick. But this time I only had to go down the hall to bump another day job. I posted the Chief 's Clerk job for five days and took over November 12th. It consisted mostly of assigning extra men to cover vacancies in Operator and Dispatcher positions, processing all the timeslips and preparing the payroll. Also, advertising temporary and permanent vacancies and assigning vacation dates, etc. In addition, the Clerk issued instructions for special stops of passenger trains, loads of excessive dimensions, movements of Officials' private cars, etc. You had to be well versed in Work Rules to avoid time claims. It was an interesting, good-paying job and I enjoyed it.

Jim Peters

Another Move In a Fateful Time
By Jim Peters

Jan 21, 2003
We were very happy in Erie, my old home town. We were renting a small house on the northeast side, on Eagle Point Blvd., a couple of blocks up from the Lake. Erie was the headquarters of the Erie Division, where the Superintendent, Chief Dispatcher and Train Dispatchers were located. We figured that with me working here, it would mean the end of moving around. We planned to buy a house as soon as we saved up for a down payment.

But in January of '63 the Company issued a 90-day notice that the Erie and Cleveland Divisions would be consolidated, with the HQ located in Cleveland. Our dream of being able to settle permanently evaporated into thin air, and having to move 100 miles again didn't make it easier. It looked like we would have to relocate by April. But we got a reprieve when the move was postponed indefinitely. We bought an old house in the West Park area of Cleveland, concluding the deal soon after receiving notice of the relocation date. The Chief, his Dispatchers and Report Clerk positions moved to Cleveland on Monday, November 11th, while I finished up some odds and ends in the Erie office. The next day I reported to the new position in Cleveland Union Terminal. The 90-day notice had specified that when my Chief's Clerk job was abolished a comparable position would be established in Cleveland. However, the new position combined the work of that job with that of the Report Clerk.

This was a violation of the Agreement, but the Union went along with it. Its name had been changed to "Transportation-Communication Union," and it had become less vigilant with the institution of the closed shop. From now on I'd be battling the Union and the Company. I commuted daily on #57 and back on #6 for the next five days. The Company moved us in its own truck on Monday, the 18th. Four days later President Kennedy was shot.

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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