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Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

Trial and Error
By Jim Peters

Jan 23, 2003
My work schedule (11PM-7AM with Wed. & Thu. off) left little time for home life with Sally and the kids, plus I worked a lot of rest days. I put in 25 days in June, 28 in August, 26 in September and 27 in October. As a result of the NYC-PRR merger, the ATDA arranged for three PRR men to come into our office with full seniority. It hindered the advancement of us younger Dispatchers for years to come. To add to the upheaval, the General Manager's office was moved to Chicago. Art Tiedeman did not go with it, and bumped me from 3rd Trick East End Feb. 19, 1969. I was forced to train on a Cleveland Relief Position, involving several desks and three shifts. I was 45 years old and this situation was unacceptable at this stage of my life. I resigned from Dispatcher and went back to the Report job.

By 1972 the pay of the Report job was quite good. In fact $37.89 a day was more than it was worth, in my opinion. We were now getting four weeks of vacation, which could be taken all at once or in two segments. Conrail created many new supervisory positions to do the work of former employees whose positions were abolished, with no hindrance from our so-called "Union." The Supervisors had little or no railroad experience , and resented us veterans who knew what made things run. They favored people newly-hired off the street, with no RR backgrounds. These "drones," as I called them, received very little training and never submitted time claims for Agreement violations.

I had to pick up the slack, doing work that was undone on 3rd Trick. On March 9, 1973 I made my first sweep of the Dispatchers' desks a 7:40 AM. Train BC-3 had been ordered at Frontier for 12:01 AM, passed Bay View at 2:10 AM and was now in Collinwood yard. All night long it had been unreported by the drone on 3rd Trick. When Chicago called me at 8:20 I told him to hang on while I complained to my Supervisor, who told me to "Cut out the bullshit and do as you're told!" Heated words were exchanged and at 8:30 I was taken out of service for insubordination. I signed up for unemployment benefits at the Trainmaster's office in Rockport Yard.

A disciplinary hearing is like a military court martial. The person on trial is presumed guilty and must prove otherwise in order to avoid punishment. It was held 10 days later, on March 19th. I typed up a two-page statement for the TCU rep, describing the events of the morning in question. Joe Coleman, the 1st trick Chief, and Frank Smola, the Signal Maintainer, volunteered to testify on my behalf. Even the Company's witness, Frank Grady, helped me out. When asked if Mr. Peters had been talking loud, he answered, "They were both loud." The transcript of the proceedings made it appear that the Supervisor was the one on trial. I was reinstated April 10th with full pay for time lost, plus a mileage allowance for traveling to Rockport plus transportation to attend the hearing.

On April 12th, to avenge the Supervisor's humiliation, they abolished 1st Trick Cleveland Reports, leaving me to handle the whole thing alone. This was in violation of the 1963 Consolidation Agreement, but the TCU went along with it. The Union concentrated nationally on longer vacations, more paid holidays and frequent pay raises. Locally, work rules were not enforced.

Jim Peters

Meals On Wheels
By Jim Peters

Jan 24, 2003
Some guys on the railroad had it made. These two were welders from Elkhart, whose job was rehabilitating battered rail joints. I don't remember their names, having known them only a month or so in 1945, when I was Agent at Irving, NY. They had their own bunk and dining cars, and a cook. Hell, he was a chef. He'd go up town armed with ration books and return with provisions fit for a king.

Their outfit was parked at Silver Creek, and at the time were working east of me. One day they stopped at Irving to drop off some empty cylinders. They had a clearance on Track 4 to go to Silver Creek for lunch, and invited me to join them. I readily accepted, and got on their motor car (speeder). It was a big, brand-new four cylinder Fairmont.

"Lunch" consisted of roast beef, fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, several veggies, bread and rolls with real butter, pie and cake, all produced from a coal stove! He also set out coffee, tea and lemonade. After getting stuffed I asked Cookie what I owed him and he said, "Oh, a quarter should cover it; I'd rather have more ration coupons."

When it was time to head back east they didn't bother to get a track clearance. No. 60 was departing the station and they loaded the speeder onto Track 2 and we took off. We caught up to the train at Sunset Bay and stayed within 50 feet of her rear end until they stopped to let me off. What a ride!

When their work progressed farther east the outfit was moved to Angola. Some evenings I'd pick up Hank Hanmann, Tony Bifaro, Mike Rose and Louie Militello and a case of beer, and we'd go over to play poker. The team track was quite close to the Main, and when an eastbound lumbered by on Track 4 that old car rattled and shook. I'd hafta say that young people today don't know what it means to really live.

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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