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  Railroads of Madison County
Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

Change Is Good?
By Jim Peters

Mar 21, 2003
NYC fans won't like what happened to their favorite railroad. The Erie Division was four-tracked and Interlocking Stations were located at NA Angola, X Dunkirk, WX Westfield, WV Wesleyville, XC Erie (PRR Xing), DJ Dock Jct., GJ Girard Jct., OD Ashtabula, OX Madison, AF Painesville, and SW Willoughby. In addition, hand-throw crossovers were in place at Irving, Silver Creek, North East, Myrtle St. Erie, Conneaut, west end of Ashtabula Yard and Perry. The crossovers at Irving were extremely valuable during the bridge construction in '44 and '45. Emergency transfer tracks existed at Silver Creek, Brocton, Westfield, Harbor Creek, Dock Jct., Conneaut, Madison and Willoughjy, for detouring via the NKP when our tracks were blocked. Storing anything on main tracks was unthinkable.

The high volume of freight and passenger traffic was spread fairly even over a 24-hour period and could be handled expeditiously. Any delays were considered serious. Adopting TCS in the mid 50s brought a dramatic change. Tracks 1 and 2 were signaled in both directions, eliminating Current of Traffic. Tracks 3 and 4 were eliminated, except between CP 124 and CP 130 through Ashtabula. Intermittent sidings had an Interlocking at each end, controlled by the Dispatchers in Erie. The capacity of the Controlled Sidings was based on 44-foot cars. Passenger and MX trains were being phased out and the new system was designed to handle fast freights of moderate length, hauled by the new Diesel locomotives. It should have been a progressive step forward, but it was turned into a Dispatcher's nightmare.

Jim Peters

Struggle, Struggle
By Jim Peters

Mar 26, 2003
I didn't get into Dispatching until 1966, three years after the Consolidation. Headquarters were now in Cleveland Union Terminal, and it was not the same railroad I had known prior to 1956. The racetrack became a 170-mile switching operation. The new Frontier Yard in Buffalo (nicknamed Disneyland) couldn't do much more than handle preblocked or through trains. Eliminating key tracks in Collinwood Yard spawned congestion and diminished switching capability. Cars for Selkirk and Dewitt were blocked at Painesville, and those off the J&F were set out at Angola for later pickup. CB-2, terminating at Frontier, had to be blocked enroute. Elkharts were picked up at Erie and Painesville, and had to be switched behind the Ford hi-cubes destined Fairlane.

Management instituted Operation Sunset, scheduling the westbound hotshots to reach Elkhart and the eastbounds Dewitt by nightfall. So most of the traffic. including 70 MPH van trains, converged on the Erie Div. between 8 AM and 5 PM. Mixed in with the fast stuff were 40 MPH unit trains and 170-car movements of westbound empties. The longer cars and monster trains defeated the purpose of TCS.

First trick handled most of this traffic, and you guessed it, that's when the Track Dept. went to work, patching up. It was usual for the East End and West End each to have at least ten miles of one of the main tracks out of service, sometimes two sections at the same time. The Dispatchers' authority was undermined in favor of Yardmasters and train crews. Cars or even trains were stored on main tracks and Controlled Sidings, and crews were allowed to leave their trains to go eat any time after being on duty eight hours, a result of the pooled cabooses agreement.

Engines were in pitiful condition. Every night BC-7, a heavy train, came out of Frontier with up to eight Diesel units, but at the most only two of them fully working. I often wondered where the more than 1,000 tons of dead weight was ending up, muttering the old refrain, "The wind was high and the steam was low." One night on the East End I had two westbounds doubling hills at the same time, and couldn't help groaning, "So much for modern railroading!" Time on duty expired after 16 hours and another crew had to be furnished at that point. If the outlawed train was not considered too important it could lay in a Controlled Siding two or three days, leaving one less place for meeting and passing.

The Supt.'s office needed a swinging door to handle the turnover. They weren't in the chair long enough to learn the territory. One came into our office with a small group of friends, showing them around. I heard him say, "I don't know what all I'm in charge of, but this is part of it." God's truth!

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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