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  Railroads of Madison County
Jim Peters
Tales of the Rails

End Of the Line
By Jim Peters

Mar 31, 2003
Under TCS, train movements were authorized and governed by signal indications, eliminating need for train orders. But it had not been foreseen that many trains would be picking up and setting out at remote Interlockings (CPs), requiring verbal permission to pass STOP indications. At some places they were given verbal authority as to work, time and track limits. This constituted verbal train orders and time claims were made by Operators. At Perry two of them received handsome settlements, but in my case at Wickliffe in 1957 (for the same thing), my claim was disallowed after going clear up to the National Adjustment Board in Washington. Go figure.

Things worsened with the PRR merger, whose 19th Century methods were adopted. Train orders now proliferated, even for simple movements. Form 31 was eliminated, often requiring two orders where one had sufficed on NYC. Handling permissive blocks against the Current of Traffic resulted in a dandy rearender on the C&P just outside Cleveland, and as far as I know, no one was held responsible! I saw a photo of the NYC U-boat wearing the PRR cabin car like a tiara. A fitting symbol of the merger? Interlocking towers were now called "Block Stations," and given names in place of their former call letters. OD became "Ore Dock," DB "Draw Bridge" and QD "Quaker."

Dispatchers were regarded as high-priced Levermen and not given credit for doing good jobs under adverse conditions. Bright spots for me were handling Dad's trains, usually on 3rd Trick when he was on NY-6 or the hotter NY-2. On the East End we gave Buffalo a 2-hour figure at Bay View, and it was the order time at Frontier. On a regular train (50 MPH) it was the passing time at CP 103 ( Girard Jct.). One night NY-2 beat my figure by 15 minutes, and later Dad told me the engine crews had jumped off and on at Erie without stopping.

Sometimes we were the victims of bum information. One night I put an eastbound in the siding at Silver Creek to meet BC-3 and he didn't clear. The Conductor came on the phone, all excited. "This guy's coming right at us!" I said, "He's looking at a red signal." I asked him how many cars he had and he said the consist reported at Collinwood did not include a dozen cars picked up on the Toledo Div.

On his maiden trip to Collinwood in 1916 Dad outlawed at Painesville, and on the PC in 1968 it happened to him at Willoughby. He said, "That's not much progress in almost 52 years!" and marked off at Collinwood. The next day he applied for his pension. The last day I worked was Jan. 6, 1981, retiring on disability (arthritis). Gads, that's 22 years ago! Besides being blessed by a fairly good memory I have relied on some preserved items. Shortly after going on the RR, I began keeping a log of rates of pay, first and last days worked at each location and my standing on the seniority roster. Starting in 1953 I maintained a time book covering every minute worked, vacation time, days off sick, etc.

Some of my favorite memories:
Falling asleep to the music of the wheels in a gently swaying Pullman.
The smell of soft coal smoke on a frosty morning.
Engine whistles in the night, with those of the Central, the Nickel Plate and the Pennsy distinguishable from each other.
Feeling a bit of pity for other kids 'cause your dad had the best damned job in the world.
Watching the world unfold from the bouncing platform of a caboose and peeing over the railing.
Enjoying a steak dinner while rolling down the Hudson River.
That first paycheck for doing what you loved - being around trains.
Handling Dad's train as a Dispatcher, knowing that without us it couldn't move very far.
The many fine people (and a few "Characters) who worked on the railroad.

Oh, it's been a grand ride!

Jim Peters

[And it has for us, too, Jim. I'm pleased that you could share your memories with us. - rph]

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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