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Roger Hensley
Conrail Goodbye

When Conrail said Goodbye

While going through some articles that I had written, I came across this one and thought that I'd share it with you.

Central Indiana Division, NMRA Rusty Spike
Vol 27, #1 - Jan-Feb 1997

Saying Goodbye...

At 11 AM on December 27, 1996, give or take, most of Conrail came to a stop for one minute in memory of those who have died in the line of duty. I happened to be sitting in my den working on an article for the 'Spike' when I heard the Indianapolis Line dispatcher, over my scanner, giving the 'Special Order' to a train crew on the move. The instructions were simple, to stop all traffic and all operations unless it would place people or equipment in harm's way. Moving trains should not block crossings if possible nor cause their own or another train to go into Emergency. As close as possible to eleven, all operations were to cease for one minute.

The dispatcher was discussing the best place to stop. If the crew were to stop at Milepost 249, he would hold the signal for them. "Of course", he continued, "you don't have to stop at all." At this time there was no reply and then, after a moment or two, the crew stated that they could go a little further before they stopped. Then they could be stopped at eleven without blocking many crossings.

Once more the crackle of the scanner brought the voice of the dispatcher reminding them that they didn't absolutely have to stop. "Just let me know if you are going to go on," he said.

"We'll stop," came the firm reply and stop they did. A Conrail crew saying farewell to fallen comrades across the years.

Why now? What is so important about the timing that a railroad would issue an order to stop operations even for a moment to pay tribute to employees killed while on duty? Perhaps it was only a railroad management stressing safety. Perhaps.

Conrail will shortly cease to exist and will become yet another Fallen Flag. Indeed, by the time you read this, the merger process between Conrail and CSX or the buy out of Conrail by NS will be well under way. So, was it merely a matter of safety or was Conrail saying goodbye to its own. But maybe it was even more than that, maybe it was all of the railroads that went into the formation of Conrail that were saying goodbye to their own, and I was listening in.

At eleven, I stopped what I was doing and paused for that moment in remembrance of all of the men and women of Conrail who have died in service to the rails, that transportation system that moves the goods and materials that make our lives better. And I paused in memory of a railroad that would soon cease to exist. I will miss it.

Roger Hensley

Copyright 1997 - rph

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