Railroad Terms

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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Sun Jan 01, 2012 5:15 pm

Happy New Year!

On the Milwaukee Road, if a worker did work normally performed by another craft union, or even if he did the work assigned by job bulletin to another employee in the same craft, he ran the risk of being "timeslipped". Allegedly, the extra pay awarded to the offended employee would come out of the paycheck of the offender, although I personally knew of no instances where this happened.

One day, while I was working as a yard clerk in LaCrosse, WI, a local freight came up short a brakeman when the crew was called. The conductor asked me if I would consider joining his crew.

While I was thinking this over, the local clerks' union rep (the "griever") got wind of this, and quickly informed me that if I worked as a brakeman that day, it would be the last day I would be able to work as a clerk. I decided it would be better to remain a clerk, but in hindsight it was a bad decision. There was a large seniority roster for the trainmen, I would have been at the mercy of the extra board. But I would have acquired a skill that could have kept me employed in an industry that was trimming clerks' jobs wholesale. And, eventually, I wound up in train service anyway.

Railfans trying to do railroaders' work is something that has always been discouraged. Not so much for stealing time as for safety and liability reasons. And of course, nowadays would be considered "over the top" for security reasons. Railroads spend a lot of effort and money on training new hires, for the reason not anybody can come on the property and work without proper preparation. A conductor or engineer who would allow that would be putting the company in a serious liability position.

Railfans who wish to do railroad work need to bite the bullet and hire on. I've found they often make good, motivated employees.

Les
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Gadfly » Mon Jan 02, 2012 3:27 pm

Desertdweller wrote:Happy New Year!

On the Milwaukee Road, if a worker did work normally performed by another craft union, or even if he did the work assigned by job bulletin to another employee in the same craft, he ran the risk of being "timeslipped". Allegedly, the extra pay awarded to the offended employee would come out of the paycheck of the offender, although I personally knew of no instances where this happened.

One day, while I was working as a yard clerk in LaCrosse, WI, a local freight came up short a brakeman when the crew was called. The conductor asked me if I would consider joining his crew.

While I was thinking this over, the local clerks' union rep (the "griever") got wind of this, and quickly informed me that if I worked as a brakeman that day, it would be the last day I would be able to work as a clerk. I decided it would be better to remain a clerk, but in hindsight it was a bad decision. There was a large seniority roster for the trainmen, I would have been at the mercy of the extra board. But I would have acquired a skill that could have kept me employed in an industry that was trimming clerks' jobs wholesale. And, eventually, I wound up in train service anyway.

Railfans trying to do railroaders' work is something that has always been discouraged. Not so much for stealing time as for safety and liability reasons. And of course, nowadays would be considered "over the top" for security reasons. Railroads spend a lot of effort and money on training new hires, for the reason not anybody can come on the property and work without proper preparation. A conductor or engineer who would allow that would be putting the company in a serious liability position.

Railfans who wish to do railroad work need to bite the bullet and hire on. I've found they often make good, motivated employees.

Les


Agreed....so long as they can separate fantasy from fact! There's a lot who can't, and live in a world of steam engines and 1940's passenger trains!

I once time claimed a young fan who fairly dripped with "The National Railway 'Hysterical' Society"! I got wind that he had "volunteered" to assist passengers and clean up at an outlying station that had closed its ticket office (except for daytime sales). He was NOT to have a key, could not SELL tickets, and there was nothing we clerks could do. Southern and Amtrak (at the time) gladly tolerated this "help" while abolishing our jobs, so we were resentful. I also received word that he had somehow gotten hold of an Extra Board station key (just like I had) and was now entering the station! One of my conductor friends on the Crescent told me about seeing him go in there. So I decided to make a little "midnight run" down to the local station and see for myself. I hid my car in the shadows and watched him do his pushbroom prowl around the yard and pick up trash. Then, towards train time, I watched him take out a key, open the Yard office door and go in, locking it behind him. I crept up quietly on him and peered in a window. He was ON the dispatcher's wire, listening to the operators' traffic up and down the line. While doing so, he got on the radio and asked the Greenville dispatcher if the train was on time. This is a violation of FRA rules because one must be QUALIFIED and have in hand, a copy of your Rules exam showing a passing grade! I then tiptoed around, opened the station and walked in on him!!! He looked like a deer about to be devoured by a wolf! I ran him OUT, I'm afraid, threatening to kick his a** if he didn't GIT like RIGHT NOW, and I better not EVER catch him performing our work again. It was bad enough we had furloughed clerks as it was, but we would not have people STEALING our work. I personally filed the time slip with the LC and won for all the furloughed clerks. The company was completely complicit in this theft of work and had to pay, not the rail buff. Oftentimes, internal time claims had to be paid because a supervisor ordered an employee to perform work outside his craft. He couldn't refuse to do the work, and the claim was often blamed on the supervisor who lost his bonus, or something else. But you are right, the companies usually don't want outside people performing work for safety and legal reasons. The buffs get their thrills playing railroad, but they don't understand why they shouldn't. They could be putting a REAL railroader out of work! The railroads are always studying HOW to abolish jobs! :(

GF
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:22 pm

GF,

That guy should have had "the facts of life" explained to him in no uncertain terms when he hired on. He obviously had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but didn't seem to understand how his actions impacted others. If he didn't mind working extra hours for no extra pay, he should have hired on as a management trainee. Railroad managers get lots of that!

I've worked in both the crafts and in management. For long, uncompensated hours, you can't beat management. The key is, never divide your pay by the number of hours you put in. You may discover you are making less money (on a per hour basis) than the people you are supervising!

Les
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Gadfly » Tue Jan 03, 2012 4:16 pm

Desertdweller wrote:GF,

That guy should have had "the facts of life" explained to him in no uncertain terms when he hired on. He obviously had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but didn't seem to understand how his actions impacted others. If he didn't mind working extra hours for no extra pay, he should have hired on as a management trainee. Railroad managers get lots of that!

I've worked in both the crafts and in management. For long, uncompensated hours, you can't beat management. The key is, never divide your pay by the number of hours you put in. You may discover you are making less money (on a per hour basis) than the people you are supervising!

Les


That's just IT, Les, the guy wasn't an employee! Just an overwrought rail buff who couldn't pass the physical! He was SOOO desparate to do SOMETHING----ANYTHING---he would work for nothing just so he could tell passengers he was some kind of Amtrak "agent", blah, blah, ,blah. These are the ones whom you DON'T want working; they'll hurt themselves AND YOU if you don't watch out. He had no business INSIDE the yard office, and I wish I could've found the goofball that gave him a key. I read him the riot act and told him I might not be able to stop him from cleaning up trash outside, but I better not NEVER catch him back inside there, or I'd also report him to FRA for violations of their regulations, and he could pay a fine for "pretending" to handle our trains!!!!! You must be rules-certified to even USE the dispatcher's line; they wouldn't let ME until I passed and got that little card that certified me on the Rules exam. OH, and I got that "bootleg" key away from him, too! :)

What is really funny-----and I don't mean to make light of anybody---------is to watch people trying to talk like railroad people when they don't know what they are talking about! :) We used to hear people talking about what was "on the point", and we would LAUGH. NObody on Southern ever talked that way! Or "track speeder". It was a MOTOR CAR, or an M19 Motor Car, a few referred to it as "my motor buggy". Never a "speeder". It would mark you everytime as a buff, not an employee. Railroad terms? We can tell who's fakin', who's not! LOL! ;)

GF
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Tue Jan 03, 2012 6:58 pm

GF,

Sorry. I misunderstood your post to mean that guy was a new hire who didn't know when to quit. In that case, it would have been the responsibility of the BRAC to inform him how a railroad works. They never seem to get around to doing that, though. So I figured he was just a loose cannon who had never gotten the word.

For someone to pull that stuff who wasn't even an employee, wow!

One day back in the 70's, after I had been laid off the Milwaukee Road, my railfan neighbor and I decided to visit the SOO Line at Shoreham Yard in Minneapolis. We both were dressed in standard T&E dress: Kromer caps, blue jeans, plaid long-sleeve shirts, steel-toed boots. We sauntered into the crew lounge like we belonged there.

The guys there gave us a very cool reception. They were expecting a couple strangers to show up that day to bump a couple regular men. When they found out we weren't sharpshooters, they even invited us into their poker game!

Les
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Jan 04, 2012 4:00 pm

On the PRR in Philadelphia, a "pin-up man" coupled and uncoupled drafts of MU cars for movement between Suburban Station and Powelton Ave. coach yard (2 or 3 arriving trains would be routed to the same station track and then coupled up to make one movement to the yard, minimizing movements through the throat, the reverse being done in the evening). Years later I heard of the same term being used in San Jose by Caltrain crews, suggesting that there were some transplants from the East working there.
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:20 pm

That's a good one!

Here is one so common I didn't think of it until now, but it may be new to the non-railroaders who read this.

"Dogcatching". When a road crew runs out of time outside yard limits, the next available crew is sent out to re-man the train. This is called "dogcatching."

The crew being relieved has "gone dead", "died on their hours", or "hoglawed".

If you use a technicality in the union agreement to displace a regularly assigned person in a better job position, you are a "sharpshooter".

If you mess up and have to explain your actions to a company official, you are "called on the carpet" (apparently, the official has a carpeted office").

Les
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Gadfly » Thu Jan 05, 2012 4:34 pm

Desertdweller wrote:That's a good one!

Here is one so common I didn't think of it until now, but it may be new to the non-railroaders who read this.

"Dogcatching". When a road crew runs out of time outside yard limits, the next available crew is sent out to re-man the train. This is called "dogcatching."

The crew being relieved has "gone dead", "died on their hours", or "hoglawed".

If you use a technicality in the union agreement to displace a regularly assigned person in a better job position, you are a "sharpshooter".

If you mess up and have to explain your actions to a company official, you are "called on the carpet" (apparently, the official has a carpeted office").

Les



All those are familiar. "Sharpshooting" to us meant "playing the board"--------IOW, marking off to avoid a "bad" assignment and then marking right back up again after the job had been called. Better not get caught doing it, and they fixed it by requiring mark-offs to STAY off at least 24 hours.

Most railroads had crew callers, or "call boys", or crew dispatchers was another term for it. This consisted of keeping up with the "crew book", determining who stood for what, and fetching crews from the dormitory. It was VERY difficult to keep up with who stood for what, and they often didn't give us seniority rosters to go by. This is when people tried what we called "illegal moves"--------claiming out on jobs they didn't stand for over someone who had more whiskers. The fellow they DIDN'T call just sat tight and waited and let the non-incumbent trainman work the job. Then he'd time ticket the call boy for making the mistake. Poor old call boy would get taken out of service for 10 days while BOTH trainmen got paid! The slang term for it was "shaving his whiskers". That was not right, but they did it, so crew callers had to be on their toes.

I caught that job one night without ever having "cubbed" it=sitting in to learn the job. I was lost without a clue. There was an old Trainmaster named "Boogety" Davis that knew every trick in the book. He was a promoted conductor and he was truly cool--a rare thing amongst the punk kids they hired out of college internship. He truly understood what the trainmen AND the clerks were going thru, and worked with us, not against us.
"I can't understand WHY they just throw people to the wolves on these jobs," He muttered to me, "Stick with me and I will get you thru this shift. If you need anything, I'm as close as the radio or phone. Just call if you have a question about the job!"

I'd never have gotten thru that night without a run-off if it had not been for "Boogety". He was an old time railroader, and even tho he was promoted, he was one of "US". One of the few managers I knew that I liked!

GF
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:29 pm

GF,

That is sure right. Regardless of the railroad I've worked on, managers who worked their way up from the ranks were held in much higher regard than those that began their careers as interns out of college. I'm glad my railroad management work came about as a result of working my way up, even though I was hired out of college (for a craft position). The managers I worked under who had worked up from the crafts were far superior to those who hadn't.

When I worked for the Milwaukee Road in LaCrosse, WI I called crews (among other duties). It was very confusing. In the passenger station/division headquarters building, there was a huge book called a "hay book". It was the size of a reference dictionary one would find in a library.

In it, crew members would sign in according to the order they went off duty. When the dispatcher needed a crew, I had to consult the hay book and figure out who to call.

This wasn't easy. We had at least three pools to call crews from: LaCrosse- Portage; LaCrosse-St. Paul; Yard Engines/Passenger Trains/ and Assigned Crews for Yard Jobs and Locals (Patrols on the Milwaukee Road). To make matters worse, there was a union agreement that made a difference when one train would overtake another on the road. Train crews would remain in the called order, but engine crews would leapfrog (or maybe it was the other way around). Fortunately for me, the dispatchers were understanding and would help me out if I got someone out of place.

Just doing the calling was challenging. Of course, some of the crewmen lived in LaCrosse, or shared houses there. Others liked to stay in the Stoddard Hotel downtown. But quite a few liked to sleep in a flophouse above a Rule G bar and cafe about a half mile from the yard office. No phone there, of course.

Calling the right guy without waking everyone up depended on being able to recognize a sleeping face in the dark.

Les
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Gadfly » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:14 pm

Desertdweller wrote:GF,

That is sure right. Regardless of the railroad I've worked on, managers who worked their way up from the ranks were held in much higher regard than those that began their careers as interns out of college. I'm glad my railroad management work came about as a result of working my way up, even though I was hired out of college (for a craft position). The managers I worked under who had worked up from the crafts were far superior to those who hadn't.

When I worked for the Milwaukee Road in LaCrosse, WI I called crews (among other duties). It was very confusing. In the passenger station/division headquarters building, there was a huge book called a "hay book". It was the size of a reference dictionary one would find in a library.

In it, crew members would sign in according to the order they went off duty. When the dispatcher needed a crew, I had to consult the hay book and figure out who to call.

This wasn't easy. We had at least three pools to call crews from: LaCrosse- Portage; LaCrosse-St. Paul; Yard Engines/Passenger Trains/ and Assigned Crews for Yard Jobs and Locals (Patrols on the Milwaukee Road). To make matters worse, there was a union agreement that made a difference when one train would overtake another on the road. Train crews would remain in the called order, but engine crews would leapfrog (or maybe it was the other way around). Fortunately for me, the dispatchers were understanding and would help me out if I got someone out of place.



Just doing the calling was challenging. Of course, some of the crewmen lived in LaCrosse, or shared houses there. Others liked to stay in the Stoddard Hotel downtown. But quite a few liked to sleep in a flophouse above a Rule G bar and cafe about a half mile from the yard office. No phone there, of course.

Calling the right guy without waking everyone up depended on being able to recognize a sleeping face in the dark.

Les


That WAS a bad billet---the call clerk! Where we ran into trouble was with "claim outs" where a senior trainman/engineer could move off HIS regular assignment to cover a job he felt was better. Like the steam excursion trains. That was a "choice" passenger assignment, a bit of "fun" over the usual graveyard freight drag. Well, like you, we had several rosters and 3 divisions coming into Charlotte to call crews for. Really, this was a bad thing: instead of simple first in, first out, a trainman or engineer could "claim out" so many times per month, and it kept the board in turmoil. Thus, it was easy to make a "railroad error" and call someone out of place, and made the poor old call clerk nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs! The senior engineers, the ones who were qualified on steam, well, they already had regular assignments, but a couple of them always claimed the steam trips! Then there was a fight amongst the trainmen to be conductor, etc. What FUN!

GF
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Sun Jan 15, 2012 10:53 pm

In my previous post, I made reference to a "Rule G bar". I would imagine anyone who has railroaded for any time has a few Rule G stories. But, for the benefit of those readers who are unfamiliar with the term, I'd like to explain it.

"Rule G" is the rule that prohibits the use or possession of alcoholic beverages while on duty, while on railroad property, or drinking while subject to being called for duty. The behavior covered by Rule G was interpreted to mean that the presence of a railroad employee in an establishment that served alcohol while on duty or subject to being called for duty was also a violation.

This may sound pretty straightforward, but it did present a problem. Railroad employees often found themselves at places that lacked personal transportation, or were in some little communities that did not have restaurants that did not serve alcohol in addition to meals. So the simple act of buying a meal could get an employee in trouble if done in the wrong place.

Something clearly had to be done. The solution was the "Rule G bar".

The railroads decided that employees could eat in places that served alcohol provided that:
1. The bar and food service areas had to be separate. They could be in the same establishment, but could not be connected internally so customers could pass from one area to the other. It was OK for the two areas to be connected if the bar/restaurant employees only could use the connection.

2. The bar and the restaurant had to have their own respective entrances to the outdoors. They could not be shared. Patrons had to go either into the bar, or into the restaurant from outdoors. If they wanted to move from one to the other, they had to go outside and enter the other door.

3. The restaurant section could not serve alcoholic drinks, even with meals.

There were many examples of this when I started railroading. Shorty's Bar and Cafe in Winona, MN was one of them. Now, the two parts are connected internally and the room between them, once off-limits to the public, is now an additional dining room.

The Track Shack in LaCrosse, WI was another. Like Shorty's it had two front doors for the two sections, plus a third for the railroad flophouse upstairs.

And the Washington Hotel in Madison WI. It had a front door for the restaurant, a back door for the bar. It was conveniently located between the Milwaukee Road and Illinois Central stations.

Les
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby kevin.brackney » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:48 am

Freddy wrote:Big Holed It.- Meant he put the train in emergency.(Brakes for the uninformed) Reason it's called Big Hole was that going into emergency meant a better chance of derailing, thus
making a 'Big Hole' in the ground.
From my experience slang was hardly ever used as there was a bigger chance of misunderstanding so it just wasn't done. To many times people would ask what in the world you were
talking about.


Maybe someone can clear this up: I always thought to "big-hole, it" was to open the brake valve to it's widest opening, hence the term, "big-hole." I have also read or heard it referred to as "whiping the clock," "dynamiting," or "dumping it."

I've heard variations of three-step protection, "stand(ing) hard," "red zone, air time," or just "air," "going in (between)," and, "stepping in." I've heard a derail referred to as a "monkey." If you said, "The monkey is dead," you meant that the derail was down, or off in the non-derailing position.

A "jerkwater town" was a municipality so small that the most predominate feature in it was the water tank for steam locomotives.
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby ex Budd man » Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:22 am

Septa (PRR-Reading-Conrail's successor) still uses 'pin-up' crews for all shop and yard locations. Each location has it's own number (e.g. 615 for Wayne).
"I may not have a brain, but I have an idea!" BOB, benzoate ostylezene bicarbonate.
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby BR&P » Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:38 am

Desertdweller, things must vary with location, or perhaps the interpretation of local grievers. Back in the 1960's and 1970's it was common on my part of the NYC/PC for clerks to be called as brakemen if all available men were out. There was nothing secret about it, and you could pick up some decent extra money by braking - there were times when supervision wanted to run a given crew so badly they'd call a man in your place for your clerk's assignment if you were used in train service. I've caught both yard jobs and traveling switchers, and once returned a TM's call just too late to work a mainline road job. I don't know if BRAC had an official position on this but it was not an isolated thing.

A few terms I recall:

As noted there were complicated rules for calling train crews. One practice we had was that if a man worked a regular job which laid in two days - say over the weekend - he could make himself available for any extra work which might come up after all available men were called. This was known as the "hog list", insinuating those guys were greedy.

In our area, a sharpshooter was anybody who played the angles to catch a desired job or get an extra day's pay. Guys knew when to mark off, then mark back up at just the right time to catch a desired job.

A bleeder was a brakeman called when the yard was overloaded. He would walk the receiving yard and bleed the air off the cars there, which usually was done by the yard crew. This let the crew switch more cars.

A cut of cars taken from one yard to the opposite side of the main, or from one part of the yard to another, was for some reason called a Shanghai.

Throwing out the anchor was when a crew got PO'd and dragged their feet, making all moves at a reduced pace and getting much less work done, as a payback.

A greenhorn was a Snowflaker.

SO many more I could spend a lot of time on it.
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Re: Railroad Terms

Postby Desertdweller » Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:30 pm

BR&P,

I really wanted to go braking on that job (and out-and-back way freight, called a "patrol" on the Milwaukee Road). But when my regular job was threatened, I backed off. In retrospect, I should have gone anyway. I could have learned a craft that was actually in demand, rather than staying with one that was being phased out.

Hindsight is always so much better! I found out, many years later, that the SOO Line was looking for help at the very time my job was cut on the Milwaukee Road. As usual, the union did nothing.

We had a humorous term for those "throwing out the anchor", but I can't use it on this forum. It seems to have universal use, so you probably know it already.

We did have names for individual railroaders: One guy who was famous for milking the overtime was "The Milkman".

Another who ran over a derail earned an Indian name, "Jimmy Yellow Hump".

A wild-haired station agent was named "Fuzzy".

Les
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