The Gravy Train (Book)

Discussion of the past and present operations of the Long Island Rail Road.

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The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby ElliotCourtney » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:26 am

LIRR415 lent me this book and I have just finished it. It seems like a truthful account of the inside workings of the RR then....Was it really that bad then and does the same kid of attitudes/motivation still prevail?
Stay on the right 4' 8.5"
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby nyandw » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:52 pm

Image
Ruppert, Dan The Gravy Train: An Inside Look at the Long Island Rail Road 2002
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby LongIslandTool » Tue Aug 09, 2011 7:37 am

Yes it was and yes it is.

Ruppert was not the hero he presents himself to be, but was a low level manager who was extremely jealous of the skilled trades and the salaries they earned.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby Blockhead98 » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:44 pm

Hi guys, it’s been awhile since I posted. On a related note, I have just been told by a trainee of a new urban legend. It seems that it would have been so expensive to get one of the tunnel boring machines out of one of the east side access tunnels that it was just cheaper to just wall it up and “bury” it. I can neither deny nor confirm that allegation.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby Nasadowsk » Sun Nov 04, 2018 2:24 pm

Tha'ts not terribly uncommon with TBMs, I believe the ones for the Channel Tunnel were turned and burried after use, too.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby DogBert » Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:42 pm

It's 100% true. Encased in concrete under park avenue well south of the station. Not uncommon either. Pretty sure there was a times article about it.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby jlr3266 » Mon Nov 05, 2018 5:08 pm

Correct. The logistics of extracting a TBM sometimes make it more expensive than gutting the hydraulics, pumps and hardware and abandoning the rest in place.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby Head-end View » Mon Nov 26, 2018 10:32 pm

I'm about halfway thru reading the book. It is quite an eye-opener and does not inspire confidence in the Railroad. Though it looks like in some cases the author's account is a little distorted and/or one-sided. Like where he disparages employees for wanting to get paid if they work on their day off.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby Sir Ray » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:12 am

Head-end View wrote:I'm about halfway thru reading the book. It is quite an eye-opener and does not inspire confidence in the Railroad. Though it looks like in some cases the author's account is a little distorted and/or one-sided. Like where he disparages employees for wanting to get paid if they work on their day off.

Were they salaried/exempt employees? In that case there likely was no guarantee they would get paid for (in effect) working overtime (this would likely apply to upper management only). Hourly employees should have gotten paid for such work.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby puckhead » Tue Nov 27, 2018 2:01 pm

the book is entirely about hourly employees. in the book, the managers walk on water. like everything in life, there is some truth to the book. i could write an equally scathing book on management disasters, its a 2 way street. a lot of the blame has to start with management, they do the hiring. for such sought after jobs, they can really hire some terrible people. im not talking about nepotism, these are people with zero connections. i also work with a lot of good guys who had family there, and do a great job. same with promotion. i worked with people who really did the right thing, with a good attitude, and get passed over for a jerk load that wasnt even good or conscientious at an entry level job. its disheartening.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby Head-end View » Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:04 pm

Puckhead is correct. In the example I cited, the author was talking about union employees on the "wrecking crew" having the nerve to demand to be paid if they worked on their day off the same as any hourly employees should be.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby puckhead » Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:40 pm

regarding the wreck crew, they are ( in my opinion) an elite outfit, with tremendous ability to do incredibly difficult work in often very challenging conditions. a lot of pride in that job.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby Kelly&Kelly » Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:50 am

The LIRR Wreck Crew was regarded in the industry as the best in the nation, perhaps in the world. Excellently equipped, impeccably qualified, the men on the crew had what today is a rare team spirit and talent to get the job done. They would finish in hours what other roads took days to accomplish, and Crew members have traveled worldwide to instruct other roads on their techniques. They weren't highly paid workers. Most were labors, machinists and welders -- craftsmen who worked daily in the car and engine shops. Those working with them in Engineering (Track, Signal, B & B) were equally skilled at quickly putting the road back in service and the interdepartmental cooperation between the men was legendary. The only extra compensation they received for their work on the wreck crew was any overtime pay they made, a little glory and lots of fun.

Author Ruppert expresses disdain that these unwashed masses were paid overtime after a full daily tour of their labors.

Several LIRR presidents in recent years have attempted to utilize outside contractors or other MTA agencies to do some of this work, usually in some "show of force" against certain union protections. Unless a work area can be completely isolated from live tracks, the logistics of outside labor are virtually unworkable, and this has played out again and again in these somewhat failed attempts at point-making.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby BuddR32 » Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:34 am

Kelly&Kelly wrote:The LIRR Wreck Crew was regarded in the industry as the best in the nation, perhaps in the world. Excellently equipped, impeccably qualified, the men on the crew had what today is a rare team spirit and talent to get the job done. They would finish in hours what other roads took days to accomplish, and Crew members have traveled worldwide to instruct other roads on their techniques. They weren't highly paid workers. Most were labors, machinists and welders -- craftsmen who worked daily in the car and engine shops. Those working with them in Engineering (Track, Signal, B & B) were equally skilled at quickly putting the road back in service and the interdepartmental cooperation between the men was legendary. The only extra compensation they received for their work on the wreck crew was any overtime pay they made, a little glory and lots of fun.


The modern day wreck crew is still an excellent gang. I've had the blessing early in my career to work with many of them old and new. MofE has a lot of hidden talent. Wreck Crew being one group, the modern incarnation of the geritol gang, and the group of people that built the new alcohol/sandite cars.
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Re: The Gravy Train (Book)

Postby puckhead » Thu Nov 29, 2018 9:34 am

i honestly think the LIRR hires X amount of morons and misfits to dilute the crafts, and weaken the unions, to hold down wages. it sounds like a great paying job, but it is and it isnt. it is, because so many other occupations have had depressed wages since the Reagan era that it looks great in comparison to many others. . it isnt, because living costs are through the roof. if you track the growth of the minimum wage from 1960 with the growth of the GDP from the same time, minimum wage would be about 33.00 an hr today. not much less than the avg craft pay at the LIRR. the benefits of this growth has bypassed the middle, gone straight to the 1%. there is an amazing amount of hidden talent at the LIRR, and it will remain hidden as long as managers don't appreciate it, and far too many don't.
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