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Friday, December 28, 2018

1979-Riding the Rabbit-Southern Pacific Railroad: by Andrew McCreight

I hired out as a Brakeman on the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1979 about two months after graduating from Hardin High School in Liberty County Texas.

One of the great experiences that I had was working the caboose as a rear brakeman on a train that ran from Houston to Lufkin. We swapped crews at Lufkin, layed over at a hotel, and waited on a southbound train to take back to Houston.

Working the caboose was a treat for me especially at on a night train. We would leave Houston and end up in the middle of the Piney Woods. On a moonless night it would get so dark on the caboose that you could not see your hand in front of your face. IT WAS DARK!

As we traveled up and down the railroad one of our duties as a trainman was to curve the train. We would peer out the caboose window looking for any defects that might cause harm to our train. This might include "hot boxes" or "sticking brakes' or even signs of broken wheels that might cause the train to derail. (Trains no longer have cabooses and these duties are performed by track side detectors now days. Technology such as this allowed Railroads to do away with cabooses and those of us who had the pleasure of riding them).

Anyway, as I was curving my train one night, I noticed an amazing sight. The airbrakes had been applied and the brake shoes on the cars were applied tight. I new that they had been applied because all the rail cars had little sparkling lights emanating off of each wheel. It was very dark and we were going around curves in the middle of the piney woods and I saw what looked like Christmas lights all up and down the train. I am amazed that this vision still sticks with me after forty years of railroading.

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