Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Beaumont Straightaway-Part Two: by Andy McCreight

We have our train orders and are proceeding down the main track. We are authorized to hold the main track from Tower 87 to the east end of Devers Siding. The engineer has the locomotives in throttle 8 and we are tugging along at 25 mph. It is a miracle that we have reached that speed.

We are traveling on flat ground heading towards the San Jacinto river bottom. We somehow make it down the west side of river bottom and creep up the east side waving at the automobile traffic sitting at FM2100 waiting on us to clear the hill.

Next we are back up to 25mph or so and headed to Dayton Texas. The train order operator calls us on the engine radio and tells us that she has copied a new train order from the dispatcher. In those days we had train order operators at most sidings so that a train could receive authority from the train dispatcher to advance beyond the authority from a previously copied train order. The train order operator was essentially a stenographer and typed up several copies of the train order on thin sheets of multiple layered yellow paper in order for the engineer (who was on the locomotive) and the conductor ( who was on the caboose to receive exactly the same information that was copied by the train order operator. The engineer and head brakeman would review their copy and the conductor and the rear brakeman would review their copy. The engineer and conductor would converse on the radio and confirm that everybody was literally on the same page as far a where our main track authority ended.

The process for picking up the train order was the same on each end of the train. As we passed the Dayton Train Order Station, the engineer would lean out the window of the locomotive and stick his arm out far enough to catch the order from a pole that had a V shaped contraption that had a string on the V with the orders tied to a string. The were two round sticks on the back side of the V attached to pole. The front of the V was open so that when the engineer put his arm through the V he would snatch the string and orders leaving the remainder of the V attached to the train order pole. The conductor process was the same. What an antiquated way to advance a train from one point to the next. In this instance, the new train orders gave us authority to pass the east end of Devers Siding and proceed to Beaumont yard.

Now we start down Dayton Hill towards the liberty river bottom. It will be a hard pull up Ames Hill on the other side of the river bottom. As we head up the Ames Hill we start to decelerate rapidly, hoping that we make the hill. Just as we are beginning to give up on the idea of pulling the hill we feel the rear half of our train slack run in and it helps to push us up and over the hill. As the slack runs in the engineer moves his speed selector to throttle 8 and the Locomotives are Bawling Jack! (they are screaming as the engineer gets every ounce of power he can muster)!

An hour or so later we are pulling into Beaumont Yard. Someone has lined into the yard so that we don't have to stop because we all have doubts that we could get the train moving again. As we approach the east end of the yard it is obvious that a switch engine crew has lined us up on that end. We pull in track 1. The conductor uses the caboose radio to stop us in the clear. I had detrained on the fly and was at the cut. When the engineer stopped I reached in and closed the angle cock (no red-zone). I gave the engineer a hand signal for the pin. He shoved the slack to me and I pulled the pin. I signaled the Hog Head to pull ahead over the switch. (engineers were called hog heads in those days-if you saw most of them you would understand the terminology). After stopping over the switch, I signaled the engineer that we were lined up for track 2 and he shoved the remainder of our train in the clear. The rear brakeman was on the rear of the track watching us shove and he relayed to the conductor, with hand signals, information about how much room was left in the track and when to tell the engineer to stop his shove. 

After shoving the double over into track 2, I reached in and closed the angle cock behind the locomotives and got a pin from the engineer. I used hand signals to tell the engineer to pull ahead over the lead switch. We called the Round House Forman on the locomotive radio and asked him where to spot the locomotives. We  pulled into the roundhouse, tied the power down, and went to the hotel for an 8 hour rest period before being called by the crew caller for our westbound train back to Houston. 

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