Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rail Stories-Doubing Dayton Hill: by Andy McCreight

One of the more interesting rail stories that I had the pleasure of participating in was the day we had to double the Dayton Hill.

We transferred crews on a loaded 80 car chemical train at Orange Texas. After swapping crews on the fly...the engineer and head brakeman dismounted from the moving train on the rear steps of the lead locomotive...while me and my engineer mounted on the move on the front steps of the locomotive. The conductor and rear brakeman on the inbound crew did the same move from the caboose while our conductor and rear brakeman mounted up on the move also. THE TRAIN NEVER STOPPED WHILE WE TRANSFERRED CREWS! In today's world, this would make Jason's head spin!

Anyway, we traveled through Beaumont Yard and onto the Liberty River Bottom. We did not take a siding to meet any trains because back in the day there were three chemical trains on the gulf coast area that carried the financial burden of the Southern Pacific Railroad and we were on one of them.
But...having said that we were still underpowered to make the climb up Dayton Hill.

As we started down Ames Hill, on the east side of the river bottom, my engineer said "we are not going to make the hill". I asked why? He said that when we start up the hill we would begin to slow and by the time we reached the apex of the Dayton Hill we would stall because of the makeup of our train. We had 80 loads and the train was a short. We would end up strung out on the side of the hill with no rear end slack to help push us up and over the crest of the hill.

So the engineer told me...here is what we are going to do. (I listened because he was an old Hog-Head and I was just a pup as far as railroading tenure goes). He would slow the train down to a get down speed...let me get off on the fly in the middle of the river bottom...We did just that! I got off at about 5 mph or so...I had to make sure that I did not detrain in the middle of a tressel and end up being alligator bait! After detraining the engineer started pulling hard again to make it up the hill as far as he could...He had told me that when the train started to stall that he would set the independent brake and let the slack roll in...That is exactly what he did and when the slack came in enough for me to get a pin, I reached in, turned the angle cock, and made the cut on the fly. About that time, I hear the slack being stretched by the engineer. He started pulling up the hill again, the headend of the train separated from the rear portion that we cut away from and I mounted up on a railcar and we went up the hill! There was no opportunity for a hand brake check or to set up the trainline airbrakes to do a brake securement test. The conductor and rear brakeman were on the caboose and were expected to ensure that the rear portion did not roll back down the hill towards Liberty! (Remember, back during this railroad era very few people had walkie talkies and I was not one of them. We made this move without any radio communications. We had a Job Briefing on the locomotive before I detrained and trusted each other with making the cut on the fly without any verbal communications. If I had stumbled or fell in the river bottom, I would have just been screwed!)

Back during this period there was only a mainline, a north siding, and a couple of storage tracks on the south side of the main track at Dayton. We pulled the headend of the train down the main track, cut away, and proceeded back to the river bottom through the Dayton Siding to retrieve the remainder of our train. We get to the river bottom, couple up to our train, and pull back into the siding. We cut off the rear of the train in the siding, came off lite power, and coupled up to the headend of the train that we had left on the main track. Then we started pulling on the cars, doubled back to the siding, and put the train back together just as it was before we doubled the hill.

Houston we had a problem but now we are high balling home! Honey, tell the kids that daddy is on his way, and tell the milkman he better not be there when I show up!

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