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Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
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   Author  Topic: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger  (Read 123 times)
lwhitehead
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Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« on: Jan 21st, 2017, 10:02am »
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Hi folks I need help with my Mystery series feature in American Golden Age of Passenger Trains,  
 
1946 to 1970's,  
 
 
At the start of the series are Main Character is an Assistant Conductor and the end of the novel he realizes his life dream of being a Conductor.
 
 
Now what I need to know who long does take to become a Conductor, how long does one stay as a Conductor before forced to be an Enginer,
 
LW


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George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #1 on: Jan 21st, 2017, 8:17pm »
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Engineers, conductors, firemen, brakemen each had their own union.  Somewhere in this time period most of them combined to form one union, but if I recall correctly, the engineers union remained separate.  The conductor was regarded as the head of the train crew, having ultimate say about go and stop and what to do where and when.  The engineer controlled the operation, speed, and such, and in quite a few ways had veto power.  That is he could say whether or not it was safe to go and refuse a conductor's order that would put the train in an unsafe position.  
 
Once an engineer, and man could stay an engineer as long as he wanted to be one.  Likewise would be true for a conductor.  I believe that a conductor could bid on a brakeman's job if need be to work at all, but for an engineer I am not sure.  By "bid" I mean bid your seniority.  That is to say, if you wanted a particular job, you go after it saying, I have 20 years seniority as a conductor.  If someone else wanted it and had 19 years seniority it was yours.  If he had 21 years, it was his.  If a person wanted a particular job he could keep it as long as he had more seniority than anybody else that wanted it.  If someone else decided they wanted it, you lost it.  
 
By the 60's train miles had fallen so much from their World War 2 peak the normal age of engineers and conductors on passenger trains was somewhere around 70.  Given at that time 100 miles = one day's pay, on a fast passenger run you could make a day's pay in less than 2 hours of train moving.  It was not quite that simple.  Railroads were divided into operating segments.  
 
For example, the Southern Railway between Memphis and Bristol, was divided into 4 operating segments, Memphis to Sheffield AL, about 150 miles, Sheffield AL to Chattanooga TN, about 170 miles, Chattanooga to Knoxville TN about 115 miles, and Knoxville to Bristol TN/VA, about 130 miles.  Due to terrain and route curvature, this line was not exactly light speed.  Approximate times were 2h30m, 3h15m, 2h40m, 3h00m.  All these are from a 50+ year old memory, so take them for what they are worth.  Additionally, there was time spent stopped of 15 to 25 minutes at all these points to work mail and express, load and unload people, and do some switching.  What I am saying, is that the standard pay for each segment was 1.5 days, 1.7 days, 1.15 days, and 1.3 days.  For freight trains where with lower speeds, intermediate switching, etc it could well be that it could take more time to cover the territory than you would get in days.  At that time the maximum length of day before a crew was "dead on the law" was 16 hours.


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George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #2 on: Jan 21st, 2017, 8:18pm »
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Others with more and better information and corrections, feel free to chime in.

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HwyHaulier
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #3 on: Jan 22nd, 2017, 8:39am »
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on Jan 21st, 2017, 8:18pm, George_Harris wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Others with more and better information and corrections, feel free to chime in.

 
George - Lodge Members -  
 
Superb! Great to see your detailed commentary on how it all worked. Besides, you recall the Bad, Old Days, the way it was on our  
esteemed SOUTHERN SYSTEM of the time. (And, I was there, at least at Fort Brosnan in Washington, right on K Street, NW.  
They were prepared for more battles with the Yankees!)
 
Noted your insights about the collapse of rail passenger services in the "time window" here addressed. Yes, as it all wound down,  
the Passenger "bids" largely done with high seniority old timers. Most did the best they could, albeit they knew the end was near.
(Parochial note. Local B & O ran a splendid "class operation" on its #5 & #6 until the end. Its Dining Car services "Five Star" efforts.)
 
PENNSYLVANIA RR note. The Union rules being what the were, some real troubles here whether there a defined "bid" of "Assistant  
Conductor"? Your writer recalls many journeys on busy trains of PRR. Seems to me (and IIRC), riders would deal with a "Conductor"  
and a "Trainman". The latter assisted the Conductor, as required. By the prevalent agreements with the Brotherhoods, exactly what  
did a "Trainman" do? May not have been same Union?
 
Again, Many Thanks, George, for all the details and commentary in your earlier message...
 
....................... Vern .....................
 
 
 


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lwhitehead
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #4 on: Jan 22nd, 2017, 12:51pm »
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I was hoping that my Character could be younger then 50 years old, he did join the railway during the WW2 for the cash and a way to get out of the draft.
 
My main character is a Slum Kid who bettered himself, he part Poirot Part Jay Gats.  
 
He disproves of Goldbricks, his Father was useless Drunk and failure in life,
 
 
LW


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #5 on: Jan 22nd, 2017, 3:14pm »
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LW - Lodge Members -
 
So far, you are doing just fine. Your lead character very likely not quite as old as twenty-two (22) years by 1946 date. In the actual WWII time  
period, everything paid well. With the rationing at the time, little could be done with earnings other than deposit it in banks.
 
So that by start date of AMTRAK in 1971, your character would have attained, at most, his forty-seventh (47) birthday. That part works. About  
the matter of signing on at the  railroad to avoid the draft? Your guy would necessarily have a ruling that his railroad work was essential to the  
war effort. Or, possibly, some medical condition which served as a bar to military service.
 
Those were the days? Keep in mind that aircraft commanders, the "old men" flying huge numbers of B-17, B-29, and other types were no more  
than twenty-five (25) years of age. And, there were kids in the crew who fibbed about their ages,and were not even sixteen (16) years...
 
That's the way it was! To aid your writing, get some beverages. Listen to Glenn Miller, the Dorseys, and some war time Frank Sinatra? BTW,  
and working this for all it is worth, did your hero work the "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" (PRR - SOUTHERN joint service)?
 
......................... Vern ...................


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George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #6 on: Jan 23rd, 2017, 12:52am »
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Extra board:  Someone with far more intimate information could flesh this thought out.
 
On occasions where trains were run as extras or where a member of the regular crew was not able to make it, there was this thing called the Extra Board.  That is, if you were listed on the  extra board, you had no regular run, but were on call to take a crew position when the regular guy could not make it or if a train not normally operated was to be run.  Your position again could be controlled by seniority, but also by your position on the list of names to be called.
 
If your guy was to be on the extra board, he could be on a passenger train on one trip and a local freight the next. (I think I am right here.)  An extra board man could also be used to "pilot" a detour move.  I experienced this on one occasion as a passenger, the Tennessean between Chattanooga and Memphis.  Due to a derailment at the Tennessee River Bridge at Decatur AL that was joint with L&N, we detoured via Birmingham.  Between B'ham and Sheffield we took the all Southern route between B'ham and Jasper AL, 50 miles instead of the 40 miles on the Frisco, the route taken by the City of Miami, and taking right at 2 hours instead of just over one on the Frisco.  All together, 5 hours to cover about 130 miles.  Because there was no passenger service on that line and had not been for many years, the extra board conductor had no passenger uniform, but he did wear a suit.  Likewise, the trainmen.  The regular crew was along for the ride, and exceeded their 16 hours, but it made no difference as they were not the operators of the train.  If they had been, we would have come to a stop and not moved again until a replacement crew came on.


« Last Edit: Jan 23rd, 2017, 4:02pm by George_Harris » Logged
HwyHaulier
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #7 on: Jan 23rd, 2017, 12:06pm »
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on Jan 23rd, 2017, 12:52am, George_Harris wrote:       (Click here for original message)
Extra board:  Someone with far more intimate information could flesh this thought out...

 
George- Lodge Members -
 
That's you and me both who await a long experienced guru. There were numerous "craft" Brotherhood Bargaining Units.
 
These years later, how to explain the phenomena of "boomer" help working the trains. These fellows went from town to town  
(following the work), and held various, active Brotherhood cards, good looks, and an occasional smile. They had to be working  
"Extra Board" assignments everywhere. Which Brotherhood cards?
 
Your are shaking loose some old memories here. In my own work at S R S at Washington, most of us were Brotherhood  
Of Railway Clerks. Here, a colleague is recalled. He was an active Clerk with the line at WAS. At the same time, when he was  
"off the clock", he built seniority time on a Brotherhood Extra Board for Engineer work at B & O. Guess it worked for him...
 
(SIGH!) Trucking so much simpler! Teamsters (IBT) held the Master Contracts. Any questions open to negotiations with IBT...
 
.................... Vern .......................
 
 


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George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #8 on: Jan 23rd, 2017, 3:55pm »
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Vern, et al:  Rereading my thought, see that a few things did not make it from brain to fingers.  I will correct my post on the extra board accordingly.  Here are a few:  The City of Miami took the Southern between Haleyville AL and Jasper AL, and then the Frisco between Jasper and B'ham, thereby saving an hour over the all-Southern route.  I did not say that.  It was our detour move that went all-Southern.  This was a surprise to me, as by that time I knew the CofM route and anticipated we would take it.
 
While talking about the City of Miami, it was the last scheduled passenger train to operate on GM&O rails south of St. Louis and the last scheduled passenger train to operate on Frisco rails anywhere.
 
on Jan 23rd, 2017, 12:06pm, HwyHaulier wrote:       (Click here for original message)

George- Lodge Members -
 
That's you and me both who await a long experienced guru. There were numerous "craft" Brotherhood Bargaining Units.
 
These years later, how to explain the phenomena of "boomer" help working the trains. These fellows went from town to town  
(following the work), and held various, active Brotherhood cards, good looks, and an occasional smile. They had to be working  
"Extra Board" assignments everywhere. Which Brotherhood cards?
 
Your are shaking loose some old memories here. In my own work at S R S at Washington, most of us were Brotherhood  
Of Railway Clerks. Here, a colleague is recalled. He was an active Clerk with the line at WAS. At the same time, when he was  
"off the clock", he built seniority time on a Brotherhood Extra Board for Engineer work at B & O. Guess it worked for him...
 
(SIGH!) Trucking so much simpler! Teamsters (IBT) held the Master Contracts. Any questions open to negotiations with IBT...
 
.................... Vern .......................



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George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #9 on: Jan 23rd, 2017, 4:33pm »
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This may not come into play at all, but when we start talking about such things as the Southern route between Knoxville and Memphis brings me around to thoughts on trackage rights.  The merger mania of the last couple decades has done away with many of these by both sides of the equation coming under the same corporate umbrella, but there are quite a few that remain.
 
One of the most interesting is that of the Southern Railway which does not, so far as I know, own the track at their system's Zero Milepost.  For them Zero is Washington DC, but their ownership began in Alexandria VA, and that point was not on the main line out of DC.  The connection to that was made about a mile south of the RF&P Alexandria station.  (RF&P ownership did not go into DC either.  It began at the south end of the Potomac River Bridge.  North of their was Pennsy then Washington Terminal Company ownership.
 
While Southern and N&W have combined into Norfolk Southern, these other track rights arrangement remain, as the other side of the equation at the north end, RF&P is now part of CSX.  In the part west of Chattanooga, there is still NS on CSX, with the CSX part being NC&StL for many years, then L&N.  The bridge at Decatur AL is NS owned and used by CSX as part of their CSX main between Nashville and Birmingham.  This CSX was L&N for a long time but initially was the connection between two railroads, the Nashville and Decatur north of Decatur, and S&NA, that is South and North Alabama, south thereof.  (Geographically it could not be allowed to have "North" being the first word in its name.)
 
Going back to the route of the Tennessean, out of Washington DC, it was operated by Southern to Lynchburg VA, then N&W on N&W rails to Bristol VA/TN, then back on Southern the rest of the way to Memphis.  But, in that distance the Southern had trackage rights for about 40 miles Wauhatchie (just west of Chattanooga) to Stevenson AL.  
 
One of the more unbelievable acts considering the histerical oops I meant historical fanaticisms about old structures, the original Memphis and Charleston station in Memphis, which was built in 1830 something and was again used as a passenger station again in the mid 1960's has since been leveled.  This was one of the few buildings in Memphis to survive the standard Yankee rape, pillage and burn invasion policy.


« Last Edit: Jan 23rd, 2017, 9:25pm by George_Harris » Logged
George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #10 on: Jan 23rd, 2017, 9:45pm »
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Train speeds:  For much of the railroad map passenger train speed limits were in the range of 50 to 80 mph, with the higher number frequently being more for publicity purposes than reality.  Using my previously given example of the Tennessean, west of Chattanooga the speed limit was 70 mph.  East thereof, between Chattanooga and Bristol, the speed limit was 80 mph, but when you stitched together the speed restrictions on curves the highest limit anywhere in this length was 65 mph, and long stretches were limited to 50 mph or 45 mph and quite a few zones of even less.  Throughout the country, with a few notable exceptions, a train's end to end speed average would be 45 mph or less, and in mountainous terrain, could be much less.
 
However, one thing that was common practice frequently winked at was to exceed the defined speed limit conditions permitting.  In the days when on-time operation of priority passenger trains was a corporate objective, of short operating segments, high seniority men in the cab that knew their territory intimately, and relatively lax regulatory oversight this seldom caused trouble.  This practice enabled recovery of lost time more common than anything possible under Amtrak.  Even into the early 1960's this was still common.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #11 on: Jan 24th, 2017, 9:07am »
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George - Lodge Members -
 
Well, as we wandered onto SRS tracks, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Railway_(U.S.)
 
In the time your writer with SRS at WAS, an everyday curiosity in its "Company Pencils"! One variety labeled,  
SOUTHERN RAILWAY SYSTEM. Another variety labeled, SOUTHERN RAILROAD COMPANY. Seasoned hands  
referred to the latter as recalling, Richmond And Danville! Many of them also denied they ever saw a memo  
about end of "Lincoln's War"! Washington - Lynchburg was "SRC" (R & D) track...
 
Fast running? It was known to happen with regularity. It was not something a good employee talked about publicly.  
After all, many of the trains carried Mail, and the Post Office liked timely performances. It was well known that rivals  
ACL and SAL also given to running fast times.
 
While with the System, on one long ago weekend, rode its Peach Queen (IIRC, #37 and #38), Atlanta to Washington.  
Noticed it held to same timings of twenty-five (25) years earlier. Average speed overall about forty (40) mph.
 
............... Vern ...............


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George_Harris
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #12 on: Jan 28th, 2017, 5:00pm »
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Railroading was a family business:  This could play into a novel set on a railroad.  It was the norm for several members of the same family to be working for the same railroad company.  Many companies had a company magazine, and most of those would have a section on employee events and activities.  Commonly there would be a list of relatives in the company.  Frequently there would be more than one family member in a train crew.  On at least on occasion, and probably with some planning, it was managed to achieve a complete 5 man freight crew with all members related.  
 
When I went to work for the L&N, that was about the first question I was asked:  "What relatives do you have working for the company and where are they?"
 
Again from very rusty memory, but if I recall correctly, one of the men on the division survey gang had the following:  Uncle was a Assistant Division Engineer, another w brakeman up on the NF&S, and a couple more.  I think one of his grandfathers was a retired engineer.
 
Get your hands on some old company magazines to get a feel for some of how things were.  Southern's are on line.  Can't remember the address, but have been there in years past.


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HwyHaulier
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Re: Passenger Train mystery series during the late Golden Age of Rail Passenger
 
« Reply #13 on: Jan 29th, 2017, 6:48am »
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George - Lodge Members -
 
Exactly! We both had direct experiences with very much Southern Carriers! It a culture all its own. (Yes, I'll have grits with that!)
 
Management talked a good game, and insisted it did not approve of blatant nepotism. At the same time, the roll call of system  
employees with entire families of all sorts of relatives working the jobs.
 
In the South, it a daily life living in a Faulkner novel! On SRS, and surely this was happening at the L & N, it was helpful there  
were notable instances where entire families worked for the Railroad. There were also relatives at work with the "Big Shippers".  
It was perfectly incestuous! With this, your writer can still name names. It had its amusing sides to it.
 
Is it any wonder that, with restructuring in the South, combined L & N, A C L, et. al. repackaged as "Family Lines"?
 
.......................... Vern ..................................


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