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A Day in the Life of Railroad Employees

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NH/VT Railroads Today - Full size and model, engines to cabooses.

The Rail

A Day in the Life of Railroad Employees

History of Railroad Equipment

Engines

Train Stations

Bridges

Trollys

Building the Railroads

NH/VT Railroads Today - Full size and model, engines to cabooses. 

 Railroad History Index

A Day with the Brakeman on the Train

A Day with the Brakeman on the Train

On every freight train there are two or more brakemen. The disagreeable features of their experience result mainly from severe weather, although they have much trouble with tramps.

The Freight Brakeman Must be "On Top"

In running on ascending grades or at a slow speed, the brakeman can ride under cover, but on descending grades or when running fast, he must be on top, ready to apply the brakes instantly.

The Red Flag

When a train is unexpectedly stopped on the road, the rear-end brakeman takes his red flag or lantern and hurries back half a mile to give the stop signal to any train which may be following.

Coupling the Cars

Another duty of the brakeman is to couple the cars, uncoupling being generally devolved on the freight conductors. Both these tasks are dangerous and result in the loss of many lives.

Assembling and Changing the Cars

The brakeman is on hand promptly at the hour of preparation for departure, and has a brief period of lively work in assembling the cars from different tracks, changing the cars from the front to the rear or middle of the train, and setting aside those that are broken or disabled.

Good things to Eat

During much of his trip-time in the pleasant months of the year, the freight brakeman has an opportunity to get acquainted with farmers, from whom he buys good things at low prices and lives on fine fruit, vegetables, etc.

The Passenger Brakeman

The passenger brakeman has to deal more or less with the public, and his chief duties are those of a porter. On the modern "limited" trains his day's work consists of a three hour's run without stop.

Flagging and Flirting

Occasionally the passenger brakeman must go back to "flag." In former days he was credited with much flirting along the run, and he has not altogether outgrown it. If he does well he will become a conductor.

 

A Day on the Locomotive with the Fireman

How the Fireman Begins

The locomotive foreman usually serves an apprenticeship as an engine wiper in the roundhouse. Sometimes he also empties the clinker pits and performs other types of drudgery. If his work is satisfactory, he is in course of time placed on the extra-fireman list. If he continues to make himself useful, he is, after a while, promoted to be a regular fireman.

A Preliminary Examination

Many railroads require, on the part of their firemen, a good common-school education, and subject them to an examination in certain branches.

Details of the Fireman's Work

When the fireman is about to make his regular trip, he reports to the roundhouse, draws the necessary supplies, and sees that the lubricators, lamps, oil cans, tank and sand boxes are filled. If he uses soft coal he sees that it is broken and wet down; that the cab and its fittings are wiped, and the ash-pan cleaned, and that the grates are straight to keep the coal from dropping through. He then compares his watch with that of the engineer.

Two Systems of Firing

There are two systems of firing. In the banking system, used with coal having few clinkers, a large quantity of coal is placed in the firebox, so that the gases and hydro-carbons may be expelled and the coal may become coke. This is little used. The spreading system requires that the coal be broken into pieces about the size of a large apple.

The Coal Well Ignited

In starting the fireman sees that the coal is well ignited, so that he need not open the firebox until the train has gained considerable headway, and the lever has been hooked up, with consequent lighter pull from the exhaust.

In Approaching a Stopping Point

In approaching a stopping point, he shuts down the dampers, and if fresh coal has been recently applied he opens the blower and leaves the firebox door slightly ajar, to prevent the escape of smoke and gases.

Difficult and Dangerous

The work of the engineer and fireman is difficult and dangerous, and requires keen vigilance, close assiduity and iron nerve.

The Engineer's Assistant

The fireman is the engineer's assistant, and is liable in an emergency to assume the latter's duties, or to take charge of another engine. To a considerable extent, it has been the usage among railway systems to allow engineers to select their own firemen, as it is important that these two trainmen shall be on the best of terms. The selection is subject, however, in a general way, to the assent of the master mechanic.

A Day at the Throttle with the Engineer

A Day at the Throttle with the Engineer

The locomotive engineer and the train dispatcher hold the two most responsible positions on the railroad. The former clings to the throttle, the latter sits before a train sheet in the dispatcher's office and regulates the running of the train on which the engineer sits in the cab with his eye straight ahead.

The Engineer's Apprenticeship

To become an engineer, one must previously pass through a regular course of instruction. First, the apprentice who seeks to become an engineer goes to the master mechanic of the "division" and makes application for work.

First a Wiper in the Roundhouse

He is then placed in the roundhouse as a wiper. This duty consists of cleaning the engines as they come in. His salary ranges from $1.10 to $1.25 per day.

"Firing Engines" in the "Yard"

If the applicant shows ability, he is soon promoted to the task of "firing" engines. The next step is when the young "stoker," as he is sometimes called, is placed on a switch engine in the yard, to act as an extra fireman. In this capacity he may remain for several months; in fact, some serve from one to three years in the yard before they are permitted to run on the road.

After a time, however, the novice becomes proficient enough to be given a trial on the road, under the watchful eye of a pilot.

The Fireman's Duty on the "Run"

When one or two trips have been made in this way the fireman becomes a full-fledged knight of the scoop, and begins to draw a fireman's pay, which averages about $3.25 per hundred miles. The duty of a fireman is to keep up sufficient steam with which to run the engine, to keep a sharp outlook when not otherwise engaged, for all track obstructions, and to ring the bell and take signals from the train crew. In addition to this, he is expected to keep his locomotive in splendid condition, and not infrequently does he clean the entire "jacket" every trip.

A Hard and Hazardous Task

The work is hard and hazardous. A broken rail may, without warning, cause a wreck and kill the fireman. Despite the dangers attached to this position, hundreds of applicants are ready to accept it when offered.

Stationary Engineers

In cities, stationary engineers are usually paid by the day, their salaries ranging from $3.25 to $4.50 per day. There are schools where engineering is taught, but the most successful engineers are those who have learned their trade by active service under an old fireman or engineer. The stationary engineer also serves as a fireman, unless it be where the engine and boiler are too large, in which case a fireman and engineer are employed.

Promoted to Switch Engineer

When the fireman has run upon the road a certain length of time, he is promoted to be engineer of a switch engine, doing duty in the "yards." Here he remains for, at least, one or two years before he is placed upon the road in charge of an engine.

First Trips as Road Engineer, with Pilot

His first trips as an engineer are under the direction of an old engineer, who acts as his pilot, and who teaches him the road in order that he may know the grades, the crossings where whistles are to be blown, and obtain any information that is necessary.

Freight Engineer

Then comes the time when he makes his first trip alone. That is a happy moment to the ambitious engineer. With his promotion comes a nice increase in salary he draws "freight engineer" rates, which are about $4 per hundred miles.

Runs a Passenger Engine

After a time he is placed upon a passenger train, where, also, he gets an increase in salary, but at the same time, incurs more responsibility and more danger. A successful engineer averages about $160 per month.


A Day on the Trolly Car, with its Crew

To wear a uniform is the sole ambition of many young men. There are two uniformed men on electric trolly cars. One is the conductor; the other, the motorman. In olden times, there were no conductors or motormen as separate individuals; both were one and the same, in the person of the driver. The time was when there was no electricity, and the old familiar "bobtailed" horse car wobbled along the public streets at an uncertain pace.

Today the modern trolly car bowls along our thoroughfares, and the ancient horse car has been relegated to the "bone-yard," or cut up for scrap iron and kindling wood.

Long Hours and "Split" Runs

In cities like Chicago, the working hours of motormen are long and tedious. They are compelled to get out very early in the morning, and are frequently obliged to work "split" runs, which have a tendency to deprive them of their natural amount of rest. This, of course, applies to the large cities, where the men are at their posts, on an average, ten hours each day.

In order to give the reader an idea of what the duties of a conductor and motorman are, we shall attempt only an outline; brief it must necessarily be, but sufficiently comprehensive to enable the casual reader to understand their daily routine.

The Conductor

To secure the position of conductor, the applicant first visits the office of the street car company, where he fills out an application blank. This done, the applicant is placed on the "extra" list. In the meantime, if his references have been found satisfactory, the "caller" is notified, and very soon the applicant is told to report for duty.

When he puts in an appearance at the barns, he is placed in charge of a car and for several days makes trips under the direction of, or with, a "pilot." The duty of the pilot is to instruct the new conductor how to collect and ring up fares, issue transfers, and learn the various streets on which the line runs.

His Salary

When the pilot is satisfied that the new man understands the work he is expected to do, he so reports to the superintendent and is relieved from further duty with the new conductor, who makes his first trip alone. The salary of electric car conductors ranges from 19 to 28 cents per hour (in 1915). This scale only applies to cities where their organization is perfect, and where the men stand together. The conductor must have $50 in cash to deposit before he makes his first trip. This is remitted when he leaves the service of the company.

His Work and Length of Service

The life of a conductor is anything but a pleasant one, and he is compelled to take considerable abuse which is heaped upon him by a class of passengers who are constantly on the alert to quarrel. Conductors do not, as a rule, remain more than four or six years with a street car company. They become dissatisfied and resign.

The Motorman's Vexing Task

The Motorman's Vexing Task

The motorman, who is so often held responsible for accidents, has even a harder row to hoe than the conductor, for it is his duty to keep his car running on time, and in order to do so he often loses his temper on account of drivers of heavy truck wagons, who insist on holding the right of way, despite the fact that the motorman has signaled several times with the gong.

The motorman must ever be on the alert to prevent accidents. The car may be moving along at a moderate rate of speed, when, without warning, a man runs directly across the track, and if the motorman does not act quickly, the man may be injured or killed. Again, a reckless driver of some vehicle may attempt to cut off the car, which sometimes results in a collision, and is the cause of heavy damages suits against the company.

An Apprenticeship in the Shops - the "Pilot"

Nervous, excitable men do not make good motormen. A steady man, with nerves that can withstand sudden and unexpected shocks, is the one who lasts longest in this capacity. In order to become competent for the position, one must generally serve an apprenticeship in the shops. Even in that case, a pilot is sent along for several days, as in the case of the new conductor.

Wages of Motormen

The wages of motormen at present (1915) are from 24 to 29 cents per hour. The work is hard, and therefore competent motormen are almost always in demand.

A Day in the Life of Railroad Employees

History of Railroad Equipment

Engines

Train Stations

Bridges

Trollys

Building the Railroads

NH/VT Railroads Today - Full size and model, engines to cabooses. 

 Railroad History Index

Also on edsanders.com:

AMSOIL

Home

Bookstore

Phonics

History

Genealogy

 

File It

 

Outside Links

Search Engines

Formulas & Recipes

Visit my other web sites!

Link to Routes section of www.allroutes.to

www.allroutes.to 

Link to www.greatnorthwoods.org

www.greatnorthwoods.org 

Link to Amsoil Section of edsanders.com

Click here to learn how to enjoy the advantages of the latest in proven lubrication technology!

edsanders.com is sponsored by, created, written, developed and maintained by Ed Sanders.

Amsoil Independent Direct Jobber - Click here to check it out!

(Amsoil is in NO way connected with Amway)



E-Mail: edsanders@edsanders.com
Copyright 1997 - 2000 by Ed Sanders.