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Life of a Railroad Employee

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The enclosed are items which I have found in some of my readings.  I found them to be of interesting, and although they are before my time, and found some of which I was not familiar, I thought that our younger genteration of members would find it of interest, to be knowledgeable of some of the facts of the early days of Railroads.


Life hazards of a Trainman


Tornadoes in Nebraska

Twisted Canyons of the Reo Grands

Blizzards of montana

Dizzy switchbacks of the Cascades

Snow in Sierra

Desserts of Utah and Nevada

Wrestling Texas big horns into boxcars



Falling bridges

run away trains


Head-on and Rear-end collisions

Break in two engines

Run-away cars

Bouolders and trees on tracks

Broken or missing tracks

and don't forget the Buffalo or Bison



Engineer occupation.

As an apprentice, the person started as a "wiper".  A 12 hour shift, massaging the internal parts of engines in the roundhouse, with wads of greasy waste.  $1.75 a day wages.

He could advance to the level of "engine watchman", whose job was to keep both sufficient water in the boiler, and the fire going, so tht the engine could be moved with the railroad yard at any time.

The next step was to that of a "switch-engine fireman", "road fireman" and "hostel".   His duties were to go into the yard, where an engineer had left it, and navigating it into the roundhouse.

A final step was that of a "switch-engine engineer" - and at last - "journeyman hogger" - a real "locomotive engineer".   The pay was $4.00 a day.



Fireman occupation.

One of the terrifying duties of a fireman was that of a "tallow pot".  The job required the fireman to climb out on the running board with a "long spouted can" filled with "liquid tallow", creeping alongside of the hot boileer of a speeding locomotive, to pour the liquid tallow on the sliding valves.  After,or during the late 1880s, such a duty was changed with the installation of a device mixing oil with  boiler water, that created steam that carried its own steam lubricant.

His other duty was that of the constant maintaining of adequate amount of coal into the firebox.  Or wood in the earlier locomotives, which required 40 to 200 pounds of coal per mile. And depending on grades, a fireman could shovel 2 tons of coal in less than 1/2 hour.  The pay was $2.40.



Switchman occupation.

Prior to the 1880s, the coupling of cars was termed as "link-and-pin couplings".  The "link" was a "loop 13 inchs inlength", similar to that of a chain link in shape.  Some were offset from the straight, to accommodate different levels of rolling stock.  This had to be inserted into a "slot of a draw bar", and the "pin" inserted into a hole in the draw bar.  The danger was that of lifting that loop, into the other car, basically when the car was slowling moving.  If successful, the connection, called "stitch", was made, and the switchman able to jump out from between the moving care, or, get squeezed.  The more safely operation was to that of using a "brakeman's club", being a 3 ft hickory staff.  But most did not,  and the saying was, "to tell a switchman, was to count fingers". No mention of wages. 



Brakeman occupation.

These employees would ride the top of box cars.  It was their responsibility to help furnish the braking capability to slow the momentum of the train on a signal from the engineer.  A Brakeman was responsible for 5 box cars.  Each car was equipped with a "brake wheel" at the end of the box car, above the roof line, which was attached to a vertical shaft/rod, of which was connected to a chain at axle level, the chain of which was connected to a manual type of brake system.  These men had to traverse the box car walk way at high speeds of a waving car.  This was a great danger in itself, andbecame more dangerous during the winter months with the cold and possibly slippery icy conditions, strong winds, sand storms, and thunder storms.   Again, no mention of wages.



Conductor occupation.

Their duties were that of a "collection of tickets", but they did have the responsibility of a "judge and Jury", as they had to maintain peace and order.  With the types of many different persons traveling: rowdy, gunslingers, and jut trouble makers, it took a lot of patience and diplomacy.   For some reason the author has failed to include a wage for another employee.


Hoping that the reader finds some new point of unknown information.   Enjoy. 


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That was Interesting.


Freight trains also had a conductor.

His job was to keep track of cargo to be set off or picked up. 


A Conductor was in charge of the train he was assigned to and

he had to keep track of where other trains were on the line, to prevent corn field meets.  (crashes) 

The train needed to safely bring empty cars to where cargo was waiting for a car along the line.    


I've often thought that hauling empties would add interest to the game. 

Maybe a conductor could be added to the game where you might need to hire a good Conductor .

If I remember correctly the Conductor earned the highest pay on a train except:

for yard engines where the yard master was in charge of switching operations in and around a large yard. 

In modern times the conductor became a yard master and has a desk and a radio phone in a building to keep track

of many trains and a team to help him.  In the old days the caboose was the conductor's office.  It is no longer needed.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I like your commens Gwizz,

As they add to the interest of the posts.   As I mentioned, the article was not probable complete in every aspect.  The author probably had to be guided within an amount of "print",  and as it was of 240 pages with some pictures, he had to deal with a majority of facts and statistics, to which he had done an amount of research.   Thanks again.  :)

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