Rail Road Anecdotes


A Few Pointers from Your Friendly Neighborhood Locomotive Engineer:

Let's start with some DON'Ts:

1) A train is really, really big. Can we all accept that? Not even your Ram/F-350/Hummer/douche-mobile is a match for the smallest locomotive. You say you have a Cummins diesel? Caterpillar? Detroit? "Oooh"! Well I have an "EMD 567" on a "bad" day, and even its pathetic 2,000 horsepower will pound you and your gleaming pickup into the fourth dimension, so please, stay behind the white line! OK?

2) I hate blocking crossings. Seriously, I feel like a complete jerk when I stop a train in the middle of the road and leave two dozen motorists to ponder their lattes and ask what the hell I'm doing. The truth is, sometimes it has to be done, so don't honk at me, flip me off, or scream at me from the window of your Dodge Caravan as you're shooting a U. Instead, be patient and try to believe that there's a point to what I'm doing. It's called "switching", and my conductor is depending on me to work slowly and not run his ass over. If you don't believe me, Wiki that!

3) Don't climb on the equipment. I hate to sound like your mother, but you're saving me a lot of paperwork and horrifying flashbacks by staying off the equipment. To you it might look like an abandoned train or a free ride, but when that bastard starts to move with you on it, there's a damn good chance you won't be able to hold on. As long as you're on Wikipedia, punch in "slack action" and see what comes up. Also, the romance of riding freight trains is total bull. They're really dark, really cold, really windy, and hobos are freaking SCARY.

4) Don't put junk on the tracks. It's dangerous to me and my conductor, and it's ten times more dangerous for you and everyone else on the ground. If you're wondering "can a train go over a rock?" the answer is YES. There's only one problem. You probably haven't wondered where the million shards of rock are going to go at four times the speed of sound, have you?

5) Stop whining about the horn. Countless accidents have been avoided because drivers missed the flashing lights but heard the horn. You'd have to blast Miley Cyrus and Lil' Bow Wow pretty damned loud to drown out a five-chime, and often that's the only thing that saves people. Still, that's no reason to keep your stereo at 80 decibels as you're rolling through a crossing at sixty without looking both ways.

6) By and large, railroad cops are major douche-bags, so when you're trespassing on railroad property, keep your head out of your butt. These guys didn't make the cut into the real police force, and they will ream your ass inside and out to make up for their resulting inferiority complex. Also, walking on bridges and in tunnels is extremely dangerous. Ask yourself: If a train comes, where will I go? Trains are much wider than the rails they run on, so don't be fooled.

Now for some of the DO's:

1) If you see a large object (like a garbage can, or an F-350) that's about to get love-tapped by a hotshot freight train, get in the clear. If the crap's about to fly at a railroad crossing, run to the side of the street that the train is coming from. That way you'll be behind the point of impact and you won't have to worry about catching that beautiful pickup and its over-confident driver square on your shoulders. If you run away from the train you're just putting yourself in the line of fire, and the death toll could very possibly be two.

2) If the gates stay down and the lights stay flashing, stay where you are. I guaran-damn-tee there's another train coming, and speeding onto the tracks the moment the first train clears is a lot like celebrating a touchdown too early. WHAM.

3) When you're waiting for a train to pass, it's a good idea to stay back thirty or forty feet. Trains are operated by professionals, but often they're "loaded" by total clowns. I've heard some real nasty stories about payloads falling off flatcars and crushing people in their vehicles, or doors sliding off boxcars and ripping through everything in their path. It's rare, but it happens!

4) Always report problems or suspicious activity. If you see a photographer with a radio scanner and a big-ass notebook, ignore him. We know those guys. But if there's a dude in street clothes working a crowbar through a signal box, hit us up and tell us what the deal is. Railroad crossings usually have signs with emergency numbers, or you can call the non-emergency number for your local fuzz. If an accident has already occurred or a life is at risk, call 911 instead. Pretty sure they have our number.

 5) Last but not least, when you're inconvenienced by a train, remember that we're pulling for you! Trains are a great way to conserve fuel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and keep American jobs alive and green. Rail technology is the best solution to our energy crisis, and as the rail network grows in the years to come, it's important for everyone to stay safe. LOOK,  LISTENLIVE!

Book of Rules Joke

Back during the War II, when anyone could get a job braking,
the NC&StL hired a new kid from Nashville. The Superintendent
gave him his copy of the Book of Rules and told him, "Now
take this and study it. Keep it with you at all times on
the railroad, because any situation that might come up is
covered in the Book of Rules."

So the kid takes his book, says, "Thank you,
Sir, I sure will!" and goes home to study the book. That
night he gets a call for No. 3, the secondary sleeper train from Nashville to Chattanooga. He gets on the train at Nashville, and the conductor tells him to go back and make sure the lanterns are all lighted and ready to go on the rear platform. The train pulls out while he's walking back through the sleepers, and sees a woman's bare posterior exposed through the curtains of an upper berth.

"Hmmmmm How do I handle this? Oh yeah, the Book of Rules!" So he gets out the Good Book, then runs to the rear of the train, grabs a red lantern and hangs it on the berth. Next comes a traveling salesman, who sees parted curtains and the red light, and gets the entirely wrong idea. Needless to say, there was a big stink when
the word got back to the Supt the following day, and
the kid had a message waiting on his return to report to the
Superintendent' s Office RIGHT NOW!

He walks in, and the "Old Man" inquires
politely, "Son, what in the world were you thinking of when
you hung that red lamp on that poor woman's berth on Monday

"Well, Sir," the new hire started, "you told me that
anything that came up on the railroad was covered by a rule
in the Book of Rules."

"Yes, I did," said the "Old Man." "But where in
hell did you find a rule to cover that one?"

"Right here," the new guy replied. "It says, 'The rear end
of a sleeper, exposed by night, must be protected by a red

Next day the kid was a Trainmaster.

Rail Slang Story

From Bill Dunbar, a Train Dispatcher off the Alton RR/GM&O. (You almost need to have worked as a brakeman to understand some of the terms...)

Reminds me of something similar I read in RAILROAD STORIES many years ago. I don't have it verbatim, but it had to do with a boomer brakeman who was hurt in a yard accident:

A nurse at the hospital was starting his chart and asked what happened.

"Well, we had just come in off the main stem and we put the train away in the garden. I was taking the hog to the barn, and we was comin' down the ladder, and there was a gate some Snake left against us. I got down to bend the iron, and right then a goat came down the next alley and clipped me."

The nurse wrote on the chart, "Farmer hurt handling livestock."