J.J. Earl - Freight Anecdotes and Articles,
A tribute:
ember 28, 1935 - Dec. 19, 2012
JJEarl-NEWSDAY-obituary-12-21-12.jpg (74979 bytes)     Obituary: December 12, 2012


JJEarlandMarkSmithLIRR35scab.JPG (100982 bytes)
JJ Earl (l) and Mark Smith (r) with 
cab #35 07/2008


10/92 Yard and Road Freight Jobs in the 1960s - Bay Ridge Branch JJ Earl 
11/92 Yard and Road Freight Jobs in the 1960s - Perishables JJ Earl 
02/93 Yard and Freight Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl LI City floats
03/93 Yard and Freight Jobs in the 1950s JJ Earl Yard A
04/93 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Yard A / Blissville
05/93 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Bliss / Laurel Hill
09/93 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Yard A
10/93 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Kearny Sidings
12/93 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Holidays
01/94 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Degnon Terminal Pages 4-5
02/94 LIRR Yard Jobs in the 1960s JJ Earl Richmond Hill / Dunton Pages 4-5
03/01 Excerpts from Employee Timetable1933 JJ Earl Page 3
03/01 Excerpts from Employee Timetable1933 JJ Earl Page 5
04/01 LIRR Runs And Instructions May 28,1919 JJ Earl
05/01 Freight Interchange Procedures 1957 JJ Earl
05/10 LIRR Freight before the NY&A JJ Earl page 4-5, 10
03/11 The Holban Hump  see below: JJ Earl
04/11 The Holban Hump Part 2  see below: JJ Earl

Switching Yard A

In my time Yard A classified trains for numerous switch jobs in the Long Island City area and freight for East of Jamaica was made up for haulers to be transferred to Holban Yard where it was again classified for eastbound freights, Freight was also made up in Yard A for transfer to Fresh Pond for New Haven interchange some local switching jobs in that area. This all started with freight from the float bridges in Long Island City which received cars from many railroads in the area. In other words New York harbor, in itself, was like a huge classification yard. Amazed that this is all gone. Worked many days at the float bridges in L.I. City. These cars were made up and sent by the feeder job to the hump at the east end of Yard A and were classified as above. The Hump at 8th street classified westbound cars, generally empties, in tracks according to the home roads of the cars to be loaded on floats.

I am not familiar with any large freight yard West of Jamaica. Before my time. I remember a team yard in Richmond Hill 
and Johnson Ave yard behind Hall tower with leads to the Dunton Shops.

As to Penn. Station and Sunnyside:

What I believe came about was that the Long Island Rail Road had talked of tunneling into Manhattan but did not have the 
funds, but did have the rights to do so as it had the waterfront property on the East River. I think the Pennsy, the New 
Haven and Long Island formed the Long Island Connecting Railroad to build the Hell Gate bridge and the tunnels. The LIRR evidently did not have the funds. 

As to Sunnyside it must have acquired the property and built the yard in the same time period. With the loop it was a smart move as Penn Station did, and does, not have much layup room. Too bad the same thing was not done in Jersey for the Long Island. Reverse moves in Penn Station tied up tracks that could be used quicker. Many times it was hard to get to the other end of the train in the rush hour as passengers were trying to get off the train.

As to whether a yard was in yard “A” area at that time I do not know. Maybe there was one and Sunnyside took over some 
of it. 

Bay Ridge

Most people think of the LIRR as a rapid transit subway line, and yet, I remember while working in Bay Ridge, I could 
see the Sea Beach line that paralleled the ROW from Fifth Ave along 65th Street and I could see a building alongside 
their tracks that had a place built into the side of the wall that would have had a siding for a freight car.

I understand that the South Brooklyn Railway had running rights over the whole BMT/B&QT system delivering freight to 
team yards and such customers as Rhinegold Brewery. Sometimes it is hard to imagine what used to be as things get streamlined and especially as the freight business has died down to the extent that it has.

Mark Smith remembers: back your train in, cut off the hack, pull out and shove your train away, pick up the hack, place 
it on the westbound empties, I remember a few times working that job when the engineer was signaled, by dump of the air, to shove west when his air came back. By prior arrangement, he would do so with one quick jolt and stop. The hack had been bled off and was now rolling free toward the empties inside the Light. After a moment, the shove was continued west into a clear alley. No radios and no line of sight between the ground crew and the engine crew until the first clear alley was mostly filled.

By this time, hand signs could be used. Don't forget, the crew consisted of Conductor and three brakemen so that hacks 
could be ridden, switches could be thrown and hand signs could be passed. In most cases, when cross-over moves were involved, a third brakeman was assigned to the job to act as flagman.

I walked the branch in 1958 to get physical characteristics and Vanderveer team yard was there. Of course, in those days I had no camera with me and if I did, I would only have been interested in taking a shot of a steam locomotive pounding rail on the line. Since there were no steam engines operating at the time and it didn't occur to me to take pix of buildings, I have no picture of the old Victorian style freight house that stood in the yard. That building looked like it could have been there since the Bay Ridge connection was built back in the 1800s. (I didn't ask, but the freight agent inside looked like he could have been there that long, too)

Next time I went down there, in service about 1963, the building and yard were gone. These were the Goodfellow days and his idea was "If it's old, tear it down". 

Freight Switching: Yard A to Holban Yard

When I worked at Yard A in the late fifties / early sixties, tracks 1-9 were called the “OLD YARD” and tracks ten and above were called “NEW YARD”. I mention this, because from articles that I have read concerning the building of the tunnels and Sunnyside yard, there was a great deal of improvement done for the LIRR, including the building of Holban Yard. This was in conjunction with the building of Hell Gate Bridge, the NY Connecting railroad and installation of freight receiving stations on the island.

The Degnon Construction Co., when finished their work with the tunnels and Sunnyside, built warehouses along 47th Ave and created Degnon Terminal with rail access to each. Other terminals in the area were created at this time (Kearny, Murer, Harold Ave, Arch Street, etc.) and this would cause too much congestion in the North Shore Yard without sending Island bound freight to a point east of Jamaica to be re-classified for east end destinations.

During the 50s/60s, there were three road jobs that worked around the clock taking two trains each of approximately sixty cars from Yard A to Holban, clearing the yard for more cars to be switched. Having east end jobs start and terminate east of Jamaica also relieved the dispatchers in Jamaica from having to route these east end freights through the Jamaica bottleneck to get to or from Yard A. 

Another consideration was the 16 hour law. Crews could have outlawed if they had to do that extra eleven miles with traffic tie-ups that they would encounter. This explanation is from what I have read in articles (I don’t remember where) and from my own experience in the workings of the railroad during the period that I mention.

Making up Freight in Holban Yard

Holban Yard Freight Switching: #7 track was the running track to get through the yard on many occasions. It was usually kept clear for this purpose. The sorter tracks from #8 to #14 were used for making up work trains and trains destined to south side locations: L-46 to Far Rock, West Hempstead and Long Beach, or Babylon Freight which did Lynbrook to Babylon and return. The low ladder tracks were longer and usually trains had to be doubled over as it was easier for the yard crew doing the doubling to pass signs into the low ladder tracks. In the fifties and sixties, the east end freights would leave Holban with fifty or sixty cars and return with a like number.

As far as switching cars into trains as per location: This was true on long haul jobs, such as Greenport and Montauk, but on jobs like the Babylon job, cars had to be placed into the train placing cars ahead that would be dropped off first, next and so on. We didn't have time between following trains to switch on the main track. On the Babylon freight, the first stop was Lynbrook Team yard to put the train in order. In later years, Lynbrook could not be used and the train was made up "in spot order" by the Holban yard crew.

As for doubling the train, as for the east end jobs, their trains would not fit all into one track and they would be doubled over when their time was next to leave the yard. Many times when freight was heavy, these jobs would have their engines up on the hump, while the hack was down around St. Albans end of the yard.  J.J. Earl 2012 email correspondence.

An Interview with JJ via email: Q&A on Patchogue

1. Was the north siding ("old schoolhouse track") east of the Patchogue station and the Fence track (because it was next to the fence) used as a coach layover storage track for the morning commute?

Emery's SUNY map of Patchogue indicates both the North siding and the fence tracks as "coach lay-up." South of the tracks and east of S. Ocean Avenue (about the parking lot for the Brookhaven Town Hall ) were two (2) storage tracks, indicated as #1 and #2.  Track #2, the most southern of the two, was out in 1950.  Track #1 was still in use on Emery's 1958 map.  Both were east trailing, with the stubs against S. Ocean Avenue .

Also, the #1 track used to be an express track, with a high platform to unload express. This track extended all the way east past the Knickerbocker Ice Co., over Rider Avenue and stubbing out against Potter Ave. A crossover allowed access to this track from the main. The "Scoot" would also layup on the north siding and/or the Fence track.  

2. When was the water tank razed? The water columns were removed in 1951from Patchogue, why? Apparently the steam engines were serviced elsewhere after 1951. They no longer needed water plugs in Patchogue?

According to Emery's SUNY map of Patchogue, the water tank came down in 1950.  this note appears to be added later.  I think it's wrong.  Weber took the shots at Patchogue in the late 1940s because the tank was to be removed.  I think the tank came down in either 1947 or 1949.  

I believe that steamers were no longer run regular on the Montauk line after that time. There was a water column in Babylon that could service them but I do not know when it was removed.

3. The engine house is gone in the 1920s. Why? Were engines stored off the turntable for the morning commute?

Engines were stored on the engine lay-up track south of the turntable such as E6s 4-4-2 for example.

To my knowledge service was performed on the North siding in all weather. Any major work locomotive would be sent to Morris Park. This would also create a job for an engine crew run lite to PD with replacement locomotive and return with locomotive in need of inspection or repair. Good jobs as you were paid eight hours and many times done in half that time.

4. What kind of freight traffic was handled in Patchogue in terms of numbers of trains per day/week?

Freight traffic was handled by the Montauk freight runs, I believe also there was a Patchogue freight run for some time. In general freight was handled in among passenger traffic. Some times a Southside extra may work thru if needed. Such as a potato extra when Long Island was growing potatoes and not as now Vineyards.

5. Any unusual freights: ducks, potatoes, etc? 

Potato extras in the previous question. I do not recall any "Duck Extras ". Need an older timer then me to recall that. I know we ran thru Duck farms around Center Moriches as to how they were shipped I have no idea.

6. Were steam 0-8-0 assigned to Patchogue, or did the road engines work the yard and the sidings?

Road engines did the switching.  Out east, only Riverhead (and maybe Speonk) had a regular switcher assigned. I have NEVER seen photos of any 0-8-0 C51 switchers at Patchogue.   

From what I can determine from train orders and messages (copies of which I e-mailed you) only H10s and H6sb consolidations were used in freights passing through Patchogue.

7. Was the turntable in use until steam end in 1955? Or did they use diesels, or run east 20 miles out to Speonk to use the wye?

Turntable was out in early 50's. Diesels did most of the work after that, and they did a run around the train and pulled short hood first westbound.  Only the C liners were wyed at Speonk. 

The turntable was probably out of use when Diesels came into the picture. No need to turn locomotive, pull into school house siding, cut train off, back thru the next track to other end of train, couple up, brake test ready to go West. Then of course the Budd cars came and all you did was change ends and you were ready to go. Same situation with Push-Pull trains

The turntable pit was filled in in 1957.  Don't know when the table was actually discontinued.  

8. When were the water tank, scales, freight houses, sidings, coal trestles,
turntables, etc. removed and just paved over?

Water tank - c. 1949-50
Coal trestle - 1959
Scale track, sidings, structures, etc. - May, 1963
Turntable - ?  (see #7 above)  

9. What businesses and industries received car loads or LCL from the LIRR?

Bailey & Sons. (all sidings removed: 1950)
Underwood Fuel Co. (west of River Ave. and s. of main.  siding removed: 1963)
Patchogue-Plymouth Mills (Lace Mill) (siding removed 1965)
PELCO siding for coal delivery (siding removed 1965)
Texas Oil Co (accessed off Lace Mill track.  Secondary siding removed c. 1959)
Patchogue Gas Co. (accessed off Lace Mill track.  Secondary siding removed c. 1940)
Snedecor Coal & Feed (Weeks Coal) (siding out: 1959)
Knickerbocker Ice Co. (Ex-Welz & Zerwick)
G. H. Vrooman Coal & Lumber Co.
Swezey Coal & Fuel Co.
Standard Oil Co.
Case-Suffolk Corp Plumbing Supply
Reich Bros. Trucking
T & S Lumber Co.
Sinclair Oil Co. (siding removed: 12/41)
L. W. Terrell Coal Yard

10. What would the typical mix of cars look like, blocked reefers, all coal drag, etc. and what was the average number of cars in a freight that arrived?

Always mixed freight,  25-35 cars. Judging from the freight reports I copied for you, some of those trains handled just under 50 cars.

11. I see the Lace Mill has a siding for a coal trestle and a shipping/receiving siding at 90 degrees to the main crossing over Montauk Highway . What operational problems may have occurred?

Only operations I would see that would be a problem was the flagging of traffic on Main Street. I never worked that job as I can recall.

12. Describe the "Ringhouse" track?

The first siding south of the main.  39-car capacity.  Named after a LIRR Foreman. Branched off the main west of river Ave., opposite Underwood Fuel Co. and extended eastward connecting to the main just west of the REA house, directly in front of location of water tank.

From North to South:

1.    House track (led to coal trestle)
2.    Coal gondola storage track
3.    Turntable and ash pit track
4.    Engine Lay--up track
5.    North siding (68-car capacity)
6.    Main track
7.    Ringhouse track
8.    Scale track
9.    Team track #1
10.  Team track #2
11.  Team track #3

13. Were there named/numbered scheduled freights?

Locals were designated with an "L" prefix, and city freights had a "MA" for Metropolitan Area.

MA 13 or the Swamp Job

From my LIRR 1919 CR4:

     Elmhurst Coal Co.
     E. R. Durkee & Co.

Great Neck Junction:
     Queensboro Lumber Co.
     Heinrich Francke Sohne & Co.
     H. K. Lines
     Concrete Products Co.
     Nathan Manufacturing Co.

     F. Storm

Great Neck:
     Bayside Coal & Supply Co.
     Gregory Coal and Lumber Co.

Port Washington:
     C.W. Copp
     Munson Brothers

From my 1958 Bob Emery maps:

     Knickerbocker Ice Co.

     E. R. Durkee Co.
     Corona Fuel Co.

     Con Edison Co. Warehouses  and
     Pole Yard

     American Hospital supply Co.
     County Fuel Co.

     Marben Lumber & Flooring Co.
     C. H. Hawley Coal Co.
     Queensborough Lumber Co.

Great Neck:
     Gregory Coal & Lumber Co.
     Great Neck Lumber Co.
     North Shore Mason’s Supply Co.

Port Washington:
     Port Fuel Co.
     Port Washington Lumber Co.
     Donald D.Wyeing (Bldg Materials)

In 1960 I owned the MA 13 or the Swamp Job as it was called, because of it's doing switching in Corona Meadows Yard. This was the last remnant of the Whitestone Branch and it serviced a scrap dealer as well as Empire Millwork and a company that took covered hoppers of plastic pellets.

A team yard also served several customers and off #1 main, Con Edison had a yard where flat cars laden with poles were taken. On the south side, where Shea is today, A&P had a bakery where Jane Parker baked goods where made.

Plastic toys were made by Emenee in a building between the switching lead and #2 main and a carload of coal was taken at a coal yard off the same lead.

The MA13 shoved out of Yard A up the Westbound Montauk Cutoff as far as the Mainline Cutoff and then reversed down through “F”, Harold and on to “WIN” Winfield team yard was switched and then on to the branch.

I don’t remember the name of the consignee, but it was always referred to as “Durkee’s old siding”. This siding was double ended near old Elmhurst station. Hand thrown cross-over switches, known as United Nation Cross-overs got us into Corona Yard. At the time, the remnants of the former United Nations station was laying there in derelict form.

A coal siding was served off #1 at Elmhurst on our way back west. In 1960, MA territory ended at Flushing and a road job, L40, did the work east of there. Not much to do and it was a sweet job for the extra man who wanted to get finished early to hit a day job the next day.

I worked the 13 again a few years later (1964) when MA Territory was extended to Port Wash. The team yard at Bayside took a box car of doo-dads for someone who ran a flea-market or something like that.

North Shore Mason took carloads of mason material and brick at Plandome or Manhasset off #1 and of course there was the lumber yard at Port Wash. That gate at the PW lumber yard was the undoing of many a MU drill conductor on the midnight yard job, but that’s another story altogether.

 J.J. Earl

Thanks to Dave Keller for the siding info and to J.J. Earl for the narrative.

Fresh Pond Freight Moves: 1960's-1980's

New Haven trains during the sixties backed LIRR cars off at Fremont and then continued on to Bay Ridge with the rest of their train. NH trains were mostly through trains and not all stopped. Interchange tracks were north (east) of Fremont and there were a couple of lower tracks off the west leg. These were picked up by the yard job at Pond and switched in the west yard to be later taken to their proper place.

With Penn Central and later Conrail, there were no more through freights to Bay Ridge. Floating operations at Bay Ridge ended with the PC merger. When Conrail was formed, that was the end of all floating and all interchange came over Hell Gate .

Trains were dropped on one of the leads west of Fremont and crews would pick up their train to go to Oak Point on another of these tracks.  At times, the inbound train was dropped above Fremont, where it was picked up by the Pond job and shoved down the west leg of the wye into the west yard where it was switched. Radios were not used at this time and when shoving, a back-up hose was used to give the conductor control of the move.  

Cars dropped west of Fremont were pulled down the east leg and switched in the east yard.

Cars for Holban and Yard A were left in the west yard with trains for Holban pulling out through Pond. Trains for Yard A shoved out and reversed at Pond’s interlocking. 

Trains for Glendale, Atlas Terminal, etc. were made up in the east yard where the Glendale freight would shove out the east end with cars on both end of the engine.

Cars for Fresh Pond and Bushwick were also stored in the east yard.  Trains for PC/CR were made up in the west yard and pulled upstairs when they were ready to put off-line.

J. J. Earl February 14, 2007


"...I seem to remember back in the early sixties that the Baker siding held two cars, while only one could be worked. I owned the last trick Hillside for a time and it seemed every night we would have a move to the Baker. It was set out the block car and shove in the two loads, every night. 

From 1988 to 1995, I was conductor on YFD 201 at Holban and several times during that time there was talk of Continental Bakers rebuilding that siding and getting FIVE cars a day. That would have meant several switches during the course of the day. I think the real reason that it never happened because the Powers that Be did not want to have a switch and possible de-railments of other traffic interfering with the then new Hillside Yard..."  J. J. Earl

Emery Map-Hillside-1958.jpg (177690 bytes)
Emery Map 08/1958
The 1958 map shows the siding for the Continental Bakery west of 170th St . (formerly Brenton Ave. ) on the south side of the Main . (see item #8 on the map). Hillside station (and Holban Yard) were located east of Brenton Ave , later 170th Street . Info: Dave Keller

Similarly, the 1905-06 map shows the siding for Shults (Shultz?) Bakery at the same location, with said siding branching off the southernmost track which, according to Emery, was installed in 1905-06.  
Emery Map-Hillside-1905-06.jpg (126353 bytes) Emery Map 1905-06
So, it would seem there was a bakery at that same site for many, many years prior to J.J. Earl’s days of switching the siding! Info: Dave Keller

Spur trackage along 30 St. at Borden Ave. in Queens

WOW!  I've been away too long. 
Having owned the Kearny in 1970 I hope that I can answer most of these questions. 

FIRST: Domino Sugar was at what would become News Point at the junction of Newtown Creek and the East River. The "Sugar House" was serviced by the B.E.D.T. who floated upriver, engine and all, from Kent Ave. 

SECOND: I don't know of an explosion at Domino, but there was one at the Chickle plant in Degnon Terminal. 
Kearny was switched by Alco S-1s. Larger engines were not permitted because of clearances and tight curves. 
The track being discussed here was accessed from the Eastbound Montauk Cutoff through a facing point switch. This made it necessary for the crew to shove from Yard A with up to fifteen cars while taking a block on the track as they switched. Block or no block, an extra brakeman was employed as a flagman. 

Crossings all had to be flagged by the conductor as the move crossed Review Ave. Several customers were between Review and Borden and they could not be placed until the customers across Borden Ave and 30th St were placed. 

A requirement for the conductor was to be wearing running shoes and carrying a pocket full of fusees. 
Shoving across Borden Ave was up grade and with three cars for Thyphin Steel. one or two for Hiram Walker, and maybe one for Bushwick Steel beyond Walker, stopping meant stalling on the crossing. Light the fusee, signal the crew to shove ahead when no trafic was coming and RUN LIKE HELL to the opposite side of the street to flag westbound traffic.

Thyphin took three cars inside the building. These were usually set out into one of the sidings that led off the lead to Thyphin while we went through the building to place Bushwick at 31st Street and Walker, between the streets. 
Thyphin cars were then picked up and placed inside the building. Sometimes an extra car or two was placed alongside the street and across the street from the Thyphin Building. 

I first took the job in the fall of '69 and, as said previously, we sometimes placed fifteen or more cars. 
A year later, in a matter of weeks, the number of cars dwindled down to such a point that one night we went into Kearny light (engine only) and pulled out one car. It seemed like a conspiracy on the part of the company that such a busy job was suddenly not getting any freight. 

I saw the writing on the wall and took another job on the next bid sheet. The notice right after that stated that the job was abolished. 
Just when , or if, the switch was pulled out, I do not know. JJ Earl


Anyone driving up the hill off Liberty Ave. at 184th Street into Holban yard these days would hardly think that Holban was once the main hub for freight on Long Island. Today it is a parking lot for employees in the Hillside facility.

When I retired in 1995, the “yard” consisted of six tracks. One track held forty stone cars and one track had to remain clear so that moves could be made from one end of the yard to the other. That left four tracks for any other cars that might come our way for the engineering Dept.

It was not always this easy.

In the late fifties and through the seventies the yard was a sorting place, or marshaling yard for all freight destined for east of Jamaica.

During the day, sixty car hauler freights came in from Yard A and set their cars of onto Holban Hump.

These trains came in through Jamaica and Hillside to set their cars off onto one of nine hump tracks. It was impossible for the crew to relay hand signs (no radios) to the engine crew as the train traveled east on Hollis lead to clear the switch leading to the hump. When the switch was clear the conductor “pulled the air” on the hack. When air came back up, the engine crew started to shove west. The first train in the day would shove right to the hump, stopping on the bridge over Liberty Ave., where the conductor pulled the air once more.

Subsequent trains would of course stop their trains to clear the adjacent track.

By ten thirty at night, the hump tracks were full of freight and the hump crew was ready to “Roll’em” as the conductor would call out in a rather loud and boisterous voice “ON THE HUMP”. This was after one of the brakeman would walk the length of each line of cars and bleed the air from each car. He would close the angle cock on the fifth or sixth care from the east end so that air could be used to help the engineer better control the brake. If this was not done, it was very possible for the weight of the line of cars to pull the whole drag, engine and all, over the hump and into the yard. Hopefully the conductor realized what was happening and was able to alert the crew to run down and line the yard for a clear alley (track).

At this time, Holban Yard had twenty-six tracks to make up trains and a double end “runaround” track where hacks were stored.

The conductor controlled the move from the hump by means of a signal that he operated from a shanty on top of the hump. The signal was back far enough for the engine crew to follow the command. The signals were position type with three vertical shove ahead, three diagonal back up, and three horizontal meant stop.

A list of riders was kept by the conductor to record the responsibility of each rider to ascertain they were doing their job properly. Any damage to a car was listed by who rode the car off the hump.

One night, I looked at the list and wondered why I was taking many more rides then the other men. A little later on as I was walking, lantern under my arm, from riding a car safely into a track, I noticed two brakeman were standing and talking while bobbing their lanterns up and down. They told me that they were doing that so it would appear from up on the hump that they were walking back. A lot of the brakeman were always getting out of the way to let the other guy go first.

Two switch tenders and five brakemen were employed to cut the freight all into the proper tracks for the morning trains.

Usually the cars on the hump were all rolled by 2:00am when we were free to relax for a while. Many of the crew liked to play cards; I would rather take a nap.

One night when I was a switch tender, I had made myself a bunk in the switch tender shanty. This bunk was only about a foot wide, but if I didn’t move around while I slept, I’d be all right. It was bitter cold that night and the fire in the pot-belly was going dim. Before I lay down, I climbed onto a coal hopper in the yard to acquisition some fuel.

I didn’t know about kettle coal at the time. It was a very soft and oily coal. Before I knew it, I had a roaring fire in the little pot-belly and I went right to sleep. About a half hour later, I woke up in a sweat. The pot-belly was glowing red--the stove pipe was glowing red—I grabbed my jacket and ran out the door and when I looked back—the metal stack on the glowing red roof was glowing red. I learned a lot about kettle coal that night. I learned that you could start it with a match.

Needless to say, the crew got a good laugh at my expense that night.

Well, here we are halfway through the night so I think I’ll tie-up now if the card game is over so I can sleep on the table.

See ya after tie-up.

THE HOLBAN HUMP … part 2 by J.J. Earl
SEMAPHORE April 2011

Well, the shanty that I wrote about last month did not burn down and the rest of the boys were playing cards in the crew room so I didn’t get any shut-eye that night.

It wasn’t long before the “Night Freight” was reported with sixty cars. The night freight was officially the MA-22; MA was short for Metropolitan area.

This area stretched from Long Island City to Holban and on the Montauk to Valley. Any job with the MA prefix could only work these west end jobs. Outside of those limits, freight was worked with the “L” prefix.

The conductor on the MA 22 rode the hack to the hump where he “pulled the air” so that the hack was on the downward side of the hump. The hump engine was waiting in the track alongside of the track where the train came in and the brakeman would uncouple the hack and bleed the air allowing the car to coast downhill and when it was clear of the switch ahead, the engine followed it down and coupled to it and took it back up the hump to put on the rear, or east end of the westbound train waiting for the ‘22’ to run them back to Yard A.

To clarify these moves let me explain the layout of the yard. The hump had nine tracks that curved around the Hollis (east end) to the Liberty Ave. bridge at the top of the hump. Tracks three through nine were used for placing inbound trains. The first train of the day shoved their train onto number nine taking the rear car all the way to the bridge. Three to eight were filled up as the day went on. Track two remained clear so that moves being made between Holban and Hillside had a clear track to move through. Track one was a single end track that was used for the storage of cars that would be used occasionally, such as snow fighting equipment and cars slated for scrap. 

The new train was rolled much like the previous lines of cars and soon they would finish. By that time, the L-2 was reported. They brought more carts from Yard A or Fresh Pond, but their primary job was to pick up refrigerator cars (reefers) to add to their own meat cars. In switching the hump, many reefers were sent along to be picked up later. The L-42 then proceeded to deliver to several meat houses along the main line as far as Mineola and back.

Just about 6:00am, the hump crew was just finished (many times they were not and worked into overtime). At that time, an engine and crew were on the hump with about five or six hacks. This was the Hillside job waiting for a chance to go down through the yard to St. Albans end of the yard. (Since the yard ran between HOLlis and st.alBANs, the yard was named--well--look close.

The Hillside job coupled the rear of freights for the morning and added the proper cabin cars (PRR designation) to the right trains. Mostly, cars switched at the St. Albans end were let go on the fly. In 1960 a young conductor on the Hillside job let fly for the far end of the yard with one off the brand new steel hacks when he was horrified to see the cars in the track next to the track he was aiming at were rolling back and the new hack received a long gash in its brand new side.

Needless to say, the trainmaster was furious; however the hack lasted another forty years and so did the young conductor. I’ll tell you more about Hillside next time.  

It's not just a Job it's an Adventure - 1986

Just a quick JJ story: We were flagging fresh pond road on the Lower Montauk, as they were rebuilding an overpass. This was the summer of 1986.

He had just told Bliss it was OK to let an eastbound freight through, he would have the workers out of the way. Then a workers truck slid down the embankment and fouled the eastbound track.

He had all of us, flagmen and workers lift the front of the truck and get it out of the way, just seconds before the eastbound came through. Then he took a bandana out of his back pocket, wiped his brow and said, "it's not just a job its an adventure".

Yes, I know the Army was using that slogan at the time, but it was still funny. Robert Anderson


Country Guitar, Hot Tabasco, and Cool Noxzema

Went to JJ's wake: He was buried with one of his trolley car Conductor's hats, and his guitar was next to the casket. Thought I would see some of the older yard guys, but they too are getting up there.  

I worked with JJ on a spot basis from 1981 until he retired. Much of the stuff can't be published, but here goes:  JJ was the Dagwood Bumstead of the LIRR. He loved hot foods. Tabasco was always on his fried eggs, and ate B&G pickles and peppers as part of many meals. He loved kielbasa, too, when in LI City on the YPD 131 and went in to Greenpoint to buy it.

When being pulled through the wash in LI City, he would break out his guitar and play what appeared to be country music. JJ shaved twice a day and used Noxzema, always.  Ben Jankowski