page name: Mainline: Work Trains and Wreckers

pix: WorkExtra297merge caption: L. Top: Conductor Jim Achartz R. Top: Engineer John Mitchell Bottom foreground: Roadmaster Cecil Geelhart

Work Extra 297

On 14 November 1977, I was called for 5:00 a.m. work train duty. The term "work train" covered any kind of activity but usually work trains operated under the direction of an official such as Roadmaster Cecil Geelhart. The term "work extra" referred to a train or engine granted train order authority to move at will in either direction between designated stations, clearing scheduled trains and protecting against extra trains. The dispatcher, who granted such authority, could modify that authority by train order, such as "Work Extra 297 does not protect against extra trains except protects against Extra 156 East after 7:30 a.m. . ." Work Extra 297 was called for culvert cleaning duty between Easton and Hyak. We went on duty in Tacoma, ran up to the Hyak area to work, then tied up on just under 12 hours at Cedar Falls. We were put up in cold motel rooms at North Bend, ! then back on duty at 7:00 a.m. at Cedar Falls. After a full day of cleaning out culverts, we were back to Cedar Falls and the North Bend motel. The third day was more culvert cleaning, and finally the return to Tacoma to tie up. The crew consisted of Extra Conductor Jim Achartz and Extra Engineer John Mitchell, another brakeman and myself (starting January 1978, work train crews were reduced to one brakeman per the Milwaukee's exclusive U.T.U. agreement of that year). Work trains made the highest road pay rates, and this train was at the highest rate of "mountain work" (work train service was paid by miles per hour, similar to yard service). Other work train duty I caught on my year and half out on the road included spreading gravel on the Joint Line around Sumner and grain salvage on the Mainline up around Ragnar.

Work Extra 147

On 5 April 1977 I was called for 12:15 p.m. wrecker duty. The crew for what turned out to be over three days was Extra Conductor Butte Fennel, Extra Engineer Fogel, Extra Brakeman Craig Bogatay and myself. We were dead headed by auto to a Cle Elum motel and tied up at 2:30 p.m. We then went on duty at 10:30 p.m. at Cle Elum with the just arrived St. Maries wrecker set (a coach, lunch counter car, tool car, and caboose). We then proceeded to the site of our work, a 27 car derailment at Bridge FF-2 at MP 2088 just west of Cle Elum. "Derailment" is too soft a term, this was a major train wreck, said to be caused by a hotbox. But the worst part was that the wreck occurred as the eastbound crossed the steel girded Bridge FF-2 (over the Cle Elum River at its junction with the Yakima River). This was a loaded train, evident from lumber debris spread all over the! landscape (mixed in were a container load of thousands of wooden toy bicycle pumps - no doubt hot sellers in Chicago). Also on this train was a high value refer load of Bellingham originated Alaska King Crab, for which high school kids had been hired to transfer to U-Haul trucks (under the watch full eye of a railroad bull). This wreck was worked from both ends, with the Tacoma wrecker set to the west of the bridge. Eventually my crew was detailed to take the Tacoma wrecker, and a "hospital train" (assembled and switched out at Easton) to Tacoma for tie up just after midnight on 8 April.

pixs: FF2merger 1 thru 4 no captions




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