Reporting to Work

You reported to work in the Tacoma Yard Office. This was a lean-to shack, actually equipped with electricity. There was a lunch room, locker room, and bathroom adjacent out the front door, sort of two lean-to’s holding the other up. There were two harried board clerks, perpetually stressed by the absence of available tags on the board versus the demands of the dispatcher to call trains.

Arriving at the Yard Office required some advance planning. You could park, if there was a spot, behind the yard office, under the 11th Street Bridge. This was off Milwaukee Way. Or if this lot was full on account of trains on the road; it was a long trip around the yard to the Portland Avenue side, by the Credit Union trailer, and a slushy trek across the yard lead to the yard office.

Upon reporting, the conductor would tell you to fetch the power at the roundhouse. If the yardmaster was around, you would ask him where the train was and for any clues he might offer for getting the power to that location. But usually you just headed down to the roundhouse, a several minute walk (if the train was in a yard track you deposited your grip outside next to the lead, otherwise you carried to the roundhouse).

The roundhouse was an entirely different environment. It was relatively well ordered, well lighted, and clean. There was a large blackboard with engine assignments, but usually you ignored that and tried to find the roundhouse foreman to ask where your power was. Eventually you found the power, and your hoghead already in position in the cab. After a conference with him, and perhaps a call on the radio to the yardmaster, you made your way to the roundhouse switch on the inbound main. Sometimes a roundhouse man would have to come out to unlock the switch, sometimes not. At this point, you, the headman, lined the cross-over to outbound main, brought your power over, lined back, and headed into the yard; if the lead job was clear and you could get in there. If your train was headed south (see map), you went down any clear alley to the far end of the yard (Tacoma Yard was a dead end, but with a tail track on the westend to facilitate the movement of motive power). There, absent blue flags, you tied onto your track. After cutting in the air, pumping up, and air test from a car toad in the caboose, you were ready to go.

Bound for Chicago, Illinois picture058_edited.jpg Extra East departs on Tide Flats Outbound Main

Passing Roundhouse Tracks picture063_edited.jpg View North, Tacoma Junction is two miles to the right




© 1976-2007 John Crosby. Photos may not be used without permission. All rights reserved.