rode ore trains on a regular basis, one or two days or nights a week,
and went to Cobre on the freight train once or twice a month. I rode
in the locomotives, sitting next to the steam boiler just ahead of the
fireman, or in the caboose, sitting up in the cupola with the conductor
and rear brakeman. I walked along the trains with the brakemen while
they made the air tests and signaled the engineer that it was safe to
Fravel said I had a "Hex" on the Cobre freight train. Within
the first few months, I was riding two trains that were derailed. On
the first one, I was riding in the engine going to Cobre, when an empty
coal car derailed, taking 15 empty cars off the track, some of them
as far as 50 feet. This happened about 9 p.m. and after checking the
track and the derailed cars, we called dispatcher by using our emergency
phone. It had a long pole which would reach up to the telephone wires,
with clips to attach to both wires, and wires down to our phone box.
We then took the front of the train on to Shafter and Cobre, and then
went to dinner and bed. Mr. Fravel was unhappy when he had to call an
extra crew and bring a work train to the site of the derailment. The
train had our 100-ton crane and the men from the Car Department we called
the Wrecking Crew. They had two passenger coaches, equipped and ready
to at all times to go out on the line. In one coach, they had the rear
end equipped with bunk beds. The front had a kitchen and a long table
with benches, where the entire crew, plus trainmen, enginemen and trackmen
could be fed. I remember taking a prepared list to a grocery store in
the middle of the night and waiting while the order was put up in boxes
to take to the cooking car. The second car was filled with tools for
the carmen. On derailments that took more than a day to clear the track,
the men were fed in groups of ten so the work could go on without interruption.
They had enough food for Mr. Fravel and me too.
this first derailment, Mr. Fravel came with the work train from East
Ely, but because it was 100 miles from East Ely, he did not arrive until
8 or 9 a.m. In the meantime, I had gone to Cobre with the train, had
four or five hours sleep, then came with the Cobre Section Gang on an
open motorcar. Thank goodness it was summertime. We had good luck rerailing
the empty cars, and by dark, the work train and Mr. Fravel had started
back to East Ely, taking the damaged coal cars with them. I stayed and
when the freight crew came with the locomotive from Cobre, we took the
rear of the train to Shafter and Cobre. The next morning, we started
again on the regular trip to East Ely, picking up carloads of coal,
lumber, gasoline, diesel oil, etc., and went on to McGill and East Ely.
should tell you that the State Law required that trainmen and enginemen
could not be on duty longer than 16 hours, which meant that the work
train had to stop at Currie for 8 hours rest before they could continue
on to East Ely. However, the carmen all caught the bus home.
weeks later, I was sitting in the caboose on the freight train leaving
Shafter about 10 a.m. with at least 75 loaded cars and two locomotives.
We were going along about 30 miles per hour when we derailed 10 carloads
of coal, tearing up the track for 300 feet, and badly damaging the coal
cars. This was at a point not 10 miles from the point where the first
accident occurred. I am sure I could hear Mr. Fravel cussing. Again,
we checked the track, put up the portable phone and called the dispatcher
to report the derailment. We found that the rail leading into a turnout
switch had buckled into an "S" curve and caused the derailment.
This happened before due to 90-degree heat during the summers.
we proceeded with the front cars of the train to McGill and East Ely.
The next morning, as soon as the crew had 8 hours rest, off we went
with the wrecking crew and their outfit cars, the 100-ton crane, and
also a clamshell crane, which we needed to unload many of the carloads
of coal before we could bring them back on the track. Mr. Fravel stayed
home, but we called him regularly to keep him informed. When the 16-hour
law caught us, we were only partly finished, so we had to go back to
Currie and tie up for 8 hours. We also had to fill the engine with water.
The second day we finished rerailing the cars, and the track was repaired
so we could reach the rear of the train and the caboose, but again we
ran out of time and had to stop for rest, this time at Cherry Creek.
We all had our meals with the carmen and had bunks in the sleeping car.
A roundhouse man from East Ely arrived to take care of the locomotive.
We finally got back to East Ely with the work train, the damaged coal
cars, and the rear of the train. Inasmuch as we were then behind schedule,
the freight crew was called after 8 hours rest and started out again
to McGill and Cobre. In the meantime, we had the switch crew running
back and forth to Ruth and Kimberly, then over to McGill to push the
rear cars of coal into McGill yard.
suppose you have heard enough of derailments, but these two happened
within two weeks and 10 miles of each other. Thank goodness my Hex rested
for a while. We had lots of trouble on the Ore Line during my 8 years
as Trainmaster, but in order to keep you awake, I will tell you of a
few of my travails.
did not have much snow in the winters, but the heavy wind built up big
snowdrifts. We also had a spreader on Nevada Northern and we used it
several times to clear the Ore Line. This spreader had a large snowplow
on the front and it would throw the snow out 20 or 25 feet if you were
moving at our speed limit of 30 miles per hour. The winter of 1949 turned
into a big mess. It was called the "Haylift" winter, because
the snow was deep and the drifts so high many sheep and cattle were
marooned out in the valleys. We ran special freight trains from Cobre
and Shafter to East Ely with 15 or 20 carloads of hay. The hay was unloaded
from boxcars on trucks and taken to the airport, where the bales of
hay were loaded into big cargo airplanes, which flew out to the stranded
sheep and cattle and dropped the hay out of the plane.
the same time, the highway from East Ely to McGill had snowdrifts 15
or 20 feet high on both sides, where the highway snowplows had built
them. In the meantime, we had trouble all along the railroad. In the
middle of the night, the dispatcher called me to say we had an ore train
stuck in the snow near Hiline (three miles east of East Ely). We called
out an ore crew and went with two steam locomotives from East Ely until
we located the caboose of the stuck train. We hooked on to the caboose
and tried to pull the train out of the snow, but nothing moved an inch.
So we uncoupled the rear ten cars and were able to get them back to
East Ely ore yard. On our next attempts we were only able to pull back
three or four cars at a time, then we had to shovel around the locomotive
to clear enough snow away from its wheels so we could move it. The snow
was at least ten feet deep and in a narrow cut with banks up to 20 feet.
this time, the ore trains were far off schedule and the Mill was asking
when we would be able to deliver more ore to them. I went with the ore
crew and two freight locomotives and started for the mill. The front
engine had a fairly large snowplow on the front and we traveled fast,
throwing snow high and wide until we got within about three miles of
the mill. The we got stuck again in a big cut full of snow. We discovered
the leading engine had become derailed at a switch two mile behind us
and we had been running along the top of the frozen ties. If the track
had not been frozen, we would have torn out a lot of rail. Well, we
all got shovels, including the trainmen and enginemen, and dug around
all the wheels of the rear locomotive until it was able to back out
of the snowdrift. Then we shoveled the track clear until we could couple
into the leading engine. After we dug out all along the side of the
front engine, we were able to move it back, and then put down a pair
of rerailing frogs and got the wheels up on top of the rails. What a
relief. From there to the mill we made good time. The conductor and
I went to the phone and reported we had made it through to the mill
and were ready to return (listen to this one). Mr. Fravel was not there
to talk to us. He was on a work train with the wrecking crew headed
to a derailment of the freight train out beyond Currie. He had already
left on the work train while we were digging out of the snow. Do you
agree with me that a joke is much funnier if it has some misery included?
I can just hear Mr. Fravel. He was within two years of 53 years railroading
and retirement, but had a young squirt as Trainmaster who was always
in the wrong place, causing him grief.
had a number of derailments throughout the next 25 years, but also we
went many months with no interruptions. I must admit we had some bad
ore train wrecks. One was on the hill just above Ely, where ten carloads
of ore derailed and ended up side by side like an accordion. We had
to bring Kennecott crew down from Ruth, through the tunnel, to work
on the rear of the train. They had a large diesel-electric crane. We
worked on the front end with the 100-ton steam crane. The work was all
taking place right about Ely's Red Light District. The girls all waved
at our crews from the Big Four and Green Lantern.