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An Interview with Roy Pierce 2-21-1998
By Dave Crammer

The following article was printed Railfan and Railroad and reprinted with the consent of Railfan and Railroad.

 

I had a clown for a conductor one time. Of course it used to be an absolute no-no to have a woman on a caboose. That was a capital offence. Well, this fellow's name was Fred Rimmer and he was a conductor. Years ago they used to have these life sized cutouts of a girl holding a Coca-Cola. He got that cutout, he got one of his wife's old coats, put it over the shoulders, and then he would put her out on the back platform and put his arm around her and wave at the trains as they went by. One day I saw him wagging that thing up to the superintendent's office to explain why he had a woman on a
caboose. He got out of it but that was a big no-no. You know, I worked on that railroad for almost thirty years and I was on a caboose twice because we didn't get along very well. The trainmen and engine-men didn't get along very well at that time. I don't know if that's changed. I started in 1938 and it was because we made more money. It was a more dangerous job than the other by a long way. We got more money and it was only a dollar and a half difference between an engineer and a fireman and the engineer and
the fireman had to work closely together. We burned oil on the west coast and we had what they call a firing valve and when the engineer opened the throttle we opened the firing valve and when he closed the throttle off we closed the firing valve. If you didn't the oil would just spill over, run out on the ground and catch the ties on fire and make a big cloud of smoke and a general mess. Also carrying water in the boiler you can't carry to much water nor can you carry too little. After I got a little seniority on a passenger
train with an engineer known as "Dirty Neck" Millikan. He was a very intelligent man but not very tidy. In fact Millikan High School is named after his son. Anyway, I got up on the engine for the first run with him. He took a look at me and he said, "I wonder how long it's going to take me to run you off?" I worked with him a year. He wanted that water carried low because if you carry the water too high and he opens the throttle it relives the pressure and out goes the water over into the super heater pipes and then it gets down into the cylinder and washes the lubrication off of the cylinders and then the engine won't go as fast and he didn't like that. I worked as a fireman for three years from 38 to 41. I think I was one of the youngest engineers because you see we had been through a depression and they hadn't hired a railroad man in god knows how long. Then things started picking up and I was one of the first to be hired. Now, the rule at the time was that you had to be a fireman for three years before you could become an engineer.
They relaxed that to this extent that at the end of two years and six months you could take the examination for locomotive engineer so I took it and passed it, about one out of five passed the first time. Then I came in the second I had three years in. I came in
that afternoon as a fireman and that midnight I went out as an engineer on a passenger train. I was 24. I was one of the youngest ones and did those old timers resent it. They had fired a locomotive for twenty years, finally got promoted, and here this young pip-
squeak comes along, not even dry behind the ears and now he's an engineer and making as much money as they were. They weren't very kind to us.

I remember my first run which as I said was a passenger train. It was #8 which was the "Mail Train" and it left LA at midnight every night, went to Barstow and beyond. Our division stopped at Barstow but I was working out of San Bernardino which was where they put on the helpers. That was my job, to help him and I was in control because I was the lead engine which has control of the brakes. On a passenger train we put the helpers on the head end. Boy was I excited! The fountain valve is the big steam chest up
above there which everything works off of, the blower for the draft and also for the lubrication to the cylinders and they used what they call valve oil. You've got engine oil and you've got valve oil so you use valve oil in the valves because it's more expensive than the engine oil. You fill this reservoir and you look at it and there's a glass there you can see through and you adjust it so that a drop falls about every ten seconds. So I hooked into the passenger train and we had a few minutes before we had to leave and
I'll be darned if I could get that thing to work. The fireman says,"Somebody must have shut it off at the fountain valve." Well, I got it working just before we were ready to go. We got the high ball and away we went. Then you make a running test. You set the brake and then you look at the rear brakeman and when the rear brakeman hears the air exhausting out of the brake pipe he'll give you a sign, you release and away you go. We got to Summit where I cut off and it did more for my ego than anything, I can't remember what the engineer's name was, but I cut off and the fireman lined the switch
and we went into the siding and he walked over and he said, "Fine help son." And that is how I made my debut as a locomotive engineer
.
Then it went from there to bad. You started all over again. You worked up your way to where you could get a good job as a fireman seniority-wise and then you started at the bottom as the engineer. So the fireman on a good job makes one heck of a lot more
money than the engineer on a poor job. But, by being so young and the others so old I gained seniority in a hurry so I ran passengers for a long time. I enjoyed it , it was a good job but I never was a railroad man. I did my job and I did it well and never got in any
trouble but when I walked away from that railroad I forgot it until I went back to it. I'll tell you why. They worked the Hell out of us. They worked us 15 hours and 59 minutes a day. During the war there was a shortage of engineers but they didn't work us 16 hours
because that's the limit but if they worked you 16 hours they had to give you 10 hours rest so they worked us 15 hours and 59 minutes and then we only had to have 8 hours rest.

I worked a long time out of San Bernardino and what we would do is help a freight train to Summit up through Cajon Pass, cut off, run down to Victorville, turn on the wye, wait for a train coming west. We'd help that one to Summit from Victorville but here is the
nasty part. We'd back the locomotive down to Victorville with that cold coming over the tank and it would be 15 above or if it's raining. God, it could be miserable. If you get a look at these locomotives they don't have any protection. The side curtains were useless, the front windows leaked, water would run down the back of your neck, water blew over the back of the tender and you could spend many a miserable night on those darn things. I didn't miss them until after they were gone and then I began to. Now the diesels...how nice...you had a heater, you've got an air conditioner, you can roll up the windows, and you can keep comfortable.

You had to watch so much, you could get fired so easy. Some of those old engines...do you know what a Mallet is? I've never seen a Mallet because the Santa Fe took them apart and made what they call "Morphrodytes" out of them. They made two engines out of that and called them "Morphrodytes" and they were rough riders...oh, they were miserable. They had a tendency if you exceeded the speed limit of kinking rails. The second you felt that you had better slow down because you were going to kink rails and then they would have to go out and change all of the rail out. One friend of mine got fired
because he kinked 35 miles of rail and that made them very very unhappy.

The #1468 which was a 4-4-0 and was the first engine I drove could do 100 miles-per-hour. It was a Baldwin with seven foot drivers and it was one fast little locomotive perfectly balanced. They had another one the #1460 which wasn't near the locomotive.
Then there was the #1300 class, the #3700 class, #3800 class, most of them were freight engines made for "The Hill". What they would do is put two engines on the front, two engines on the back, and one engine in the middle. You could go up that mountain and walk along side. You'd take water twice at Keenbrook and Cajon and it was one
miserable job getting to the top of that hill. One time we got snowed in and we couldn't move and there we sat getting hungrier and hungrier and hungrier. I got a couple of fusee's out and went over to the highway and cracked a fusee and of course cars stopped and I told them my plight. One took me to the restaurant where you turn off to go to Wrightwood and I got coffee and sandwiches and then I went out and cracked another fusee. That stopped another car that took me back to where I trudged through the snow and we had something to eat.


What a time it was when I first hired out. I can remember my first run as a fireman. Again it was a helper and we were going to help a train from San Bernardino to Summit. The engineers name was Percy Froud. They didn't give us much training...I worked in the
round house until I was 21 because you had to be 21 but I was 18 when I started working for the railroad. In the roundhouse you learned how to build fires and all that and then they gave you what they called student runs...one over each division and then they
turned you loose. So I went on to the locomotive around midnight which was when we always worked and got up on the engine and did what I thought I was suppose to do. Finally I said to Percy Froud, "If I've forgotten anything I wish you'd tell me what to do." He says, "I'll tell you what to do, go into the roundhouse and lay off sick because I'm not gonna take ya." I thought for a minute and said, "No, I was called for this job and if you're not going to take me you go into the round house and tell them because I'm not going to." "All right, come on." Well, he made my life miserable all night long. We worked about 15 hours and I thought gee whiz if this job is like this I can live without it...it paid real well...about twelve dollars a day. It was a lot of money back in the 1930's but
you couldn't buy insurance because of the danger of getting burned. You'd get scalded just instantly. Well, anyway I came from a railroad town and I knew his boy who was four or five years older than I was who had graduated from high school and then he went to Annapolis. I said, "You know, I know your son Bob." He says, "Oh you do." I said, "I bet your proud of that guy." He did well, he got to be a submarine commander. I said, "I bet you're really proud of him and I wonder if he would be proud of you if he knew what a ______ you are." I worked for a long time on that railroad right in his area and that man never spoke to me again...ever. The next night I was called out again and the grouchiest son- of-a-gun you ever saw was oiling around with that big oil can and I thought, "Oh no...not again." He looked up at me and said, "Good evening son, glad to meet you my name is _____". He shook my hand and a says, "looks like we've got a night of it going."

Altogether different personality. This Percy Froud a little later on got into an argument with a fireman. You sit on a steam locomotive on the side so you can look this way and that way. This fireman wasn't looking and the conductor had to walk a little ways up to tell him to back up and of course railroad language is a bit rough so he called him a few names and it made the engineer mad and they got into an argument and when the fireman was looking out he went over and kicked him in the nuts. They only had three cars and the caboose and the fellows in the caboose heard this horrible screaming so they crawled over the three cars down into the cab and caught this fireman, who had recovered enough, stuffing him into the firebox. It burned the tip of his nose off and it burned his ear lobes off and it scarred the heck out of his neck and so he had to wear a kerchief around it so you see some people never learn.

We had another character by the name of Wild Bill Connely and he was tough to get along with but I stayed with him a long time. We were on another passenger train and we ran from San Bernardino to LA and back again with mail and passengers and stopped everywhere. We were setting in the station in Riverside and he was reading me up
one end and down the other...he was just giving me Hell. There was a redcap there who was a redcap and a janitor and lawn trimmer and all that and he was mowing the lawn with a lawn mower. He stopped, looked up, and said, "Hey Mister." Connely leaned out and said, "What do you want?" He said, "Tell me something mister what makes
you so mean?" But those old timers were ornery. We had another one by the name of Tom Cooksie that really taught me how to run a locomotive. I had to straighten him out. I
remember one time he used to give me a bad time going up the mountain and finally I thought to myself, "I've had enough of this guy." He always wore a denim shirt and a tie and one of those denim coats. I liked coveralls better and always wore them. I ran over
there and grabbed him and I twisted that tie until I cut his wind off and I say's, "One more squeak out of you you son-of-a-bitch and I'll finish the job." and he says, "Have it your way, have it your way." From then on...well, that was what he was waiting for...to
see what kind of mettle. After that we got to be very good friends and he really taught me how to run that locomotive because he was good.


I remember one time we were coming out of Barstow and we stopped in Victorville and we picked up 22 cars of cement. We go to Summit and when you go to Summit you test the brakes. What you do is you make a set and then when the conductor hears the air going out of the brake pipe...you see you take the air out of the pipe to set the air not put it in. That way if you lose the air it sets the brakes. You've got what you call a triple valve on the car and the auxiliary reservoir on each car so then when he hears that exhaust
out of the end of the brake pipe he gives you a high ball. Then you know you've got air all the way. Then they had what you call swing men who are extra men who ride up on top of the boxcars every few cars and if you for any reason start to lose your brake pipe
pressure you whistle for brakes which is one long blast of the whistle and then they start setting the brake by hand. That's their job, that's why they're paid. Anyway, we made the test and we started down the mountain and Tom made his first set and we didn't slow down. He gave it another 10 pounds and it didn't slow down and he said, "Roy, you get down on that step and when I tell you to get off you get off." Then he whistled for brakes and guess what all of the brakemen did. They jumped off. Guess what the conductor did. He cut the caboose loose. Tom reversed that engine putting it in reverse motion and when he opened that throttle you could hear that thing bark for 15 miles. He didn't go into
emergency because if he had we would have run away but there was a little rise down about half a mile and he got the thing stopped. We got it stopped and pretty soon here came the brakemen walking down the track and here came the caboose which they coupled on and cut the air in on the cement and that was the end of it. Nobody said
anything. But that is how dangerous that is.

One of the wrecks up there, I can't remember the name of the engineer, he was very very poor. You run, a steam engine particularly, by the seat of your pants. You know like the old pilots used to fly their planes by the seat of their pants that's the way you run a locomotive. No speedometer you only had mileposts and your watch and the feel. By now the diesels had arrived and there is an up track and a down track. This train was coming up and another train had started over the mountain to go down. The head
brakeman, the fireman, and the engineer were asleep. They went over that mountain at about 25 miles-per-hour. The engineer coming up, this was before the radio, whistled at them to get his attention and woke him up but he was going by then 30 mph and there was no way he could stop since he had 85 cars pushing him. From Summit to Cajon
it was 15 mph and in steam engine days if you ever got up to 25 mph you'd never stop.
The brakeman, after they made their air test, they had what they called retainers. The retainer holds either 10 pounds or 20 pounds of air in the brake cylinder even after you release. That's to keep the brake on while you recharge the brake line. So if you
make a mis-judgement and set too much and stall the train going down the hill you have to stop and the brakeman would have to go and release all of the retainers and then start all over again and to tell you the truth they are not very happy when they have to do
this. So when the time came for me to qualify for the hill they had what you call a Road Foreman of Engines and then they had an "air man" who qualified you for air and you had to ride with him. He was a good friend of mine. Both road foreman and the air man where real 100% guys. One was "Baldy" Murdock and the other one was Walter Stenneman and I can't remember the air man's name. He said, "Roy, I've sure got good news for you, I'm going to give you a real test today. We're going to ride to Summit and you're going to take an oil train down the hill." Well, with an oil train if it ever gets
to surging you have a miserable time. There is a technique called "The Bridge". On a freight train your main reservoir pressure is 130 pounds and its 90 pounds in the brake pipe which gives you extra. There is always a little bit of leakage in the line. What you do is make your set, you feel for when its slowed down enough but not enough to stall and then you put your control valve in release and recharge the brake pipe. When the brake pipe is recharged you make another set. You would just keep that situation up all the way down. If you could keep that at a steady pace it makes it a lot easier with a train like that. He says, "You know Roy, I think I'm going to go back and ride the caboose." The conductor had a fit. He says, "You're not going to let that kid take that oil train down the hill are you?" He said, "Yes I am." So he went back to the caboose and I went down and

I made my first set. After you made your first set you would look back and watch
for the high ball and then you're all set until you get to Cajon and then you would stop and cool wheels for 15 minutes. So I made my set and then instead of leaving it in set position I moved it back gently...gently...gently until I took care of the leakage so the brake pipe pressure stayed at 70 pounds instead of 90 and didn't vary. You'd watch that main reservoir gauge and watch that other gauge and I never made another set. I got down and stopped at Cajon to cool the wheels and pretty soon here came the air man and he
says, "Roy, you were on the bridge." Well, I says, "No sir, no, no, no, that's against the rules." "Oh yeah", he says. And he went back to the caboose. When we got back I was ok'd for the hill. It was the same way when I qualified for passengers. I ran it over the line and he was with me. Now that was Walter Stenneman. He was a real nice man. Baldy Murdock wasn't as bright a man and he was explosive...he'd blow up but I made good friends with him because when I was still a passenger fireman he and a friend of his
got to bull shitting and forgot a slow order. I said, "Hey, remember that slow order, get some air under this thing." Well Hell, we were doing 90 mph and that was a 15 mph slow order and he says, "Roy, if you ever need any help let me know." And he never
forgot that.


You have to be alert and it is so easy on those runs to get relaxed and non-alert. It's just so routine and especially with those diesels. God, what a blessing when those things came on. Do you know about the new motive power for locomotives? Nitrogen! Do you now what the secret of steam is? It expands when it cools. That's the secret of steam...that's why you have that Johnson bar. You see, what you do...a good engineer knows how far
to hook that thing up to put just a little shot of steam for the stroke and then let the expansion take care of it. You can feel it...you can feel it when you are getting the most out of the locomotive. So people can and some people never get the feel of it.
Nitrogen works just exactly the opposite. It expands when it warms. So now they've got these nitrogen...and they are in service now...experimental. Nitrogen cells go in there...liquid nitrogen turns the turbin. Liquid nitrogen...non explosive. It's not practical for anything but big heavy equipment because of the weight...liquid nitrogen is heavy and its 300 and some odd degrees below zero. There is a firm in Costa Mesa that is making the nozzles and the fellow that makes the nozzles lives in the same park that I do and they've got them in proto-types now. They get a little shot of nitrogen in there and as it warms it expands. Same amount of expansive power that steam has and absolutely non-polluting.
Back to railroading...what they usually did is that they would never promote someone to road foreman on the same division that they worked on. If you were on the Needles Division you were promoted on the LA Division and visa versa. In fact at the Durango and Silverton on one of the few times that I rode up in the cab the young man who was the engineer his dad was one of my fireman. It's nice to restore some of that stuff. You know it's one of the most inefficient pieces of machinery in the world. The amount of power they get for the amount of energy they put in isn't worth it and it
is labor intensive and they break down all the time.


This Tom Cooksie that I was telling you about who was so ornery. We never actually worked with the same people all of the time. You could bid in on several jobs that would last maybe a week or two because we were in pools. They had a "Hill Pool" and a
"Valley Pool" and the "extra-board". Tom Cooksie was working with somebody else for awhile and he got mad at him, sent him down on the pretext of checking the cross-head drive and he got up even with the cab of the engine and he kicked him in the teeth. So guess who got fired...the fireman...engine men can do no wrong. Well, the Union
Pacific and the Santa Fe uses the same track from Riverside to Yermo and so the fireman just went over and got a job with the Union Pacific. At San Bernardino you used to have to walk over the top of the via duct and then down the steps down to the round house. So I walked over and down and Tom Cooksie was standing there and I was
talking to him and there was a brakeman standing there with a brakeman lantern and I saw here came this fireman that had been kicked in the teeth. I didn't say anything and when he got down to the bottom he said, "Hey brakey lend me your lantern a minute will
you." The brakeman said sure and handed it to him. Right over the head CRUNCH and down went Cooksie. One of the roundhouse workers had his car there by the roundhouse and could get out through another way to the emergency hospital so I went with Tom and the doctor was Dr Carmach who shaved his head and was sewing him up. He said, "Did you fall down?" And Cooksie says, "No you silly son-of- a-bitch I was knocked down." Anyway the judge got tired of those two fighting so he put them under a piece bond. Both of them. So if they got into a fight within 6 months they would go to jail for 30 days. Well, I was back working with Tom again and we'd start up the
mountain and I'd start singing, "Two more months and three more days and I'll be out of the calaboose." He'd just get livid and every night I would cut it down. So finally he came around and he put his arm around me and he said, "Roy, I've worked on this railroad 30
years and I've worked with a lot of people but you are the orneriest and most contemptible son-of-a-bitch I've ever known." I said, "Don't hit me Tom."

Another time we had to take water. Now as I've said there were several engines and you could take water at the head of Keenbrook, you could take it at the middle of Keenbrook, and you could take it below. At the top one at Keenbrook the pressure was so great that you could hardly hold the water spout. You'd have to ease that water in. He calls up and say's, "What's the matter with you? You Panty waist so and so you can't even take water right." I said, "Tom I wish that you'd take water at the center or the lower cause the pressure is to great at this one." He say's, "I'll take water anywhere I want and if you can't take water I'll show you how to take water." So he rushed back there and shoved me out of the way and he jumped up on the little step on that thing and he put it down there and he mounted it...pulled that thing open. Well, the water spout came right up out of there and he was straddled on it like riding a bronco and then it swung around out over the track and here he was screaming and hollering, "Help! Help! Help!" The conductor heard him and came over and there is a handle on it and he turned it off. Tom came back around and came up to me and said, "You know son, you wouldn't have cared if that killed me would you." and I said, "You've got that right." Oh he was a character. He always wanted, of all things, when he retired he wanted a cranberry bog and I never knew if he ever got it. Wild Bill Connely and Fred Rimmer. You remember the funny things. Ono is right outside San Bernardino and there was an
incendiary bomb plant and we used to switch that at night...the railroad worked 24 hours a day. Well, we switched cars right in front of the cafe. Well, Fred Rimmer was Irish and so was Wild Bill Connely and they detested each other. Rimmer used to be a circus
acrobat. He'd climb up on the side of the car and give the hoghead a "Back Up" sign. Then he'd tumble off backwards onto the dirt, dust himself off, shake his fist at the engine, and say, "That dirty son-of-a-gun tried to kill me." So then he would get on and give
him a "Go Ahead". The straw was the fact that there was a pipe rail out in front of the cafe where you could line up to go in so Fred Rimmer got up on that one and was sitting there and when Wild Bill Connely went by he tumbled over backwards and those women
wouldn't feed Wild Bill. Another thing he would do was say, "I'll show you how to get out of here without paying for breakfast." It would be about 2 am so we would eat our breakfast and suddenly his eyes would roll up and he would tumble off of the stool backwards, fall on his back, gasp, "Get me to the caboose quick, get me to the
caboose I've got to have my medicine." Everybody would grab him up and then later he would go back and pay for it. He did that one morning and it was colder than Hell in Arcadia and he pulled that and the waitress had a pan of cold water and she went WHOOSH! He never pulled that again.

Actually its a pretty lonely life because you never work with the same person for any length of time...well, any reasonable length of time because things change so much. Every time they wold change the schedule of a train they put it up for bid and somebody else
will bid it in. You'd never make any really fast friends. At least I didn't because when I got off the railroad I was off. I had a good time but I was glad when I left. At Fullerton it comes from Corona and goes by Fullerton Station and then goes to LA and then another track comes up this way and then makes a turn and goes down towards Anaheim and Santa Ana. To start the story earlier we had this very good looking young conductor. A very vain man. About 3 am in the morning we went into this little hash-house by the depot, it's all changed in there now, we went in there to get something to eat and he'd prance. Well when we walked in there and some of these hash-house gals are pretty
rough talking. He looked at her and smiled brightly. You could tell she was tired out. He says, "Hello sweetheart, how would you like to take care of me?" She says, "I'll take care of you you dirty son-of-a-bitch." And she hit him over the head with a skillet full of eggs and bacon and he ended up with a little blister right in the middle of his forehead. He never lived that down. Years later I was an engineer and he was a conductor. He was on
the San Diegan and so was I and we stopped in Fullerton. There was another train due from Riverside so the trainmen stationed themselves to protect the passengers since that train didn't stop. He was so vain that that blue serge suit they used to wear wasn't
good enough for him. He had to have one made out of silk. He was standing there posing on the track and that train came through Fullerton and somebody flushed the toilet. It went right up over him and he got a bow-tie. I never saw anybody so mad in my life
and laugh...my God I thought I'd bust.


When diesels came in they improved the health of engine men 100% Steam would beat the kidneys right out of you. The high speed freight and passenger trains and the prostate gland too. All kinds of problems. It took a long time to learn how to go to the bathroom. They had bathrooms in the diesels but when the floors go tap-tap-tap you couldn't go to the bathroom. Of course you didn't have any bathrooms on the steam locomotives. Those diesels were smooth as glass. Open up to "Run 8". We had 13 cars of passengers
and I'd stop at First Street in Santa Ana and the last car was at Fourth Street. By the time the front of the engine, where I was, started to the last car I'd be at 15 mph...just whoosh! You'd just take right off and unlimited power. Now here is another thing where
we got even with the old timers. When you had a steam engine you started a train...you backed the train up to take all of the slack out. There is about six inches between each car. If it was a little bit down hill you had to gauge it right. You would set some air and then back the engine up till it bunched the train up and then you had to guess the right time for it to release on the rear end and then you would start one car at a time. If you did that
with a diesel I guarantee you are going to pull in half. When you started a diesel you stretched that train out and you started that whole train at the same time. If you didn't you were going to break it up. And then what ornery conductors would do with the drawbar
that would be pulled right out and lying there was write the engineer's name in chalk. Those old timers never seemed to learn that, they'd break those trains in two all of the time. Running up the hill was different under steam than it was with diesels. Usually they would put three units in front and one in back for diesel. The reason is that if it is a big heavy train the knuckles can't stand the pressure and that was why they put the one
in the back. Then you would be able to go up there in no time. It used to be that you could walk alongside the train. Well, this big fat new brakeman and for some reason I took a dislike to him. He says, "You know I'm kind of tired. I think I'll go back and get in
the caboose for awhile." I said, "Well sure go right ahead." Hell we were doing damn near 20 mph and he steps off and just went rolling and I don't think he ever caught the back end of that train. With diesel the technique is entirely different. As you go over the hill you would shut off and put the dynamic brake on and just watch the amp meter gauge. You would do very little braking unless it was an exceptionally heavy train. I don't know if they
still cool wheels or not but we used to cool wheels 20 minutes at Cajon and 20 minutes at Keenbrook.


There was one time I almost didn't go to San Diego. I was going to take my grandson down on Amtrak and that train came in backwards. They are going to have a gosh darned wreck one of these times. You'd be surprised at what I've hit. I hit a boat. A 40 foot boat in Rialto. I hit a house in Arcadia...they were moving a house
across the track. I hit an orange truck, which finally did in the #1468 and broke my heart. I hit this orange truck in Fullerton with 15 tons of loose oranges and broke its frame and they took it over to Kaiser. That was in 55 or 56. They only place you'll see those
engines now that I used to run is in a museum. I remember one of the first switch engines I ran is over in Arizona some place on a piece of track.

I was never home Christmas, never home when my kid graduated, never home on
birthdays, your life isn't your own except if you got a regular run. because you were on 24 hour call. If you went to the show you had to leave your name and if you got called they would flash your name up on the screen. They would accept no excuses for being late. I remember one time I was driving down to take out #4 and my fuel pump quit around El Monte. That was years ago and I gave a guy twenty bucks to take me. And yet I enjoyed it, did a good job, never got fired. You had to qualify for the hill, had to qualify for the coast. That is like a roller coaster down there with all of the undulations. What they did was the road foreman of engines rode with you and if you did a good job they qualified you. That was on passenger...on freight they didn't bother. There were several lines
I was never on. I never did go down to the harbor and I never did go out of Oceanside into Escondido but when you were promoted they just ran you all over. Of course the locomotives are so different now. When I was running it was just like an old time airline pilot. You ran that by the way it felt. Guess where I would start braking with a diesel locomotive coming into Santa Ana where we would be doing 100 mph, and we were allowed to do 102 mph. You would start at the blimp hangers and put 30 pounds under that thing and if you didn't you were not going to stop in Santa Ana. The steam engine was much more merciful when you hit somebody than a diesel. With the steam engine you couldn't see them for the last hundred feet. With the diesels you could see it right up to the point on impact. I remember one time I had left San Bernardino and we had a bridge to go over at 15 mph and here was an old man walking on the other side of the bridge on the center of the track. I blew the whistle and he moved over. He no more moved over and I released the brake and opened the throttle till he stepped in front again. We hit him and I was going so slow I only hit him at maybe 5 mph and his brains were laying clear to his waist right opposite the cab. Another time this woman took her parents, she lived in Colton, put them on our train to go to LA and she had her daughter in the car with her. She drove to Colton and her sister lived along side the tracks and let her daughter out on the porch with her sister and drove to the track. There was a freight train going towards LA and she was watching that freight train and we were on a track going the same direction on the other side and she wasn't looking at us at all. The conductor realized that she was going to drive out in front of us and he jumped off the back of the freight train and fractured his heel trying to stop her and she drove out anyway and we hit her and killed her with her parents on the train and her daughter and her sister watching from the porch. Tragic! I've always maintained that there should be no railroad crossings. Underpass or overpass or blocked off. You just can't imagine what it does...especially kids. Another time in Arcadia this car stalled on the tracks and we kept going closer and closer and I went into emergency but of course we didn't really slow down and a man jumped out of the driver side and ran like Hell. Then I saw the car buck. The woman passenger had put that car in gear...it must have been a stick shift and stepped on the starter and that starter bumped that car out of the way just before we got there. If I know that guy he'd still better be running.


Talking about people...I was called for an afternoon switch engine and so i showed up and went out to the engine and pretty soon I saw the engineer coming. He was really loaded and he says, "Roy, you're going to have to take it for me because I'm drunk." And I said, "You don't need to tell me that just get up on the seat box on the fireman's side and sit down and keep your mouth shut." I was maybe 22 at the time. I started out and as I've said the engineer and the fireman closely together. You opened the throttle he opened the firing valve. You closed the throttle and he closed the firing valve. His reaction time was too slow so that I'd shut the throttle down and he'd react a second or two later. Pretty soon you couldn't see the depot from the smoke. I looked across there and I saw Walter Stenneman, the road foreman of engines, and he was so mad he wasn't jumping just one rail he was jumping two. So he ran over there to the engine and he looked up and he says, "Hey you up there!" to the fireman. This guy was so drunk that he couldn't
recognize the road foreman of engines. So he yells back, "Hey you down there have you ever seen a switchman's nose in a hog head's ass?" and he made a circle with his thumb and index finger and put his nose through it. Well, I thought, "Oh boy we're fired." He
stepped back a saw who was running the engine and he turned on his heel and walked away. Pretty soon the switch foreman says' "Roy we are going to tie up and take an early break and you can get a cup of coffee down at the drug store." So we went up under the via duct and got off and went down there and while we were gone the special officers came and took him off and he was of course fired but if they had taken him off earlier they would have had to have fired all of us.


Another time, diesel now, I was still the fireman I had been running but things had gotten a little slow and they had cut back. We left Barstow and came around at Lenwood and setting right in the middle of the track was an automobile. The headlights were off and
there was no way you could stop. I hit that automobile and boy it just disappeared. I didn't know where it went. I looked over at the engineer and I thought, "God, what am I going to do with him?" He was drunk. I locked him in the front of the diesel. There was a
passenger train coming from the other way and I didn't know if that car was on the other track or what so I sent the head brakeman out to flag the other train down. Pretty soon here came the law and one of the officers got up in the cab and he asked me if I was the
engineer. I didn't lie, sure I was an engineer. So he asked where the fireman was so I told them there was a passenger train coming the other way and I sent him out to flag him. Ok, down he gets and pretty soon they cleared the wreckage and away we went. I thought that was the end of it. About four days later here came the FBI. They asked if I was engineer Pierce and I told them I was. They asked, "You were running such and such an engine on the night when you hit an automobile?" "Yes." "Did you see any movement in the car before you hit it?" I said, "No." He told me they just wondered because they thought that he was dead before we hit him. What he was was an agricultural inspector and he was out there in the desert some place and my own opinion is that he may have seen Marijuana growing or something that they didn't want the authorities to know
about and they just murdered him. They never asked me any other questions but I knew they knew and I shook in my boots.

Another funny story. We had a train master...most of the trainmasters were really nice fellows...but fellow had married into the hierarchy in Chicago and didn't know diddly squat about railroading and they made him a train master. He rode on our train one time when we were switching around Riverside and Corona where we would pick up oranges during orange season. They would call them GFX for Green Fruit Express. Then they had that celery express and all kinds when they'd have to move perishables. Mr C_____ decided we were making to much overtime so he decided to ride with us one night and check to see how we were doing. We switched Riverside for an hour with him standing right there watching and this conductor's name was Don Blake and he was known to take a nip but of course he wasn't drinking that night. He switched Riverside for an hour and
when he got through every car was right back where it started and C_____ was too dumb to know the difference. Of course he was the laughing stock of the whole railroad. Another time they decided to make tests. There used to be a packing house at Buena Park. It was cold and they decided to break into this packing house and stay warm between trains. Well, somebody saw them and turned them in and the police came out and threw their ass in the can. The superintendent had to go down and get them out of jail. Another time, to show how inept that man was, he jumped out in front of a train in Riverside and cracked a fusee and all the engineer could do was go to emergency. It broke the train into three pieces and it blocked the crossings for a couple of hours. The police came down and they said, "Who is responsible for this." The engineer reached
out the window pointing and said, "That man right down there." And into the clink again he went. Oh what a character that guy was. He did a lot of harm to the railroad but a lot of the other fellows were really nice. Walter Stenneman and Baldy Murdock and the air
man whose name I can't remember. I'll never forget that sly look on his face on Cajon when he came down and said, "Roy, you were on the bridge." Two more stories about Don Blake. There is an irrigation canal along side the track there at the Riverside station. We were switching Riverside and suddenly I saw Don Blake jump over that little rail and into the canal. I thought oh boy he's tied another one on and he came up with a little baby. A woman had had a baby in the Riverside restroom, taken the child out, and threw it in the drainage ditch and he jumped in to get it but it was too late. Number 8 again, the mail train, going to go out of Union Station and Don Blake was the conductor and when he brought up my running orders i could tell he was three sheets in the wind. I told him, "Don, stay out of sight." He got off and then here came a switch engine and they put the general manager's car on the back end of #8. I don't know where the general manager was going but of course C_____ was there. We got up to Pasadena and he came up to the engine. He says, "I finally got that son of a gun. He's drunker than a skunk
and we're going to pull him off of there and call an investigation and can his ass." I said, "Well think about it Mr C____ the general manager is going to want to know why you let him out of Union Station to begin with." "Keep him out of sight, keep him out of sight!" But Don Blake was straight and narrow for a long time after that.


There was another guy who they never could find where he kept his booze in the caboose. He was never drunk but he was hitting it. Finally when he retired, they called him "Step and a Half" because he had been in a wreck and he limped. They said, "Step and a Half where did you hide that booze?" He said, "Why it's right under your nose.." It was a double bottle and it looked like it was full of milk. A lot of drinking used to go on but now with "Rule G" it doesn't go on anymore. I remember one time I was a fireman and we had the sand box with the scoop to clean out the flue. Anyway the scoop is sort of round and you reach in and get the sand and then put in at that little hole on the firebox and that black smoke will just pour and it cleans the soot off and it steams better. I reached in with the scoop and CLICK CLICK CLICK so I checked in the sand an pulled out a half pint of whiskey. The engineer was Mattress Moore, he always carried a mattress and every chance he got he'd lay that mattress down and get on it. He looked at the bottle and said, "Hey let me see that...you know that looks like whiskey...gee it smells like whiskey...(glug glug glug) by God it was whiskey!" And he tossed the bottle out the window.


Sometimes I don't know how any of us ever lived but there were only a few that ever got rip roaring. The fellow I told you about who got fired...I was on a train that had left Barstow and we were going to pick up a helper at Victorville and Walter Stenneman
happened to be there as the road foreman and of course this drunken engineer was going to be the helper engineer. He started backing up and I knew that he was going to hit us hard. I managed to get that train moving backwards before he hit us and WHUMP. Well, here came Walter and he looks up there and he sees him and he says, "Come on
down here." The guy came down and Walter said, "I don't think you've had enough rest. Why don't you go in the caboose and let the next crew take over and you'll feel better later." You know what the dumb son of a gun did? He started swearing at him. Walter was giving him every chance in the world because they were short of engineers.
Those rules were never relaxed all during the war. You had to fire a locomotive for three years before you could get a promotion. But they worked us and they worked us. I have been so damned tired that I would see double.


During the war most everything was coming west so what they would do was put us on a freight train or a passenger train and send us to Barstow and we'd get off and take a train west and they'd put us back on another one until we ran out of time. They never relaxed
that...if that 16 hours were up you went into the side track and quit...they never relaxed that, you could only work 16 hours. If you worked 16 hours you got 10 hours rest. If you worked 15 hours and 59 minutes you got 8 hours rest. You took the rest anywhere you
could get it except the caboose. We were never welcome in a caboose because we were engine men.


I remember another funny story...you remember all of the funny things. I was tired, golly I was tired. I got on a passenger train and they had these reclining seats and of course I had my cap and bandana. I laid back and there was a lady sitting next to me and I went to sleep and pretty soon I felt someone shaking me. "Wake up Buster, you're not at home!" she says. I don't know what I had done but I must have done something to upset her. In Barstow the during the war the restaurants had quotas and when they ran out they closed up so lots of times we'd leave Barstow hungry because you couldn't get anything to eat. The Barstow yards used to be down by the depot. I had come down to the roundhouse and went into town in what I guess was the Mexican part of the eighborhood. This Indian woman was taking bread out of a beehive oven and God that smelled good. I told her my tale of woe and she invited me in. She didn't have any coffee but she had butter and that hot bread right out of the oven and she gave me a glass of milk and about half a loaf of bread. I've never had anything taste so good in all my life. I went on to work but after that every time I went to Barstow I'd go down town and say hello to her. One day I went back and the place was all closed up. The next time it was still closed up and I didn't ever see her. For some reason or other I decided to get a hair cut in Barstow and a deputy sheriff came in while I was getting my hair cut and I told him about this lady. He said, "Don't you know what happened?" and I said no. He told me that there was a navy base in Barstow and her husband worked there and his normal procedure was to get paid, cash his check, get drunk, and come home and beat her up and then pass out. One time he did this but what he didn't know was that she was melting lead in a can in this beehive oven so he came home, beat her up, and passed out and she took a pair of pliers and picked this can up and poured that molten lead in his ear. They said he ran about 50 feet screaming. I asked him what they did with her and he said they just sent her back
to the reservation.


Another time I was eating in the Harvey House there and this Indian man came in and I was sitting at a counter. So he sat down beside me and his squaw stood behind the chair. He sat there and ate a whole meal. When he got up to leave I said, "Aren't you going
to feed your wife?" "Feed squaw...feed squaw...she catch jack rabbit on the way home." and out they went. She had a long purple dress on in all of that heat out there. What I hated more than anything else was the midnight switch operation. You could do a hundred miles and never move more than a hundred yards. The yards on the Los Angeles Division were all flat switching. At the one yard in San Bernardino we kicked everything
up hill and then we would grab another group of cars, bring it down and kick them up. Remember the engine isn't working when you are rolling down so we would roll down there and I heard "Uhhhh!" I would get another sign and come back down and hear "Uhhhh!" I thought that was funny and maybe I had better find out what it was.
I set the engine brake and lit the torch and went out and here one of those "Bulls" had been shot four or five times in the stomach. He was one of those railroad "Bulls" and he died. They were cruel. They would kick those guys off at high speed. I don't know if he
got what was coming to him but he got it. I was a fireman and there was this engineer, Dirty Neck Millikan, and we stopped in Yorba Linda where we took water. I went back to take water and here this black man, a great big black man, he had a gold tooth and I remember it flashing. I was taking water and I didn't pay any attention to him. Dirty Neck came back from the engine and he spotted the guy in the blinds and he said, "Hey you black son of a gun get off there." I remember that guy smiling with his tooth flashing and he says, "Johnny says I don't have to." and he patted his side. Dirty Neck says again, "Come on, get off of there." "Johnny says I don't have to." I got through taking water
and Dirty Neck says, "There's a bum back there and I think he's got a knife or a gun and I want him off of there." I told him I'd get him off. He humphed and I went back staying on top of the tank and said, "Hey mister, I think that Hoghead has a heart on for you and
we're not going to stop now until we get to San Bernardino and he's going to throw off a note either at Corona or Riverside and the bulls are going to be waiting for you. If you want to save yourself a lot of trouble you can get off here and there is a freight train
right behind us and he's going to be taking water too. If you get off here and wait for the freight train you won't have any trouble." He ay, "Thank you Boss." and off he got and sauntered off and I went back up to Dirty Neck. He says, "How did you get him off of there?" I just looked at him and said, "Well, you just don't know how to get
tough."

Another tragic thing. For awhile they thought it might be a good idea to put a funnel on the valve cock and instead of having it blow out the steam to the side over the countryside to blow it down onto the ballast to get rid of the slag. Blowing it out saves you a lot of grief to keep that engine from foaming. I don't know what that stuff was that you put in when you take on water but it was like molasses and smells like the devil but you would take a cup of that and put it in before you would take water. Well, this engine had one of those funnel shaped things that blew it down into the center of the track. I was using it every once in awhile and the thing of it was that they had reballasted a part of the track and it
was new ballast and I didn't know it till I went back to take water in Fullerton. As I took water I head this groaning and groaning and I took the torch and there was a guy in the blinds (the first coach behind the tender is open and is called "The Blinds") and every time
I opened that thing it threw that rock up into the blinds and just cut this guy to ribbons and there was no way he could get away from it. They took him to the hospital but I don't know if he lived. There was another guy as we came around where Norwalk State
Hospital is standing in the center of the track, facing us, with his arms spread out in the air and his eyes closed. You know, he had high top shoes on and those high top shoes were still on the track. His feet weren't in them any more, just the shoes. At least that's
what they tell me. I was the engineer but when we backed up I had the train between me and the accident and I had no reason (or inclination) to go back and look. Another time at Yorba Linda the road was parallel to the track and then crosses it and is parallel
on the other side. This car was coming along and it turned right into the side of the engine. The main rod came down and cut that car in two right in front of the windshield. The conductor went back and I don't think it even broke the windshield. There were three
young ladies in there and a man and they were these people who go around and put on these stag shows. The conductor stuck his head in and asked if they were alright and the man yells, "Alright, alright? Look what you've done to my automobile!" One time down by Escondido there's a long trestle across and we caught this guy out on the trestle and he made a run for the other end of it and you know he made it. Just barely! Another place that used to literally scare the heck out of me was after we left where Mission Bay is and people at certain times of day would come home from work and they would pile up over the railroad tracks and they can't go forward and they can't back up. What I used to do was shut that throttle down, slow that train down, and actually any number of people....why they didn't change that I don't know because that wasn't normal speed and you're always late. I slowed down there time after time and sure enough they would be piled up. There was a light there and they never seemed to learn. In all of the lawsuits I've been involved in I've always maintained that there should never be a railroadcrossing...underpass or overcrossing. You can't imagine what it does to you to wipe out an entire family. Well, I never dream about it anymore...but I used to. I guess time heals everything. When you are coming up the coast, with all of its undulations,
with passenger cars behind you the main thing you have to remember is the slack. There are some engineers that are just rougher than a cobb. For example on a freight train and the conductor hasn't been very nice to you...he's cooking beans back in the caboose. You back off and all the cars come forward and then you pick up speed and they all go back. Well, its not polite to knock him down and not go back and pick him up. But, do you know how they can get even? Your depth perception is not that great at a quarter of a mile and so they would bring you up to a switch and they would run you by it
about two car lengths. The Johnson bar is not much fun to hoist and you'd have to lift it over into reverse to back up and then they would throw the switch and you had to throw the Johnson bar back again. Well, they could keep that up all night. The secret of running a locomotive is being relaxed. You plan ahead. An engineer who is nervous is a poor engineer because he is jerky. This is big and heavy equipment and the reaction time is
slower. For example to be running along and suddenly shut the throttle off and set the hand brake...BANG! Starting up is the same way if they are all bunched up. The way that I did it was that I kept that train stretched all the time and stop it without any air
under the engine or under the cars. You had to know exactly the right time to release...you felt it...you stopped and people didn't even know you had stopped. The same way starting. If you have the train well stretched out you opened the throttle and gradually get that whole train moving and then you could accelerate all you wanted
because you don't want that BANG BANG BANG. That is the secret of the smooth engineer. There are some of them that are rougher than cobbs and some are as smooth as silk. Old Tom Cooksie taught me that. Hell of a guy.


Of course the "Roller Coaster" is tough because if you keep a little throttle on and you keep that train stretched out...of course I turned five turkey dinners over one time when we went into emergency. We had no choice. There was one time and in the court room the lawyer said, "When you saw you were going to hit this truck Mr Pierce what did you do?" I said, "I opened the throttle and hit him as hard and as fast as I could." I couldn't stop...we hit 15 tons of loose oranges. In fact it darn near killed the baggage man
when some big trunks fell on him. You couldn't stop and you had a better chance at knocking him clear when you couldn't stop anyway. You had to make quick decisions and the first consideration was the passengers. You've got thirteen hundred people back there and so they come first and you came second which is what you're paid to do.
I hit a hay truck near Corona. The old Union Pacific line used to go down through there on the way to Corona through Riverside and there was a diagonal road and I never saw anything look so big in my life as that hay truck. Actually you hear it more than you feel it.
Kind of an "UMPPPHHH" like that and that's about it and then the hay goes all over everywhere or oranges go all over everywhere. I remember when we hit the orange truck the fireman had big long earlobes and what he had done was jump down off of the seat box and grabbed hold of that pan behind the boiler and was hanging on to that. When we hit it broke all of the windows out of the cab and orange juice was dripping down off of his big ear lobes. I was laughing and he said, "What are you looking at you silly son-of-a-
gun don't you know when you've about been killed?" It sheared the cab off of that trailer...cut that cab right in two. About that accident involving the Budd car. Union Depot with all of the tracks coming out and the track to San Diego come out and around like this and parallels the river. You've got Hobart Junction and then it crosses the bridge. It's about 5 miles and you are always late. The second that thing straightens out you give it
all of the power you've got and its funny because you go along there and those dumb pigeons...with the diesels the air stream catches them when they wait and fly too late...the air stream catches them and throws them right up in the air about 150 feet and they just go ass over tea kettle but they recover. Then you are going say 90 mph but at Hobart Junction it was 15 mph. You would start braking way back...brake heavy! When you go into emergency the sanders automatically go on so what happened was that they came around and made his set. They had a device on it that they had a lot of problems with that the wheels could slide and they would have to turn the wheels and the motors were right on the axles and it cost a lot of money. So they had this device so that if the wheels started sliding it would release the wheel till it started rolling and then set up again. The engineer set the brake, started sliding, panicked and he went into emergency and he never set up again. So he hit at God knows how fast and turned it over and killed all of those
people. I was coming the other way later on and they had section men out there with lanterns sweeping the sand off the rail. He'd been in emergency for a mile. He wasn't killed but he died shortly afterwards because they said it was "man failure".
The only place I ever ran through was Del Mar. I kept getting closer and closer being late all the time and I waited too long and I didn't stop at Del Mar. You would come around a curve and then come down and then there was the station but it had a rise and that
would slow you and then if you released the brake it went down hill again. If you misjudged that by two seconds you were going to go by. You had to know your mark.

The train dispatchers were in San Bernardino at the time and I knew one real well. They did move the offices to LA but I don't remember the year. My father was a train dispatcher. He was a red headed Irishman he started out when he migrated from Red Cloud, Nebraska to LA and got a job in the telegraph office. He worked his way up to train dispatcher. First he was a telegraph operator and he was an operator all over the Los Angeles division. When he met my mother he was a telegraph operator in Rivera now called Pico Rivera. They just had a telegraph station there and he was a telegraph
operator there for the railroad. They talk about that repetition syndrome now and they were going tap-tap-tap-tap all day with one hand. Then they would develop this neuritis or arthritis or whatever it was in their hand and it would be very painful to do that. Then
they'd learn to do it with their left hand. That went on for an awful long time until that hand went bad and then they got what they called a "bug" where it went sideways and then they learned that with both hands. My father always wrote train orders out long hand
on sort of transparent paper (flimsies) and when he would get tired of writing with one hand he'd just turn around and write with the other. You couldn't tell when he changed.
The stress those men were under...not to many of them lived very long. The stress got to them after awhile. My father passed away when I was 22 years old...stress...but some of them handled the stress alright. You don't know, but he had a twin brother who lived
to be 90 years old. He was a machinist in San Diego. Usually earlier on if you didn't have someone who worked for the railroad you weren't going to get a job on the railroad. I used to have a picture of a friend who was also an engineer and you wouldn't
believe that we were engineers...we looked like kids. He was one hire ahead of me. We both went to work on December 28, 1938 and he went to work at 11 pm and I went to work at 11:59 pm. He would bump me more than anybody else on the railroad but we were very very good friends. He left the railroad too shortly after I did and started
an escrow business in Escondido. He had a heart problem and I don't
know if he is still alive or not.

Ah yes, railroad families. It used to be so amusing when we would have to go to a trial in San Bernardino trying to find a jury because one of the questions they would ask was, "Are you related to anyone who works on the railroad?" "Oh yes, my husband..(or son,
brother, uncle, father, aunt, etc.) is and engineer (or brakeman, dispatcher, conductor, etc.). They would have an awful time with that trying to seat an "unbiased" jury. I've been to court 22 times and they never got a judgement. That was for railroad crossing
accidents. There were horrible coincidences some times and amusing sometimes but most of the time very tragic. I'll never forget this one man. His name was Bierke and the judge said to him, "Mr Bierke, would you please rise. Mr Bierke it is the judgement of this court
that you are a deliberate and malicious prevaricator and as such your testimony will be stricken from the record." And of course that was the end of that trial. What had happened was that I had had a run from the Kaiser steel mill in Fontana and we would take iron ore and coal on the way out and on the way back we'd bring back the
pig iron or whatever they made such as beams back to San Bernardino and we would make two trips a day. We'd make one trip in the morning and one in the afternoon. We were headed back in the afternoon and we backed up. Well, in those days with the steam engine you could not exceed 20 mph backing up. We had maybe 40 cars of steel and in
Rialto the track angles and goes across at a diagonal. As we went over the crossing this car was coming east and these fellows had been roofing the county courthouse, I knew because they were all nude from the waist up form working in that hot sun. They ran right
into the side of the locomotive. Of course it killed some of them and the survivors were suing us for negligence or something...I forget what. If they could convince the jury you were negligent they could convict you of manslaughter and then sue the railroad but
in all these cases I never lost a case.

There was this one lawyer whose name was Ralph McConaugh and what I used to do and took great pleasure in it was to mispronounce his name. That was how Churchill showed contempt for people he didn't like. He'd correct me every time and finally the judge caught on and you could see him almost smiling. He was the prosecuting
attorney and he was a very vain man. One time he said, "As a locomotive engineer Mr Pierce you know everything about a locomotive." I said, "Oh no, you're wrong sir. I only know two things about a locomotive. What it weighs and what it pays because I get paid according to what it weighs." Of course our defense attorney was going crazy. Then they would get out the records and say, "Well, Mr Pierce you made 99% on the machinery and this on the book of rules." But you had to have 100% on the book of rules...you
didn't have to have 100% but you had to pass it with a minimum grade of 80% but then for any mistakes you made you had to go up and correct your mistake and then initial it and that was how you got through the book of rules. That book of rules was thick but every one of them was written in blood. Most of the rules were reasonable like you had to stand across the track from a switch during a roll by. That was because of a wreck that was caused when a switch was thrown because the person throwing it thought the track was not lined right resulting in a head-on. What you had to do was line the switch and then station yourself on the other side of the track. That way if you tried to
run over and throw it the other train would run over you. But that is why that rule is in the book. Of course they had some rules that seemed ridicules but nevertheless there was a reason for them and a good reason. Everyone has to work with rules. We accepted them and they were rules to live by...literally. But, you had to know them and if you refracted you were disciplined. What they did was if you received thirty demerits during a year you were fired. That was how they punished you before they had unemployment insurance but it wouldn't be for such a long time. They would maybe fire you for 30 days or 60 days because what they wanted to do was hurt you financially so that you would be more careful and that was the whole idea. I remember a man who had had a clean record and never had any problems at all in probably 30 years who did $15 damage to a
locomotive and they fired him for 30 days. That's a little unreasonable.
I was talking to that train dispatcher, Archie Kidd, and he said that he was so glad to get out of it the way things have changed. That you could just get away from it and forget it. Most railroad men have a lot of fine memories and I do to but as I've pointed out I wasn't a real railroad fan. My interests were other things like electronics which was my hobby and after I left the railroad became my profession because I found it a challenge.
My father was a telegrapher at Rivera and that was how the dispatcher communicated with the railroad, through the telegraph. Say that he is sitting in an office in San Bernardino and they had this long table and there was this big piece of paper about 30" wide and I think maybe about 8' long with all of the trains that were on his district listed and as they would go by the telegraph operator would tell him tap-tap-tap- "#3 has just passed." "Extra 637 has just gone by..." and the dispatcher would mark it on the train
sheet. So every move as it was completed was put on this train sheet so that they would have this record. He would maybe have on a district 30 trains at one time that he had to keep track of. Meeting...then passing...of course first class trains had the right-
of-way. They had a regular schedule and you carried a time table and you cleared the main line 10 minutes before so that you wouldn't give that superior train a yellow light. There were three districts. The first district was LA to Needles via Fullerton. The Pasadena route was the 2nd district and the 3rd district was LA to San Diego.
They had three dispatchers and they had a chief dispatcher. My father had a very legible hand and he would write these train orders which would of course be delivered to an extra train. They had First Class trains which were scheduled trains and 2nd Class trains
which were both freight and passenger. There was only one left in the United States when I quit working and of course there were extra trains. If you were running an extra train you put up white flags, if you were a first class train that was scheduled there was no
indication but if there was a second section then you put up a green flag. Out on the front they had standards and you would put out a green flag and at night a green light would go on. As you passed a train in a siding you gave a long and two short which meant there
was another section following. I ran the locomotive on the last second class train that I know of in the United States. That was from San Bernardino to Hemet in San Jacinto. We had one passenger car and usually only one passenger. I don't think the railroad
buffs had found that at that time. That was probably in 42 or 43. This one woman rode regularly at least once a week. She'd get on in Riverside having done her shopping and the brakeman and conductor would help her up on the train with her purchases. She lived out at a little place called Wintersburg on the way to Hemet and we'd stop and her house was about a quarter of a mile from the track so they'd carry her groceries over to it for her. Then we would go into Hemet and turn on the wye there. We didn't go to San Jacinto very often but when we did it was to plants that canned fruits and vegetables
in season but only during that season. Well, we'd sit there and then at the scheduled time we would head back. This old gentleman would meet us at Hemet when I was oiling the
engine. He was an old character who had a bib overalls which were cut off above the knee and no shirt and he would come up and talk to me about a nudist camp that he was really the custodian for and was trying to spur some business and he kept saying how beneficial it would be for me to join. Finally I decided that I'd had enough so I said, "Well, I would like to join but I was thrown out of the one up on Cajon Pass." He says, "Son, what did you do?" I said, "Well, we were playing leap frog with a bunch of good looking young ladies and I didn't make it over." He became enraged and chased me around the engine with a stick and that's the last we ever saw of him.

There didn't seem to be in our area so many railroad fans. Once in awhile we would see some and they would be looking at the engine. I had a run one time with #51 that went from San Bernardino to Los Angeles and then turned around and came back as #54 but we just made a round trip with mail and baggage and passengers. We took the engine at depot where the hostlers had placed it. What I would have to do then would be to inspect the engine and there would be a few railroad buffs looking the engine over. What the procedure would be was that you would park your car first, go into the telegraph office to pick up your orders and slow orders and register your watch for the number of seconds fast or slow. Then I would walk down in front of the depot, get up onto the engine, say hello to the fireman and ask him if he had performed his duties, get down and look the engine over. I noticed that when I was walking down by the depot the people who were getting on the train were snickering and I looked down to see if I was all buttoned up and didn't see anything wrong. I was oiling the engine around and heard people giggling but still didn't see anything wrong and then I got up on the engine and the
fireman asked, "What do you have on your back?" On my back, when my wife kissed me good-bye she had pasted a big paper that read, "I USE CASHMERE BOUQUET SOAP". What she was so angry about was someone had given her some Cashmere Bouquet soap and I loved it. She kept telling me to get my own soap and stay out of her soap which of course I paid no attention to so that's how she got even. How she got that on my back with me not knowing it I'll never know. It's a good thing I was gone for a few hours to get over that cause I didn't see the humor in it for awhile. I never could get the best of that woman...that's what I get for marrying a woman smarter than I am.


Back to train dispatchers. What they are is expediters and they learn the strengths and weaknesses of every engineer. Some engineers are fast and some are slow...especially on single track. You have to anticipate to keep things moving and you have to know just about where they are going to meet. The telegraph stations are wide apart and if you've got a westbound train and an eastbound train... Here's another thing, on our district westbound trains had right over eastbound trains. Orders might read, "Eastbound 767
has right over westbound train _____ but wait at Placentia until 1 pm, Corona at 1:30, Riverside 1:50." You could use that time but you had to be in the clear by those times. That would give the engineman time to get further along the line so you wouldn't sit as
long.


I remember one time...we had only one American Indian that was a locomotive engineer and his name was Charlie Ochoa and was he a character. I fired for him. He talked kind of strange. He'd say, "Oh boy." and you couldn't get him to say anything bad about
anybody. I used to try just to torment him. I say about some fellow who was a real scoundrel, "Charlie, how do you like Jack Nelson?" "Oh yes, Jack Nelson. Oh yeah, I like him. He's a fine man." And Charlie would list all of the qualities he thought were
good and he'd always end up by saying, "But don't turn your back on him."
We were going over the 3rd District to LA with a freight train and we had a wait order. Wait at Riverside until such and such a time and Corona until such and such a time and Yorba Linda until such and such a time, Fullerton such and such a time. That was single track and by the time you got to double track it was smoother sailing. Anyway we were going along on single track and he was going by those times just right on the button. When we got to Los Angeles we cut off and went to the round house and Charlie says,
"You know old boy, I'm sure glad that risk run is over." I asked him why and he said, "I forgot my watch." God, we'd have all gotten canned if there had been a mishap. What we would do when we hit Union Depot lots of times would be to go in the Harvey House. Charlie got sweet on one of the Harvey gals. You know, she was pleasant to everybody. He was really in love with her. A couple of the guys found out that she was going to come to San Bernardino on the train to visit some relatives. One of them told Charlie, "You know that girl really likes you. In fact she's coming to San Bernardino to see you on the train." He was so delighted he got himself a new suit and a bouquet of flowers and he
was standing on the platform when the train arrived. All of the guys were out there standing back so she got off the train and there was Charlie with his flowers and she says, "Why Charlie, I'm so glad you met me." and put her arm around him and walked off with him.

The train orders were on this thin paper you could see through so you could read them through the firebox. They used to be signed by the dispatcher with the superintendent's name. Anyway they were going to pull a test on Charlie so they gave him his train orders
but with no signature. Charlie looked at it, put it on the hook, and that trainmaster who wasn't very likable says, "Charlie, don't you see something wrong with those orders?" Charlie picked them up, looked at them, and said,"No man, they look OK." "No, but there's something wrong." "No, I don't see anything wrong." Finally the Trainmaster says, "Charlie, the superintendent's name is missing. Charlie says, "That's OK old man, I know him." With that the trainmaster just threw his hands up in the air and got off of the
engine. They would pull tests like that all the time. It was suppose to be the right date. You'd get on the engine and your watch couldn't be more than 20 seconds off because you checked it against a standard clock and then you would right down how many seconds it was fast or slow and you could not exceed 20 seconds. They would ask you what time it was and so you would have to know the date and the time and if you didn't know you were reprimanded because it was run by the watch. We had to have them cleaned once a year and inspected every three months. Any qualified jeweler could inspect them but there were jewelers assigned that inspected them and the company paid for it. When I worked out of Huntington Beach there was a jeweler down town by the name of George Jack and he did the inspection.

Do you know what a "Dutch Drop" is? You'd have the main line, a siding here with industry, and you'd have a box car at the end of the siding that you were going to pick up. You'd disconnect the engine from the rest of the train and you would come in and nose
couple to the box car. You'd give it a good start with the brakeman sitting on the porch, then ease up and give him a little slack so he can pull the pin and then you back out as rapidly as you can, get on the main and reverse the engine, run the engine up ahead of the
switch that is then lined back to the siding so the car goes back against the train and then back the engine against the train. Strictly against the rules. One of the super no no's. But, it might be a long time before we could run a train around so what we would do was a Dutch drop. One night in Corona we were all tired and wanted to get home. We were doing a Dutch drop and the brakeman gave me the sign to ease up while he pulled the pin and then away I went. Now I couldn't see...I pulled out onto the main and then started forward and saw the fireman jump off of his seat and run across to my side. He'd decided the boxcar was coming too fast and he jumped off. That damn box car hit the tank between the tank and the engine. It drove that thing right back and all it did was dent the grab rail. Of course being a friendly person I've always felt that if you treat people with respect you're going to make a friend. I'd done that in the roundhouse so when I got back
to the roundhouse I went to the night roundhouse foreman and I explained my plight. He says' "Roy, forget it." And that was the end of it but we were lucky it didn't do one heck of a lot more damage.


Due to carelessness I've had not wrecks but near misses. One time in Hobart Yard we'd pull a string of cars back there and we'd kick em into this track and then we'd back up. We had diesels in those days...you know, those flat ended diesel locomotives. Miserable things. Anyway the fireman, they called them firemen yet, we were both on the back and I was watching and I was backing up and trying to see when I had cleared the point. What I didn't realize was there was another guy shoving a car. He was yelling like Hell
but of course you couldn't hear and for some reason I looked back and I saw them. I would have just side swiped those cars but I put the damn thing in emergency and I stopped just before I hit and all of the brakemen were running like Hell. One time I saw a similar thing that ended in tragedy. Lots of time they would depend on the knuckle making the joint. If it didn't down it would come. This fireman wasn't watching and the car came down and hit him and jammed him up against the boiler head and a steam blower line broke off and ran into his stomach and he was being cooked alive. Screaming...I can still hear that. And a brakeman walked by and took his brake club and went THUNK! Put him out of his misery. No one said anything. That live steam is
dangerous and you can't see it. With that blow off cock you don't see any of it until it gets quite a few feet away and starts to condense. It's super heated steam. I've seen others where that blower line has broken or some other high pressure line breaks and a
guy gets a whiff of it and it collapses their lungs. Another thing we would have to do...say we had to go down to Victorville and wait for another train to help. Well, it could get
very very cold like 15 degrees above. They had these water glasses and there is a shutoff valve and the tube is maybe 18 inches long. The water level is showing and of course sitting still there it sits without moving. If you let it sit too long at one spot with the difference in temperature when it moves it will crack and blow and throw hot water all over the place. Then you'd have to hold something up to shield yourself and get the valves turned off and a lot of times you could get burned pretty badly. How you prevented
that was every once in awhile you would move the engine a little, put on the injector, open the throttle just a little. Anything to get that water moving. At least one of you would have to stay awake and monitor it. If that crown sheet gets dry for 15 seconds and you
put the injector on and that cold water hits that crown sheet that engine will blow. I've seen them 150 feet away from the track. Just think of picking that boiler up and throwing it 150 feet. Of course none of them survived. I've only seen it twice. Once in San Juan
Capistrano it blew and killed everybody in the cab. I don't know about coincidence or fate or the good lord taking care of you but there was an engine that went in the drink at Del Mar years ago when the track washed away and killed the fireman, head brakeman, and the engineer. I had been called for that job and my wife was pregnant
with our third child. You could lay off on call and she started crying and said she wished I wouldn't go to work because she wasn't feeling well. I laid off...otherwise it would have been me. I remember years and years ago I think down around Del Mar one of those trestles went out and they ran a train up to the east and to the west and bused the passengers between them. Many times if that circuit isn't broken you don't know it. Of
course that has never happened to me but it has happened. The section man's cars are isolated and won't trip the signal and one time I was on the engine approaching South Pasadena on #42 which was a passenger train I came around a curve and here was a section man coming the other way. He took one look at me and bailed off and I remember him hitting on his ass and going BUMP BUMP BUMP! We hit that damn motorized section car and knocked it off the track and we stopped, backed up, and there he was picking himself up and dusting himself off. He was saying to himself, "I'm fired, I'm fired, I'm fired." and he was right.

One time in "A" Yard I knew this box car was going to hit the engine because it had gotten loose and there was no way I could get out of its path in time. I bailed out of the engine and I bailed off right onto a 40 spike with my foot. They had unloaded some flat
cars and they had these great big wide planks. They had pried them apart and here this 40 spike was setting there and it went right through the middle of my foot. They cut off both ends of it and hauled me to the hospital, pulled it out, and then he swabbed
through it with something. Then he went and got me a pair of crosses and I told him it didn't hurt too bad I didn't think I needed those. He said, "I'll guarantee you will." and he was right. I knew how Christ must have felt. There have been a lot of people hurt real bad. I had this fireman one time who was working these leads in what they call the
"Bull Ring". They call it the Bull Ring because the switch locomotives are called Bull Goats because of the way they bang into the cars. You have lots of strange names on the railroad such as "Hoghead" for the engineer who runs the pigs. "A hoghead, a bakehead, a swellhead, and two pinheads." This translates to the engineer, the fireman, the conductor, and the two brakemen. None of them liked one another very much in those days. This fireman I was talking about we had come in and he climbed on and of course we had all these leads coming in so if a box car gets loose we'd get hit. So I looked over at him and he was asleep. I yelled, "Hey, wake up how does it look back there?" He looked back and grunted, "OK." I said, "Hey you may not want to go home in the morning but I do. If I catch you asleep one more time I'm going to take you to the round
house." It wasn't very long and he was back asleep again. I called over to the switch foreman and told him I was going to take this guy to the round house and get another fireman because I was just tired of waking him up. He said, "Roy, I've got a confession to make. I've got an over sexed wife and she's wearing me out." I told him, "I've
heard em all but that's the best one yet. If you think you can manage to stay awake we'll finish the night but you bid off of the job." So he did because jobs were always off for bid.


Another time this trainmaster I was telling you about (C_____) that I didn't like. Down in that industrial area in LA there are residences in there too and I was out just beyond Hobart Yard. At the crossings in there I was ringing the bell but I wasn't blowing
the whistle. This trainmaster came down and he says, "Well, you're ringing the bell all right but you're not blowing the whistle." I said, "Hey, there's not a car in sight and we're going slow. Why wake up all those people?" He's says, "I'm going to write you up and give you 20 demerits." Well, what could I do? I signed for the 20 demerits and then I bid in a day job on a switch engine in the industrial area in LA around Union Depot and of course there are alleys, streets, and Jiminy Christmas would I blast on that whistle at every crossing I went across. Pretty soon they started getting complaints. I told them Mr C_____ made me sign for 20 demerits for not blowing the whistle at these crossings and I just can't stand another 20 demerits which would result in me getting fired so I was
going to blow the whistle. That's the rules. What they did was change the time you went to work on that job and that put it up for bid and I didn't bid on it. That was a way out for both. He was one scoundrel. His wife died a lingering death of cancer and he was
devastated so the other trainmaster felt sorry for him and took him into his home. He rewarded him by running away with his wife. I don't know whatever happened to him after that. He thought he had me one time and the telegraph operator tried to warn me and I was too dumb to take the hint. He had the block down for orders and I
went in there while the fireman was taking water. I picked up the train order and what it was, here again, the date was wrong. I said, "Do you have the orders?" and he tried to tell me by saying, "I have something for you." That should have tipped me off but it
didn't so I took them and I looked at them and it was something frivolous anyway so I showed it to the fireman which you are suppose to do and left. The fireman says, "You know, the date's wrong on that." I thought that oh boy we were in for it then I thought no,
we're not in for it and at the next telegraph office, which was in Riverside, I dropped off a note that said, "Date wrong on orders received at Corona." And that got me off the hook.
Going for beans. Over in Corona or Arcadia, I'm not sure which because we weren't over there very much. We walked maybe a quarter of a mile over to the main drag and I saw an old timer standing there on the corner and I said, "Hey mister we're hungry and want to have some breakfast is there a restaurant here in town that's open all night?" He says, "Yes, there are two of them. There's one about three blocks in this direction and there is one a couple of blocks in that direction." I asked, "Which is the best?" "Well," he says, "Let me put it to you this way. Whichever one you go to you'll wish
you had gone to the other."


We had a fellow by the name of Hulgan and they called him "Happy Hooligan"and he was a real slow talker. So Happy Hooligan and I went into a restaurant on the second district someplace because it was the season when we were picking up oranges. We go in there and those "Hashers" have been around. They're nice people but they have been around. Anyway, Happy Hooligan never drank coffee. He always drank milk. We went into this restaurant and he ordered milk and this waitress, who was well endowed, the milk was in a counter where you had to bend over to slide the door and one of
those big boobs got away. So slow talking Happy says,"Well...mam...if...you...don't...mind...I...prefer...mine...out...of
...a...bottle." I just about fell off the chair. Another time in Victorville he and I went into a restaurant to get something to eat and he went into the bathroom. Well, when he came out he had forgotten to button his coveralls up. This waitress looked over at him and said, "Say old timer you'd better close your barn door or your horse will get out." He looks down and he says, "No...mam...what...can't...get...up...can't...get...out."
Rule G. Well, one day it's colder than Hell in Victorville and on helper service what we did was help a train from Victorville to Summit and then come running back. Now the engineers that had any guts would say, "Hell, I'm not going to back that engine down with
that cold air blowing down over that tank. I'm gonna turn on the wye." The dispatcher didn't care since it was just a little extra time and travel. But some of them would back that engine down 20 some miles with that cold air blowing over. They did have a curtain
you could pull down but that didn't do a bit of good. Oh God, you'd just freeze your ass off. So those with guts would turn on the wye at Summit and then once back at Victorville turn at the wye there. Well, we'd come down at about 2:30 in the morning...cold? Damn! I went into the restaurant and the waitress who had been there for a little while. She says, "Roy, I have something behind the counter that you might want." What it was was a slug of whiskey. I thought OK this was pretty good but I just sipped it and it didn't taste right so I didn't drink it. Then I was sitting on a stool cause I
went around and she gave me what I had ordered and I noticed that she and her boyfriend were sitting back there in a booth and watching me intently. Pretty soon things started to swim. I knew that if I got up I'd go down so I thought if I sat there long enough
there's going to be another train crew. Sure enough they did and I said, "Hey, get me out of here I think I've been slipped a Mickey." So they did and they took me over to the bunk house and I got over it in maybe an hour but I had only taken just a sip. What they had planned on doing was mug me and take everything I had and then pour whiskey on me. She disappeared. There was another one who disappeared too. What she would do,
in Barstow it was too dangerous to go through the yards and we would have to use the viaduct to go from the shops to the roundhouse. It just wasn't worth it but it was a good mile using the via duct. In the winter the wind would be blowing and it would be cold and in the summer hotter than the seven shades of Hell. There was a fellow who was taken out of service for diabetes. He was a brakeman or a switchman or something. He bought several refrigerator cars and he turned them into little bunk houses. They were insulated so you could keep them warm or you could keep them cool. They had two beds in each room and he had a little cafe to go along with them. The call-boys could come and get you. He had a gal who took care of them and made the beds. There was a good looking gal who worked in that restaurant and I noticed one thing. If you had a wedding ring
on she was sweeter than honey but if you didn't have a ring on she didn't pay any attention to you. What she would do is she had a little ranch out there and she would get these married guys interested and they would go out and spend the night with her and a
couple of months later she'd come over and say, "Hey old buddy guess what and what are you going to do about it?" One day they found her beat to death. They never found out who did it. She did it once too often. That was one of the things the company was death on. They used to put women on board and try and seduce the conductors and
brakemen. They were death on adultery. I'm a light sleeper and once I wake up i don't go back to sleep very easily. Anyway this woman who took care of these bunk houses
would come into the room if somebody got called and remake the bed which would wake me up. I asked her not to come in but she didn't pay any attention to me. One time I was sleeping and there were like two bunk beds but they were separated farther apart and what she did was come in to make this other bed and she had laid the broom against my bed. She was bent clear over and I took that broom stick and goosed her right in the ass. She let out a yelp you could hear all over but she never came into that room again when I was sleeping. She was deaf as a post and all of us railroad men chipped together and bought her a hearing aid and she wouldn't wear it. That cafe there was a good place to get something to eat and that guy made a good living at it.

Now a lot of guys would walk across this via duct and the river was down below it and they had these shacks built and they would live in those shacks. They could hold us in Barstow for 36 hours and now they have a van waiting for you to take you home.
It was double tracked at Summit with a depot and there was a very good looking telegraph operator's wife who supplemented their income by making the most delicious pies and coffee. So the train crew's would go over there and she would sell them pie and coffee. It was appreciated. I was coming west and we made the air test, we checked air brakes both ways although they didn't set retainers on the east bounds. I pulled up and I had just enough time to go to Cajon for a passenger train so I was eager to go. I looked back and made the test and what I mistook was the fact that I saw a high ball from the train next to us not ours. I took off down the hill. The conductor, the head brakeman, and the swing man were eating pie and drinking coffee in the telegraph operator's office. They couldn't get across because the other train was moving and I was leaving. They had left a student brakeman on the caboose so when the train finally cleared here they were running behind the train trying to catch the caboose and this conductor yelled to the student brakeman, "Don't leave us son...don't leave us." So the student jumped off. The fireman is looking back and he says, "You know, I don't see a soul." I thought, "Uh oh." There was a siding down so we lined into there and after we were in the clear he reset the switch. 20
minutes later here come the passenger train. It slowed down and all of the crew got off and got on our train. That conductor was so mad he was jumping over the box cars. He says, "Boy, when we get down your ass is mud. I'm gonna turn you in." I says, "Think about it a little bit. If you turn me in you'll be turning yourself in." That was the end of that.

In those days Corona was just a wide spot in the road. I had this engineer named Wild Bill Connely and he had a terrible temper. Nobody could fix an engine to please him. We stopped to take on water and I was taking on water from the tank and he was down
swearing at the round house crew and he had one of those big old knuckle busting wrenches. Finally I heard this horrible scream. I went down and he was laying on the ground holding his head. It had slipped off the nut and hit him on the glasses, broken the glasses and drove a piece of glass up under his eye. I thought it was into the eyeball but it wasn't though I didn't know that until later. He was laying there and it was in the middle of the night. I went back to the little passenger train we had and asked the conductor if
anyone on board was an engineman and he said that the trainmaster was on board. I asked him if he could fire a locomotive and he asked what was wrong so I told him. We laid him on the deck of the cab and kept him still. I ran the locomotive to LA and dropped off a note so there was an ambulance waiting there and they took him to the
hospital.


There were these work trains that might be doing weed burning or laying new rail or any number of things. Of course they had a bunch of gandy dancers and most of the gandy dancers of the regular type were Mexican fellows. They were pretty good workers and they lived in little houses along the rail. They took care of a section of track. When they laid rail they had these outfit cars and a cook car and all that. They were mostly black. We were working on Cajon Pass and went to lunch and all the blacks got in the outfit car and got to gambling. When it was time to go back to work they wouldn't quit. We had a foreman who was half Mexican and half Italian and he had the temperament of a Mexican. He said to the brakeman, "Brakey, lend me your brake club. I'm going in there and straighten those sons-of-bitches out." The brakeman handed him the club but he warned him that he had better stay out of there. Well, he didn't. He busted in there and started swinging. About 30 seconds later he came out holding his insides cause they had cut him wide open. We put him in the locomotive and made a run for the Santa Fe hospital and he lived. I just headed into the rip track at San Bernardino and the Santa Fe hospital was right there. I think they had to take about 10 or 15 feet of his intestines but he lived. Another time with Tom Cooksie who taught me how to run a locomotive. We had our lunch and what we would do is I would bring it one day and he would bring it the next. This time he brought some chili beans in a big old can and set it up on the fountain head which is the steam chamber where you open up the blower. I said, "Tom don't put it up there, it will blow up." "Ah" he says, "You're full of baloney, it don't get hot enough up there to blow up a can of beans." By golly, it was almost lunch time and BOOM! Well, I'm friendly so I went down and told the Mexican cook our plight and he gave me a great big plate of beans and tortillas. Now it can be 100 degrees in the shade and when it came time to eat those Mexican's would build a fire and put their tortillas in to cook. I brought
the plate back on the engine and Tom looks over and says, "Where's mine?" I said, "If you want some go down and get them. Your's are all over the ceiling." Of course he had a few choice words about that.


It seemed that the worse you treated him the better he liked it. He would get beat up all the time. Some great big brakeman who he wouldn't have a chance against and he would call him everything he could think of and they would say, "Tom, you get down on the
ground and I'll knock you down." Down he'd go and they'd look at him because he was a little guy and they'd be ashamed to hit him so usually they'd just back hand him and send him rolling. He'd get up swearing and cussing and happy as a jaybird. I often wondered what made him that way. I believe that it was that he came from a very religious family and if he got out of line at all his father would take a stick to him and really work him over. He remembered one time that he shot a rabbit on Sunday and his mother had fixed it. His father found out he had shot it on Sunday so he threw the whole thing out and beat the Hell out of him. But, he was sure one engine man. I don't think there was any better. There's a lot of characters on the railroad.


The Santa Fe engines had a different water glass than the UP engines. I don't know who made the UP engines but they had a flat glass and it was metal except for the one side and the glass was real thick. I don't think that they had the problem that we had
with ours. Our's were about 18" long and about as big around as my index finger and they'd break every once in awhile. There was one nice thing in that you had a good visual idea of how much water you had in the crown. Imagine that you are going up Cajon Pass and the water would be clear up almost to the top and when you tip over the
water would only show at about a half inch. You didn't dare let that get out of sight. How I was so popular with Dirty Neck Millikan was the fact that I learned how to carry the water low because that was what he wanted. Water spills over to the super heater pipes and washes the lubrication off of the cylinders and it won't go as fast and he didn't like that. He was fast. What I would do as he would be going like Hell when he would shut the engine off and when he did the water would drop out of sight. I'd just put the fire out. I'd leave the fire out because it was hot and it was so hot in those fire boxes that the second that oil hit those hot fire bricks it would ignite it instantly and when he'd open the throttle and the water come up inside I'd put the fire back on. That was the way we
worked. We worked together real close but that was the way he wanted the water carried and if you couldn't carry it that way he would run you off. Back during World War II it was very busy and I made friends with all of the crews too. I had ham and stuff. I'd invite them into the cab and they'd bring me a ham or something else and we ate
a lot of spam too. A lot of things were coming west and what they would do is put us on a passenger train or rarely a caboose and take us to Barstow to bring a train and then if they had time they would send us back over to bring another one. That was 15 hours and 59 minutes. If that time ran out you'd go into a siding. They never relented one little bit. It was the dispatcher's job to make sure we didn't have to take a troop train into a siding while we got our rest. It didn't happen often.

Another thing they never relaxed was that 3 year period as a fireman. Even during the war and they could have. How they used to start training a prospective fireman. They had the round house and the turn table and up until World War II I don't think there was
anyone who went to work for the railroad who didn't have a relative who worked on the railroad. You would get wind that they were going to hire some apprentice firemen so you would go down and apply and take your physical and if you passed that you'd go to work in the round house. I started in the round house in late 37 or 38. You started to learn about locomotives literally from the ground up. They had a round house foreman named "Humpy" Leonard because he had a hunch. He had a nervous habit of making his jaws go like he was gasping for air. He was one ornery old son-of-a-bitch. You'd go to
work and you'd work 7 days a week 8 hours a day with no day off and no vacation no sick time and if you laid off to much they fired you. What they were doing was conditioning you for the kind of work you were going to be doing. You were on 24 hour call 7 days a week 365 days a year when you were a fireman and for the engineer too.
That's the way it was in those days.


You would go to work and they would find the dirtiest, nastiest jobs that you can imagine to put you on. Just testing your mettle. What they would do is the sludge forms in those oil tanks just black as can be like black lard. You had these scoops and they would pump air in because otherwise you couldn't breath and you would scoop that stuff out of the bottom of the tank...scrape it out and put it in buckets. Then they would steam them out. Steaming them out was one of the nice jobs when you first started. You had just boots and no gloves unless you bought them. At the end of the day I'd just be covered with grime and oil but that was how they started you. One time my father said to Humpy, "What's the matter with that boy? he comes home looking like a pig." And Humpy said,
"Oh, he's doing just fine." Then they would start you to cleaning journals and I can remember that they had two cleaning processes. One of them was alcohol and the other was kerosene. I found out that if you put a little alcohol in the kerosene it cleaned the
stuff really good. I had this big set of wheels and journals and I was cleaning and you could smell that alcohol for a block and here came "Humpy". Humpy came along and he looked at me SNIFF SNIFF to let me know that he knew I had alcohol in that stuff and he rubbed his hand over that journal and it was spotless. He says, "Son, that's as smooth as a school marm's ass." And he walked off. There was another fellow there that...we went to work at seven and got off at 3:30 but if something happened and you worked over your lunch time you got off at 3:00. Well, he would always find some excuse to work overtime like build a fire in a pit and then put it out or something like that. He always had this wheel barrow with him and I don't think he ever did a lick of work. Of course that didn't go unnoticed. When time came to move on and get your physical they fired him cause he wasn't going to make it. There was no smoking in the round house and he smoked so here he was with the wheel barrow and he had a cigarette and when he saw Humpy Leonard coming he cupped it and put it down in his pocket. Well, Humpy
Leonard usually paid no attention to anybody but he stopped and said, "Son, how are you getting along? Are you married?" and he went on and on as this guy was getting more and more uncomfortable about that cigarette. Finally he said, "Put that God Damn cigarette out before you burn yourself up."


Another time there was this rather plump fellow and he was not very bright. Humpy Leonard's office was next to the turn table and the phone rang and the clerk called out to this fellow and says, "Call Humpy, he's wanted on the phone." The guy goes out and Humpy Leonard was quite a ways off so he screams at the top of his lungs, "Hey Humpy." Humpy came to a dead stop, turned around slow, straightened himself up as much as possible and he said, "What did you say?" The poor guy says, "Humpy." Well, Humpy went into the office and answered the phone and then he came back out and says, "Hey son, come on here into the office. I have something for you to sign." He fired him right there. The next thing they had you do was wipe down the jackets. What did, they had the boiler and they had asbestos and then there was a metal jacket over that. What you would do was go up and clean that with kerosene...just wipe it off and make it like it was polished. The next step was fire builder. A steam locomotive until it has a
head of steam is helpless. It's dead as a mackerel. When the boiler makers get through working on it and it's time to fire the engine up it was my job to...you'd fit inside the boiler up against the crown sheet gas jets and put them in there and fire it with gas, natural
gas, and then as the steam built up everything started working. You'd turn the gas off, pull out the gas line, and the thing was ready to go. You'd build enough steam until you could get the air pumps to work and the dynamo. Then they had what they called a "spot goat" and they started teaching you how to handle it. The tank was over the boiler and didn't have any tender and it was your job to keep that spot goat hot and to keep it from popping off all the time. You had to learn how to adjust the fire. Anyway that was my
job to build the fire in the locomotives that had just been repaired and keep that spot goat ready to go. Well, the spot goat sat near Humpy's office about 40 feet away. I hadn't adjusted it right and it was putting out smoke. The smoke was blowing in his office. On
top of that I was busy doing something else and it was popping off..pop...pop...pop...pop. He called me in the office and he said, "Roy, I want you to have the hostler move that spot goat out of my sight. I don't want to see that spot goat again today and on top of that I don't want to see you again today." They used hostlers to move the engines. They never used us. The hostler was usually somebody who had been disqualified for something like diabetes or whatever. That was who they used for
hostlers. They kept two of them in the round house all of the time. After the spot goat I got to be 21 and the day I got to be 21 they made me a fireman.


They had a fellow by the name of "Cash" Weibel and he was the tightest man I ever knew. He never would rent a bed when he went to Barstow. I don't care what! He would never eat. He brought his lunch and if he ran out he would do without. He owned half of San Bernardino. The depression came along and he owned maybe thirty or
forty houses and he never put a person out who worked for the railroad who was delinquent because he had been laid off. He was a fine man and everybody respected him. I remember one time I was broke and we stayed over in Barstow longer than usual so we stopped in Victorville and the rest of the crew went to get something to eat
and I didn't have any money. He asked him if I was going to get something to eat and I told him no. He didn't ask why, he knew why so he just reached into his pocket a gave me five bucks and of course I paid him back. He had two boys and if you were an engine
man your sons could not be in engine service. They had to be brakemen and if you were a conductor your son couldn't become a brakeman he'd have to become an engine man.
Something very very sad. Railroad strike...devistating. There was a fellow by the name of Jesse Ficus who had some sort of a heart problem. He also had a daughter who was an invalid who was in extremely poor health all of her short life and he had to take care
of. This strike came along in the mid fifties. It was an engine man's strike and they told Jesse Ficus "You take Number 4 out or you're not going to pass the next physical." So he did. Then he was shunned. I was in Barstow and I saw Jesse sitting on a park bench. He was a nice guy and I went over and sat down and talked to him for a long time. He told me the story and of course he was just devastated. When we finished talking I decided to go downtown to get something to eat. I'm not a violent person normally but I went into this restaurant and a union official was sitting there. He says, "I saw you talking to Jesse Ficus." I told him, "He's a friend of mine and I may not approve of what he did but I'm not going to abandon him." He made a smart remark and I lost my temper and knocked him on his ass. His wife was there and I picked him up and knocked him down again and she jumped on my back and started hitting me over the head with her purse. That was the end of it but Jesse died shortly afterwards.


During the depression what the railroad men would do, see you worked 365 days a year and you didn't have to lay off, but the guys would work until they'd made enough money to feed their family and then they would lay off and let somebody else work. There were a few who never laid off a day and they were ostracized. Talking about tapping to check the engine. There was this fellow who was an engine man working in the yard with a yard engine and he broke his leg in an automobile accident. They took him to the Santa Fe Hospital and that leg wouldn't heal. The Santa Fe Hospital was going to amputate it and all of the railroad men got together and flew a specialist down from San Francisco and he saved that leg. The fellow got back to work and worked about three months
and fell and broke the other leg. Of course this time they knew what to do. They got that healed up and he got back to work again, worked about two months and as he walked around inspecting the engine there is a brass cock on the main reservoir and as he walked
by that brass cock blew off, hit him in the head and killed him. Another interesting story...on the second district at Duarte there was a little girl who was hospitalized for a long time and every train that would come by she never missed coming out and
waving at the train so she got to be a regular fixture. Her mother had to work and she was home alone so the railroad men got an old semaphore signal and they mounted it in front of her house and if she got sick all she had to do is push this button and it would drop it down in stop position and every train was instructed to stop and see if they could help. It never occurred but there was an engineer who was a little bit ahead of me whose name was Harold Busse. He was a blowhard. He came home one day from work and his wife had sold every stick of furniture in the house, stripped that house clean, charged everything she could and split. He ended up marrying that girl. I remember one time we had this board of examiners that examined us. We had the Air Man, the Machinery Man, the Book of Rules Man, and you went from one to the other. There were actually six of them spaced around and you could hear what was going on. Walter Stenneman was one of the examiners and he threw his pencil down and he says, "You know Busse, I don't know about you. Remember if I OK you for machinery here I'm responsible. I don't know if I want to assume that responsibility or not because I don't think that you're going to be an engineer." Busse's face just fell. Finally when he got all through Walter says, "You see that rain barrel out there? Go and run out there and put your head down in it and yell 'engineer Busse, engineer Busse.'" Trying to knock his ego down. years later when I was assigned around LA as an engineer Busse was in there and had a whole group of student firemen because the war was coming on and they were hiring as many as they could. He says, "You know, 22 of us took the examination during that period and 5 of us made it. I just didn't have time to help the rest of them." I was drinking coffee and I spit that coffee all over the counter I was laughing so hard.


There was another engineman named Anderson and they were jealous of one another so what the crew would do if they were working with Anderson they'd brag on Busse and if they were working with Busse they'd brag on Anderson. They hated one another.
Finally they got into a fist fight in that little restaurant. They're probably both gone by now, I know Anderson is. But those are the things that keep you going...that's what keeps us all going, a sense of humor.

- Roy Pierce

 


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