Railroaders place to shoot the shit.

Members Login
    Remember Me  
Post Info TOPIC: Mighty fine member from mighty fine line

500 - Internal Server Error

Status: Offline
Posts: 36096
Mighty fine member from mighty fine line

Mighty fine member from mighty fine line
PRATT, Kan. After 36 years as a brakeman and conductor, Rick Holland pulled to the siding and shut down for the final time on June 30, according to the Pratt Tribune.

(Holland is a member of UTULocal 1227, Wichita, Kan.)

Holland joined the Rock Island Railroad on March 10, 1974. He is the last former Rock Island employee from Pratt. Other railroaders have moved to Pratt but he is a native and has lived in Pratt all 36 years.

He started as a brakemen then took on the conductors duties when he went to work for Cotton Belt when they bought Rock Island in 1980. He continued to work for successive railroads that bought the line through Pratt, including the current Union Pacific.

Hollands duties included picking up and setting out cars on sidings, inspecting trains and switching sidings.

He did runs from Pratt to Herrington, Pratt to Liberal and Pratt to Dalhart, Texas.

Railroaders do not keep set hours. They can be called out on a run at any time of the day or night. They get about an hour and a half lead-time then they have to be ready to go. It was those unusual hours that Holland liked about the job.

I really liked the irregular hours, Holland said.

While he liked the variety of hours it was also a physical challenge to keep up with the ever-changing schedule.

It was something you had to deal with. It probably affected us in ways we didnt realize, Holland said.

He also likes the stack trains that carry the cargo containers the best. They are more trouble free and have reduced slack between cars. He also enjoys the graffiti art on the cars.

When he was in Pratt, Holland would go home between runs. When he was in Herrington or Liberal he would stay in a railroad dormitory. At Dalhart he would stay in a motel. He also kept a car at the away location so he could go out if he wanted. He still has the car, a rusty 1973 Chevy with 97,951 miles, and it sits in his yard.

But he usually didnt have time to go anywhere and just stayed in and rested for his next run. Sometimes he would go out for a meal or sit and visit with other railroaders.

Crews were required to get eight hours of rest between runs when he first started. Now it is 10 hours of undisturbed rest.

The trip to Herrington was 127 miles and took from three to 12 hours depending on traffic, picking up and putting cars off on sidings and the occasional break down. The 244-mile trip to Dalhart would take from eight to 12 hours.

Over his 36 years Holland met a lot of railroaders. One of the first that was special to him was Richard Mardis, now deceased. Mardis was a conductor and took Holland under his wing. Holland was brakeman for him and really liked his sense of humor and wit, Holland said as he chocked up thinking about his long time friend.

A lot has changed during his 36 years on the railroad. When he started he was in the caboose and when the train would pull off the main line and get on the siding he would get out and move the switch back to the main line position.

When the railroads got rid of the cabooses Holland would get out of the lead locomotive, throw the switch and wait while the train would pull off the siding. Then he would have to walk the entire length of the train to get back in the locomotive.

Now the dispatcher uses Centralized Traffic Control to remotely move the switches and Holland doesnt even have to get off the train when it goes on a siding, Holland said.

That system is active west of Pratt but not in the east yet.

The cabs are a lot more comfortable now with air conditioning and they are much quieter. While those conveniences are nice, Holland still prefers the caboose.

That was another big change when the railroads abandoned the cabooses and put the entire crew in the lead locomotive.

The dispatchers also keep track of weather and inform the crew if they are heading into high wind or high water. Trains have a blow-over speed and if wind gets too high dispatch will either have the train slow down or stop.

When a train has a derailment it is something a railroader never forgets. Holland went through a few but the locomotives and cabooses he was in were never involved. Its a unique experience to hear the train automatically go into emergency when a derailment happens. Three he went through we caused by mechanical problems.

Its an experience you never forget, Holland said.

Holland is reluctant to speak about accidents during his years on the railroad. Although trains he was on were involved in accidents he said he saw fewer then other railroaders.

With the long trips trains went over lots of crossings and that provided lots of opportunities for accidents. Many people dont realize that a train cant stop like a vehicle.

Drivers are in control of their destiny and the crew cant do anything but sound the horn. The crew is aware of what might happen the whole time they are blowing the whistle.

You just feel helpless, Holland said. You hope they stop.

When an accident happens it has a powerful impact on the crew.

Of course any kind of accident sticks in your mind, Holland said.

(This item appeared July 9, 2010, in the Pratt Tribune. Additional information added by UTU editors.)

July 9, 2010


Equal Opportunity Annoyer

Troll The Anti-Fast Freight Freddie

Page 1 of 1  sorted by
Quick Reply

Please log in to post quick replies.

Please log in to join the chat!