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Edition #261 January 1, 2016
Waiting for His Train
Photographer: Bob Hughes
Photo by Bob Hughes
Waiting for His Train
As a Tower Operator for the New Haven in 1968, I had a system wide pass for free travel. In those pre-Amtrak days, other ďforeignĒ railroads would issue free or half rate passes to any railroad employee. Train discontinuance petitions were coming fast and furious, so I planned a transcontinental train trip from New York to Montreal, then CNís Supercontinental to Vancouver, and down to San Francisco. I decided to meet up in San Francisco with a college buddy on 30 days R&R from Vietnam, and ride east on the California Zephyr to Chicago.
The CZ was showing her age after 42 years of service, but the WP, D&RGW and CB&Q crews still maintained the high standard of service that made the train a legend. The carpets were worn, but clean, and the train crews worked hard and with pride, even though they knew their days of working on the nationís most famous streamliner were dwindling.
After the spectacular vistas between Oakland and Denver, we settled into the long haul across the prairies. At each station stop we got off to stretch the legs if there was time, or at least stand in the open Dutch door to enjoy the smell of hot brake shoes as the train came to a stop.
I canít recall which station it was that I took this photo of a CB&Q Conductor about to start another trip as the Captain of that dayís westbound California Zephyr. Heís comfortably seated on his strong metal Conductorís case, carrying his paperwork, ticket information, employee timetables, and probably lunch. His shoes are shined, his haircut is military grade, and his uniform is clean and pressed.
The company mail is in a neat bundle held together with multiple rubber bands, keeping the station time slips, ticket sales reports, block sheets, stock orders, and miscellaneous mail in good order. Heís read his copy of the Form 19 train orders, and the engineerís copies are in the hoop, ready for the fireman to snatch as the lead F unit on CZís head end drifts to a stop.
Our Conductor is pensive as he sits, waiting for his train. What is he thinking? Is he reminiscing about years gone by and how relatively quiet things are compared to the old days? Or is he counting the days until he can make his last run and enjoy his pension and maybe even take advantage of interline privileges to ride to other parts of North America? Whatever his thoughts, Iím pretty sure his decision to hire out as a brakeman on the CB&Q so many years ago is with no regrets.
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