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Edition #267  April 1, 2016

Company Man

Photographer: Keith Clouse

                                                                                 Photo by  Keith Clouse

 

Company Man

Pat Dugan is on the company phone, setting up the power for a coal train heading up Western Marylandís Black Fork Grade through Blackwater Canyon. Itís one of many tasks he takes on every day at the Elkins terminal. Next heíll go out and check the status of the locomotives, talk to the carman about fixing a bad order hopper then return to his office to order supplies for the roundhouse. He has worked for the Western Maryland his entire career, the essential company man.

Patís title was General Foreman Maintenance of Equipment-Elkins, a catch-all phrase that meant doing whatever it takes to keep the railroad moving. He ran the locomotive and car repair shops. Elkins, like many small terminals in Appalachian coal country, functioned more like a short line than a class 1 railroad facility. It had a blacksmith shop, outdoor car repair sheds and a roundhouse.

Pat led his men by example, picking up the necessary tools to do a job; mutual respect was evident. On one visit we met him walking out to a set of four GP9s carrying a set of wrenches. Rather than take a carman away from a job he was working on, Pat was going to remove the footboards from the locomotives. While spinning off the lugs he explained how the tight curves on the line to Slaty Fork forced the pilots together smashing the footboards. Removing them saved the company time and money.

Pat was a real gentleman, very proud of his Western Maryland Railway. He welcomed railfans, allowing us to roam freely thru the property, asking only that we act safely. Pat was a bear of a man, but frequently as with men his size, easy going. He would light up when we arrived at the roundhouse, summon a hostler to move around some locomotive so we could get a good shot. His pride in the railroad was evident; an F7A with a bare metal patch on its side sat on the ready track, power for a Black Fork run. Pat frowned at it and asked that we not take a photo of the unit: "Looks bad for the company.Ē

 He was a consummate company man who liked his job; they are hard to find anymore.

Keith Clouse

 

 

The next edition will be posted on April 15, 2016

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