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Edition #66, November 15, 2007

Trouble at Kamps Cut

Photographer: Gene P. Schaeffer

                                                                   Photo by Gene P. Schaeffer

Trouble at Kamps Cut 

                                                                                                    While looking through the slides this morning, was this image...

                                                                                                    From August 11, 1975.

                                                                                                    Its labeled the derailment occurred at 7:25 AM,

                                                                                                    Engines 77-73-74-75, this scene looks west showing engines

                                                                                                    75 & 74 sitting there, 1000 feet west of the loaded yard switch...

                                                                                                    The locomotives are un-coupled as the crew made a valiant attempt...

                                                                                                    In putting ‘em back on the 115 pound rail.

                                                                                                    The rerailing process was terribly complicated as memory serves.

                                                                                                    The 115 pound rail, a train of coal coupled to the East locomotive...

                                                                                                    With the derailment inside the curve...of Kamps Cut.

                                                                                                    West of the loaded yard at Montour #4.

                                                                                                    Wood blocks are scattered everywhere, which illustrates to me

                                                                                                    lots of frustration was experienced that morning.

                                                                                                    Locomotive journal box's lids are open so the crew knows which

                                                                                                    friction bearing brass are out of place and will need adjusted once

                                                                                                    the locomotives are back up on the rail...

                                                                                                    (something I watched many times but never photographed - jacking

                                                                                                    a single journal box just a inch or so, the car department using a

                                                                                                    steel bar, nudging the errant journal box brass back

                                                                                                    into its proper position so the axle isn't cut

                                                                                                    and the engine weight is resting properly on each axle...)

 

                                                                                                    Now look into the shadows beneath the locomotive...

                                                                                                    Look at the rail, surrounded by a miniature mountain of sand...

                                                                                                    The story is told, this railroad hauls tonnage...

                                                                                                    These SW-9's each day battled the elements of rickety rail,

                                                                                                    hill and dale and tonnage coal trains.

 

                                                                                                    On the Montour Railroad, during the last decade of operations,

                                                                                                    train crews had no chance at getting that head start at those hills.

                                                                                                    These train crews were restricted to 15 MPH and if you were in a

                                                                                                    slow order, now you were down to 5 MPH and best not even try

                                                                                                    to take a run at a hill.

                                                                                                    The rail was old and worn out...

                                                                                                    The roadbed was rotted and wide gauge or broken rails were your enemy...

                                                                                                    Crews simply eased into each grade, throttled up as the weight

                                                                                                    of all that coal came off the opposing downhill, and dragging brakes

                                                                                                    slowly released themselves as the SW-9's were put to task of taking

                                                                                                    that Pittsburgh Seam Coal back up the other side, sanders hissing away

                                                                                                    as traction motor blowers blew the dust off the pulverized sand out

                                                                                                    from under the locomotives...

                                                                                                    Many times all went well...

                                                                                                    But many times those unique SW-9s...

                                                                                                    in multiple...

                                                                                                    simply tore the train

                                                                                                    into two.

                                                                                                    A broken knuckle...a pulled drawbar...a hi-low coupler...

                                                                                                    Sometimes a wheel slip from a low track joint or simply just

                                                                                                    The SW-9's losing their footing starting back up the other side...

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                    Now the train was in two pieces...

                                                                                                    And the process was about to begin all over...

                                                                                                    Replace the broken knuckle...

                                                                                                    Remove the defective car with the pulled coupler...

                                                                                                    Hi-Low couplers were dealt with by using ties plates or old track spikes...

                                                                                                    Sanders going...

 

                                                                                                    The train is back together...but don't just yet put the air back inside em...

                                                                                                    Not here on this hill, with head end slack in...

                                                                                                    Couple back up and step aside...

                                                                                                    And the "go-ahead" sign given...

                                                                                                    The engines throttle out gently...

                                                                                                    Squealing brakes restrict to a terribly slow speed...

                                                                                                    Slack is removed ever so slowly...

                                                                                                    So not to again break another knuckle...

                                                                                                    Or pull yet another drawbar...

                                                                                                    Sanders are still hissing away as 3 or 4 SW-9's bite into sanded rail...

                                                                                                    With slack removed, nerves tense on the right hand seat box...

                                                                                                    The brakeman steps between the cars...

                                                                                                    And ever so slowly puts the air back in em...

                                                                                                    Moments later, exhaust sounds from releasing brakes...

                                                                                                    And the SW-9's are back at work keeping the train stationary as

                                                                                                    the weight of those 33 or 44 loads of coal burdens the brakes of the SW-9's...

                                                                                                    The train is supposed to go one direction...

                                                                                                    But the weight and the nature of gravity suggests another...

                                                                                                    The brakeman returns to the engines...

                                                                                                    Air gauges are watched and the radio crackles from the caboose,

                                                                                                    Air is releasing...

 

                                                                                                    The SW-9's are nursed forward...

                                                                                                    Driving wheels under the SW-9's attempt to start 3,000 or 4,000 tons

                                                                                                    of bituminous...

                                                                                                    The engineman tense as not to apply too much power too quickly...

                                                                                                    And tear this train back apart...

 

                                                                                                    Back and forth the throttle went...

                                                                                                    The wheel slip light in the cab recognizes small wheels slips...

                                                                                                    The rail below  reverberates from each slip...

                                                                                                    Each driver carrying roughly 16 tons of engine weight...

                                                                                                    Yes, those SW-9's are just 1200 horses each...

                                                                                                    And yes they weigh a measly 125 tons in comparison...

                                                                                                    Slowly...ever so slowly...the SW-9's are throttled up...

                                                                                                    The melody of General Motors 567 diesel engines...

                                                                                                    Under load...with rattling hood doors...

                                                                                                    And ever so slowly, that train of coal was taken from a dead stop...

                                                                                                    And put back into motion...

                                                                                                    Ever so gently...

 

                                                                                                    The ear shattering bangs of car couplers being stretched...

                                                                                                    And the determination of those quaint little SW-9's...

                                                                                                    Heading ‘em back up the hill...

                                                                                                    And you wonder, a small mountain of sand...

                                                                                                    How meaningless...

                                                                                                    Discarded there on the right of way...

                                                                                                    Used and forgotten...

                                                                                                    But in the eyes of many...

                                                                                                    A much bigger story to tell...

                                                                                                    About those days along

                                                                                                    The Montour Railroad Company.

                                                                                                    Gene P. Schaeffer

 

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Revised: 07/15/09 10:26:59 -0400