December 29, 2023 at 4:48 am #3012Peter BaumhefnerKeymaster
Viewed by some operating employees as unnecessary and a hassle, field testing of employees about their knowledge of the operating rules was extremely important from my perspective. All employees were required to have an approved railroad watch, book of rules and employee timetables applicable to their area of operation in their possession while on duty. These were the easy tests. The harder tests involved setting up torpedoes, yellow flag and an unattended red flag. Once the train stopped short of the unattended red flag the rules stated it could proceed at restricted speed until a green flag was identified and passed. We would always be positioned about a half mile beyond the unattended red flag and once the train got close to us we would come out of the “bushes” and give a stop sign with a railroad lantern. Hopefully the train would stop short of us. We would then board the lead locomotive and question the crew about what they had observed and how they were going to proceed. Most crew members understood the need for tests like this, but there were some who just did not agree with the effort and would let us know how they felt about it. For those who were in the operating crafts on the railroad, how did you feel about efficiency testing? Did you go along with it, or did you view it as harassment?January 19, 2024 at 1:08 am #3967Jack CorrickParticipant
Do you have the date that the FRA mandated Field (or Efficiency) testing; or does the Feds involvement go back to the old ICC days? Many times the employee complaints came because the “testers” would pick the very worst place on the whole sub-division to stop a heavy (the Espee had no other kind) freight train!January 19, 2024 at 4:21 am #3973Jack FullerParticipant
Every test I performed was a replication of situations a crew might encounter on a reasonable trip. I always thought a signal test was the most realistic condition. During my tenure at Ozol there were three signal test failures. One Engineer accused me of ‘setting a trap’, until we discussed what would have happened had a caboose been 2 cars beyond the Stop and Proceed signal that he got by. That ended the discussion.
While at City of Industry, a favorite testing sight was between West Montclair and East Pomona. A shunt would be placed between these points, and performance observed. One tested train was the PTCIY, which performed as required at East Montclair. Two days later, another PTCIY failed to stop, and sideswiped an eastward pig train. First question Krebs asked was “What are the testing records of the officers on this division?” Jobs saved. Had we been on site on the day of the collision, we would have been eye-witnesses.January 19, 2024 at 5:32 am #3978afox905Participant
As a manager I found testing useful. I generally tried to do it in a low key way. Even if I was with other officers, I would try to visit with individual employees one-on-one to avoid potentially embarrassing them in front of other managers or peers if we didn’t observe what we should have observed. The most entertaining was joint testing with managers from other railroads on joint track.
I agree with Jack, in that signal tests were the most realistic. Unattended red flags in the middle of the night were a give away, but could still be useful.
As a T&E employee, though, I resented them. I was lucky in that I consistently managed to avoid the infamous stump the stump question sessions associated with “Lacy’s raiders.” The closest I came was one night at Morgan Hill when I was a brakeman one a Pool 4 crew. We knew it was a test and when we stopped I was off the caboose so fast “to inspect my train” that I was many car lengths away before the testers could arrive at the caboose to grill the conductor. We didn’t have personal radios then so there was no calling me back. Once I got far enough from the caboose, I slowed my “inspection” down so as not to arrive at the head end too quickly. Eventually, the brakes released before I reached the engines and the train pulled slowly forward until I could swing aboard, smug in the knowledge that had avoided what would have been my first introduction the W. J. Lacy.January 19, 2024 at 3:12 pm #3979Robert FarringerParticipant
Efficiency testing never bothered me; in fact, some were thought-provoking situations and others downright funny. Referring to Jack Fuller’s comments, I recall one time he was conducting a test at an eastbound overhead signal near Crockett and the crew got by a red signal. When “interrogated” by Jack, the head-end crew emphatically stated that the signal was yellow. To Jack’s credit, he replicated the test at the same time on another day and found that the crew was correct; the signal did appear to display a yellow aspect because of the sun’s rays directly striking the signal head. In checking with the local signal maintainer, they found that the normal signal filter (sic?) used to prevent such occurrences was missing. The result was no discipline given the crew.January 21, 2024 at 5:32 am #4073Peter BaumhefnerKeymaster
Andrew’s comment about “Lacy’s Raiders” brought back a chill to my system! I recall my first participation in such an event as a very young
Asst. Trainmaster working out of City of Industry under Mike Mohan who was Trainmaster at the time. Lacy came to town one week and was spending day and night with field efficiency teams on the LA Division. When it was City of Industry’s turn, we all headed down to Bartolo, the junction of the SP Puente Branch and the Union Pacific mainline, over which the Anaheim, Buena Park and Los Nietos Haulers traversed between City of Industry and the sprawling area of Orange County. As the Buena Park Hauler came to a stop at Bartolo we were positioned at the caboose to immediately begin our inspection of the rear end crew and their compliance with the rules. As soon as the train stopped Lacy jumped out of the bushes as the conductor appeared on the rear platform of the caboose. “Hello there Mr. Smith (name changed to protect the innocent)!” “Can you tell me where you are right now?”, Lacy asked. “Well sure, I’m standing right here on the rear of the caboose!”, replied the conductor. All hell broke loose after that and the rear end crew was so flustered I don’t think they answered anything correctly. It was at that time that all of us working at City of Industry decided we would purposefully miss the first question Lacy would ask us, just to get the whole ordeal over with so we could move on with our lives. Fun times!January 22, 2024 at 3:51 pm #4082rollindbParticipant
As an assistant superintendent in Texas, I had heard about Lacy’s raiders but had never conducted a division audit with him as he was the Western Lines general manager at the time. My first experience with a “general manager’s audit” was in 1974 when I was San Antonio asst. supt. at Ennis. For a week we had been out testing and letting folks know that an audit was coming up soon. With most crews that was very effective and almost all crews responded well to the questions from the testing team. Almost. The team had been out testing all night and we set up for one last test on the top end of the Ennis subdivision. It consisted simply of a yellow flag not covered by train order two miles in advance of a red flag. The crew performed perfectly responding to the unattended flags and stopped their train just short of Richardson, TX, between T&P Jct. and Plano. The locomotive engineer was a lanky man with many years of service (he was in his 70’s) who stayed on the west pool jobs which worked north of Ennis so that he would not be under pressure to operate trains such as the BSM at 70 mph. When we boarded the locomotive, we exchanged pleasantries, and I asked Roscoe if I could see his train orders. “Oh, I was afraid you were going to ask me that.” I then asked if he knew where his orders were. Same reply. “I was afraid you were going to ask me that.” Why, Roscoe? “Because we set out the lead engine at Miller Yard and I left the orders on the engine.” OK, then where is your running order for this engine? He just shook his head and said that the dispatcher did not know he had set out the lead engine instead of the rear unit as instructed and that he didn’t think of that until he saw the clear train order signal at T&P Jct. By then he thought he should just simply continue on to Denison, but as soon as he saw the brand new unattended yellow flag, he knew he was facing some time off.January 24, 2024 at 6:58 am #4131Jack FullerParticipant
Some corrections to Robert’s comments. The situation wasn’t an efficiency test, but what at first glance was a Stop signal failure. Crockett Rocket got by a Stop Signal at Costa. Upon interviewing the crew, all claimed that the signal in advance of the home signal at Costa was displaying a Yellow over Yellow — Approach Diverging. Turned out the next signal was Red over Red, not Red over Green. And they got by the signal.
After handling the crew, I went to Crockett to observe the signal, and having the DS not allow passage eastward beyond Costa. The signal displayed what appeared to be a Yellow over Yellow — except it appeared that the bottom Yellow was showing because of the sun shining upon it. That lower head could only display Yellow or Dark.
I had the DS advise the next eastward train – a Capitol Corridor – to stop just west of this signal. Entering the cab, I asked the Engr and Condr what they saw ahead of them. They agreed that it appeared to show Y|Y. I took their names, advising them that they might be witnesses in an investigation – for the accused.
The next day I returned to the location, with my Sweet Bride [an artist] and the Signal Maintainer in tow. We all agreed that the signal was showing Y|Y, where it should have shown Y|Dark. I called Supt. Carl Bradley and advised him of our findings. He said, “Put the Signal man on the phone.”. The Maintainer confirmed our findings, and returned the phone to me. Supt. Bradley said, “Return that crew to service.” End of story.
Well, almost. Turned out that the Foreman on the Rocket was Local Chairman David Corazza. He also was at Crocket, in the distance, observing and, no doubt, taking notes!
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