Passenger Conductor Memories, Part Two
As I thumb my way through my train book now and look at those pages of 30 years ago, each page recalls a different experience and something special about each trip. For instance, it is nice to remember that in 1957 I worked one of three Derby Specials leaving Chicago behind train number 3 that night. Running a passenger train as four sections was a rare occasion for the little Monon. Although I was told, that it was a common occurrence to run many sections of the Derby train in the period before the automobile and busses. Certainly it was a struggle for the Monon to come up with a lot of extra motive power.
In the 50’s it seemed to me that we always managed to have football specials for the Purdue/ Indiana games, even the Purdue/ Notre Dame games once in a while a Purdue/ Michigan State game. For the Notre Dame games we ran to Michigan City and returned, leaving the passengers to get to South Bend from there. On my first trip on a football special I thought I would try to make a good appearance so I had my uniform specially cleaned. I bought a new white shirt and had my black shoes polished so that you could see your reflection.
The train had four coaches, a rail car and a baggage car that had been converted into a bar. The coming to Lafayette was fine but the return was something else. I thought we were never gonna be able to get away from Lafayette as the people kept wandering around the outside of the train, still celebrating. Some how we had to pour them on the train although some just got left behind in Lafayette.
We finally got started and I proceeded through the train collecting tickets. Go to one passenger standing in the middle of the aisle swaying side to side with the train, seriously holding his can of beer. When I asked him for his ticket, he said, “sure cap.” Leaning up against me and, as he reached into his inside pocket, he proceeded to pour the can of beer down the front of me. I never was able to get all the stain out of my clothes. But, I learned a lesson. It was a good one. From that day on, I kept a uniform especially for use on football specials.
I recall a nice trip on a passenger train out of Lafayette one year in which we had four cars and all of them full. Three hundred and fifty passengers going to a Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees game. When we got to Chicago we stopped at 35th Street right along side of Comiskey Park where we unloaded the passengers. The crew took the train into Dearborn Station to await the return trip in the evening.
The game was a double header with the final game going into extra innings. I thought we never were gonna get started back from Chicago. We stood around waiting, and waiting for what seemed like hours. The dispatcher changed my running orders and meet orders so many times that, by the time the game was over and I again went to his office, I just reached around the corner and handed him the orders just so he wouldn’t be able to look at me again and start yelling. I still hadn’t learned how to yell back like all the other old grouchy conductors did.
By Jim Strother, as originally written in The Hoosier Line. Volume 13, Number 2
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