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My First Day Working For The Monon

About one month before my 16th birthday, my Mother and a neighbor took me to Lafayette to officially apply for work as an agent/operator on the Monon.  I was planning on beginning work during the summer between my high school classes, however, about two weeks later, 2 weeks before I turned 16, the chief dispatcher called me and asked if could work first trick at McDoel on weekends.  After some deliberation (about 10 seconds) I said yes.

So on the upcoming Friday evening, after school, my parents drove me to Bloomington, about a one hour drive from Clay City.  They left me at a railroaders rooming house on Hillside Drive, just east of McDoel yards, which was run by a lady who happened to have a sister living in Clay City whom my parents knew.  After my parents left, I walked to the yard office, a rather ramshackle building on the west side of the yards.  The second trick operator, Gerald Jordan, whom I had met previously, showed me what to expect on the job the next morning.  After a good nights sleep (probably about 2 hours) I was up and off to the yard office in plenty of time for the day shift.  I relieved a rather colorful character in his own right, named Horace Houde.  He gave me the turnover, a list of train orders to be delivered, and any other helpful information.  He was out the door and, ready or not, I was on my own. 

A speaker was on the desk so I could hear the conversations of the dispatcher, Bob Fogg, and other operators on the line.  Suddenly he called "McDoel".  I answered and he asked me to copy some train orders for the local north which was called at 830AM.  After copying the orders, he asked me to clear the train, I sorted through the appropriate train orders on my desk, recited the order numbers to the dispatcher, he checked his train order book for accuracy, and told me "OK" and the time.  So far, so good.  At that time No. 6 and  No. 5, passenger trains passed McDoel on first trick.  They did not change crews at McDoel so I had to hand their train orders and clearance form A  "on the fly".  The biggest test was No. 6.  He did not hit the indicator in our office until he was at Clear Creek about 4 or 5 minutes away.  After the indicator showed he was approaching, I had to ask the dispatcher if I could clear him.  Again I would recite to the dispatcher the orders which were on my desk addressed to No. 6 or Northward Trains.  The dispatcher would check his train order book, then tell me to clear him.  I would put the time on the clearance form A, staple the orders onto the clearance form, put them in the train order hoop, and get outside, hopefully before the train arrived.  I certainly didn't want to be guilty of stopping a passenger train for orders on my first day on the job.  But all went well.  Before the day was over I had to copy train orders for No. 5, No. 73, and No. 72.  Bob Fogg, the dispatcher, before he went home for the day, told me I had done a fine job.  Many days have come and gone since that day, but it is one I will never forget.

By Rick Dreistadt


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