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PC: Re: PC memories and other stuff

Hello all !

As far back as I can remember, my dad was always telling "railroad" stories.
He hired out with the NYC in 1943 at the age of 35, working passenger service
at Albany NY's Union Station.  While there were lot's of great, railroading
tales to be told, including the time he and his partner foiled a nazi sabatour
from derailing a troop train ! 

But the one thing he was prouder of than anything else was all that knowledge
he acquired during his 1000 hrs. apprenticeship, which all carmen / inspectors
were required to complete while at the West Albany Shops. 

I was 19 when I hired out with the Penn Central at its A.E.Perlman Yards in
Selkirk NY in 1974.  I fully expected to enter this railroaders "rite of
passage", working and learning the carmans trade alongside
grizzled old "car knockers" smelling of oil, covered in soot and grease, and
of course, hoping to hear hours of great "ol' timer" stories about the
"world's greatest railroad" that I had grown to love and respect !

I was shocked to discover the the PC had discontinued the apprenticeship
soon after the merger with that "other railroad", and instead had a
"streamlined" learning program consisting of two weeks of shop time.  One was
expected to become "familiarized" in all aspects of car repair and shop
inspection practices in that time, after which you would spend another two
weeks, more or less, in the yards under the watchful eye of a yard foreman or
a "senior" inspector.

Needless to say, all they wanted were men to "hook hoses and kick lids" !
With few exceptions, those being cars from private owners, the CN, CP, SP, and
a few other roads, most cars were in pretty sad shape .  Many a train departed
with 15 - 20 % air brake "cut-outs".  "BAD ORDER" cars found during out-bound
inspections were set out at the discretion of a foreman, i.e., "let it run" !
And out-bound repairs were quick "Band-Aid" patch jobs, i.e."get it out of
here", at best !  The FRA was nowhere to be seen, but one could see the need
for a ConRail-like solution coming a mile away !!!  

Is it any wonder that the mighty Penn Central, heir to one of railroadings
greatest legacies, slowly bled to death ?!?

Paul Lopez

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