August 1979. All that old power makes us happy.
Photograph copyright © 1979-2002 Gary S. Daniels
Jim Harlow writes:
"After taking this photo Mr. Daniels will give this DJTO (Detroit Junction Yard-Toledo Stanley Yard) a roll-by inspection of his entire train after temporarily commandeering the yardmaster's coop at the Trainyard's Yard Office, about 1/4 mile east of the CSX bridge near Miller Road in Dearborn. In this photo his engines are cranking up to a deafening roar and he is just starting roll off one of the departure tracks on the Trainyard's north side to take to one of the tracks in the Advance Departure Yard at Miller Road westbound, and thence to the southbound wye of the Junction Yard Secondary Track.
In addition to all the southbound scrap and low value freight this train is made up of, today this DJTO has a rather unusual accumulation of excess power bound for CR's big enginehouse at Stanley. When DJTO's rear end stops at the yard office, Mr. Daniels, formerly a Lead Car Inspector at this yard, will give this train the required brake test before this train moves any further south.
While the brake test is being made, this train may be blocking the DT&I Rouge Yard throat at Schaefer tower, as well as Schaefer Hwy., much to the consternation of the DT&I personnel trying to switch their rail traffic there -- this train could well be that long! After the brake test and Highballs radioed to the engineer on the head end, DJTO will officially depart the Trainyard, moving around the bend on the "Old Southbound", going by the ballpark and "coalpile" signal (the approach signal to Schaefer tower).
He may have already have gotten the "green stuff south" on the Junction Yard Secondary at Schaefer, and so will wend his way uneventfully along the Ford Rouge complex and along Schaefer Hwy., over the dangerous crossing at Oakwood and Dix Avenues and along the east side of the old Marathon refinery. Hopefully the operator at the N&W Bridge will keep his promise to Schaefer tower to keep this guy moving through Ecorse Junction without stabbing him there for a N&W or D&TSL train, or else there'll be some mighty frustrated motorists at Oakwood and Dix Avenues and Mellon Rd. This train could get long enough to qualify as a "portable wall on wheels", tying all those crossings up for a good while, even moving constantly at the maximum 20 MPH speed limit on "The Branch".
Hopefully, the operator at the CR Bridge will keep his word to the operator at the N&W Bridge to keep DJTO moving through CP-YD, or else DJTO will block traffic at Ecorse Junction, frustrating the operator at the N&W Bridge in his attempts to keep his railroad fluid and thereby making him doubt the word of the CR operators at the CR Bridge.
Hopefully, this DJTO is small enough to fit between Visger Rd. in Ecorse and CP-YD in River Rouge if he has cars to set off and pick up at River Rouge Yard. It wasn't uncommon when traffic was booming that trains operating off "the Branch" could block both CR mains at CP-YD with their tail end while working River Rouge Yard at Visger Rd. (1.3 miles south), and also block Pleasant St. in River Rouge in the process as well.
Average work time at "Da' Rouge" for a set off and/or pickup on this train was a minimum of an hour; maybe a little less if the crew was promised by the Yardmaster River Rouge, the Trainmaster at River Rouge, and the Detroit Line Train Dispatcher that he wouldn't have to pickup and setoff cars at Trenton and Monroe, which this "junk train" usually did. If the crew did get this promise of "no further work to Toledo", they'd run like the dickens to get by River Rouge/Visger Rd., Trenton Yard, and/or Warner Yard in Monroe before someone changed their mind, nearly burning up the power in the process!! Did you ever see a train moving miles of scrap metal moving at Mail Train Speeds?? And hopefully, if this train worked at "the Rouge", the kids in the surrounding community wouldn't use this train as their toy, causing defects to the cars in the process.
DJTO was The Train to move nearly all of the scrap metal traffic originating at the several scrapyards along John Kronk Ave. in Detroit, out of Detroit to Toledo Stanley Yard. These scrapyards could really pump this stuff out at the railroad when their business was good. Hopefully, the crane operators at these scrapyards would load those many gondolas of scrap carefully enough so as not to damage them to the extent that it would cause a costly defect to them, but all so many times, they would damage them to that extent. At Stanley Yard, this scrap metal traffic would get switched to other manifest trains moving west, south and east across America from there. For this reason, and also because of the "J" in this train's symbol meaning "Junction Yard" sometimes abbreviated "Jct.", just pronounced "junk", DJTO was usually just called "the Junk Train" by all the operations people handling it.
I Remember When.....I was working FN tower when trains approached, but ESPECIALLY this train, I was "on the ground", in good or ANY KIND of bad weather, hat on and pencil and scrap paper pad in hand for the possible recording of car numbers, for the best possible roll-by inspection of this train - or any other for that matter.
All too often, one of those loaded scrap cars would have a defect or two somewhere among them, or even more than that would need a correction -- in spite of the best efforts of the Car Inspectors at the Trainyard and River Rouge Yard to catch them as they departed those yards -- that could threaten the property of the railroad and possibly the surrounding community, and even people's lives. Those gondolas loaded with scrap often times DID have sticking brakes or even a hotbox caused by mishandling by the crane operators who loaded them in the scrapyards, or had defects caused by the kids at the Rouge who monkeyed around with the cars on the train while the train was working there. DJTO was especially notorious for train defects for these reasons. Some were so bad the trainmen couldn't correct them, and the subject car and it's offending defect would have to be set out at Trenton Yard for the Car Department to fix. And I was especially notorious for catching those defects when this train, or any other train going by my place of business, when they contained them.
I know those trainmen just hated it when "Rip Track Harlow" working at FN told them to stop and inspect some alleged possible defect(s) in the middle of their train. The train dispatcher and Chief Train Dispatcher would be terribly frustrated, too, especially if this train had a lot of work to do at all those yards on the Detroit Line -- this train's crew could well be on "short time" after working at all of them, and not make Toledo before they'd "doglaw". Well, hey, Sorry about that, Guys -- better to be safe than sorry, than to suffer an unfortunate event ("unusual occurrance"!) that could possibly wind up as some huge "scare" headline in some darn newspaper, or some lead story on the radio, or even result in the posting of death notices in the back of a newspaper -- not to mention the huge, multi-million dollar cost of nasty, messy cleanup job, with the attendent disruption to the Railroad's traffic and added cost of that to the railroad!! No, NO WAY, guys, would I EVER allow a possible defect begging attention get by ME, that could possibly result in property damage or the loss of human life -- NOT ON MY WATCH!!! And I'm more than certain, too, that when a good, running DJTO or other train I didn't have to stop for the inspection of defect, and after giving the rear end a "highball" or any other train an "all black" via the radio after passing the tower, that the trainmen and dispatchers knew that "Rip Track" had done the job he got paid by the railroad to do, and could relax a bit easier knowing they had good running train on their railroad that would make it all the way to it's intended destination intact."
Text Copyright © 2001-2002 J.H. Harlow
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