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The Switchtender

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The Switchtender
Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, March 28, 2021 8:16 PM

A railroader poetry reading:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6k0ZyIFkhQ

Each online source for the text of this poem (mostly old pre-WWII railroad magazines) seems to attribute authorship to a different individual.  For what it's worth, it could have happened anywhere, and I think that uncertainty adds something to the story.

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, March 29, 2021 10:12 AM

Thanks 'Dude!  

Good old railroad poem, sure beats "The Hell-Bound Train!"

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, March 29, 2021 2:00 PM

North of the border they sure do love their Robert Service!

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 11:36 PM
 

Let me ask, is this story still true today?  If someone is injured in the line of duty as the Switch Tender in the pom was today, do they get a settlement/disability and cut loose or do the RRs still look after their own with an alternate work situation. For example, desk job?

 
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Posted by SD70Dude on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 12:44 PM

Thankfully, such injuries are far less common today than during the era when the poem was written.  It is also worth noting that disability benefit plans did not exist back then. 

We do have a clerk who is missing most of an arm. 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by tree68 on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 12:58 PM

seppburgh2
 

Let me ask, is this story still true today?  If someone is injured in the line of duty as the Switch Tender in the pom was today, do they get a settlement/disability and cut loose or do the RRs still look after their own with an alternate work situation. For example, desk job?

A Conrail conductor I know slipped and lost a leg.  After that, he was done working in the field.  Local clerk jobs were being phased out (I knew a young lady who worked at the local yard as the last such clerk), so aside from relocating, I think he was out of luck in that regard.

He was a well-known local musician, and continued somewhat in that capacity, as well as working at local radio stations as an on-air personality.

I see him from time to time at model railroad events (he is a modeller).

I had the "pleasure" of having his Jeep hit my truck while setting up for a local train show.  Someone offered to move the Jeep, but didn't realize that the pedals were configured in reverse.  After sideswiping my truck, the Jeep (and it's highly confused driver) continued across a deep drainage ditch and onto an athletic field (empty at the time).  He had quite the ride...

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

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Posted by mudchicken on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 1:46 PM

About the only time you will see a switchtender or a crossing guard/attendent is in a temporary construction or emergency situation such as washouts, signal outages (esp CTC), derailments involving special trackwork, unusual shoo-fly's and detour movements. 

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by Sara T on Friday, April 2, 2021 2:35 PM

Dude, =OUTCH!=  that was hard!!!

It's no fun, I could see that hand smashed into nothing by the

coupling.

Hope to get the picture out of my head as soon as possible!!!

Wish you could have warned me before!

S

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, April 2, 2021 5:46 PM

Sara T
It's no fun, I could see that hand smashed into nothing by the automatic coupler.

Not automatic - link and pin.    American practice had no buffers -- only drawheads that did not hold the link up or aligned for straight engagement.  So the switchman had to go in between the cars, lift the link to the right height and steer it in as the drawheads came together, then slip in the pin to hold it.

Now for the rest of the story, though.  There was a simple device that made this operation easy -- the Bishop coupling knife.  This had a long and thin flexible steel blade with a semicircular notch formed in it.  You hooked the link and could easily steer it up, down, right and left while wearing any thickness of glove, in any weather, no matter how hard the cars might come together... as soon as there was any recoil or slack, the knife could be easily pulled out.  It could be carried easily in a back pocket without risk of injury.

For some reason, snakes came to call this a sissy device, and roundly laughed at anyone who used one.  Real railroad MEN risked their hand every day!  And it was a veteran's mark of 'dues paid' to be short a couple of fingers or show broken metacarpals.  Of such idiocy, from time to time, is the world sometimes overfull...

I confess to having written a very different metaphysical "moral" for the end of this poem, about the various 'Bishop coupling knives' in life that could save us untold agony and suffering if we would only not talk ourselves out of using them...

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Posted by BaltACD on Friday, April 2, 2021 5:49 PM

Overmod
...

For some reason, snakes came to call this a sissy device, and roundly laughed at anyone who used one.  Real railroad MEN risked their hand every day!  And it was a veteran's mark of 'dues paid' to be short a couple of fingers or show broken metacarpals.  Of such idiocy, from time to time, is the world sometimes overfull...

I confess to having written a very different metaphysical "moral" for the end of this poem, about the various 'Bishop coupling knives' in life that could save us untold agony and suffering if we would only not talk ourselves out of using them...

Witness the mask in today's world of the pandemic.

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Posted by Sara T on Friday, April 2, 2021 6:13 PM

Ok---, Overmod,

I corrected it. But the meaning of the sentence certainly was not about what coupling but what it did to the handCryingNo

BaltACD: >>Witness the mask in today's world of the pandemic.<<

Ohh-yessss! They get mad over here, and there re-appeares the 'old fashioned' absolutistic believe of people in superior ranks and their orders and in support of those they consider themselves accredited to rebuke another person in a rude way! On one extreme example, I replied "Yes, when I see you, I understand how the Third Reich functioned!" 

Sara

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, April 3, 2021 9:25 PM

Sara T
I corrected it. But the meaning of the sentence certainly was not about what coupling but what it did to the hand!

I know.  But the damage from drawheads was not the flattening crushing you'd get from a hand between knuckle faces.  You have what are basically two little boxes with cutting edges in the link-and-pin drawheads, so the damage was pieces cut off, not smashed and full of damaged nerve endings and infective material...

Where the real horror came in was not with couplers, but when men were between cars that came together with too much force.  Ribcages flatten worse than hands, and healing is much less assured...

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Posted by Sara T on Sunday, April 4, 2021 10:43 PM

Overmod,

outsch, outch, outch!

Poooowh, you make a hurting thing hurting more, thank you! (sarcastic, don't comment with more "explanations")

Sara

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, April 4, 2021 11:10 PM

No more!  It's bad no matter what.

Now to make it unnecessary to risk going between the cars at all!  I had thought the Europeans were going there with the UIC couplings in the mid-Sixties, based on reading Trains when I was about 8... and now I think they're working on it again in some contexts -- more power to them, and I hope they can standardize something that will get the ball rolling over here.

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Posted by Juniatha on Monday, April 5, 2021 12:52 AM

As I said in the other forum: you two should stop this - you never get to where ends meet!

=J=

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, April 5, 2021 12:59 AM

Juniatha
As I said in the other forum: you two should stop this - you never get to where ends meet!

In a way this started where ends meet...

Good not to have to worry about it as much any more, though... I'll leave it at that.  I'll be happy when I can say the same about... that other concern.

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