My name, of course, Harry Johnson and I'm a junior because my father was a railroad man, too, and so we had to sort of differentiate between us.
IN: Did you work for the same company?
HJ: Yes, we both worked for the Boston & Maine.
IN: When did he start working for the Boston & Maine?
HJ: I think in around 1919-1920. He worked in the yard in White River B&M yard mostly and of
course, the way the set up was over there he also worked in the CV yard so it depended upon what job you were on. And he was a brakeman, yard foreman, and yard master at times so he was there quite a
number of years.
IN: When did he retire?
HJ: Well, he didn't retire, unfortunately he was killed on the railroad. He was struck by a bud car crossing the main line to go to work. This was in 1958-1959.
So he never did get to go on retirement.
IN: Did you work with your dad?
HJ: From time to time, yeah.
IN: Now did you work in White River or did you work ...
HJ: I've worked most all in White River
although the last year I worked, I worked in Brattleboro, but that's because the jobs were cut out in White River and we did the same work in Brattleboro that we'd been doing in White River.
you say White River, did that include Westborough or primarily White River?
HJ: Yeah, it took in Westborough, too.
IN2: Now you had switching rights back and forth between the two of you across the river
HJ: Oh, yeah, well, of course, Westborough and West Lebanon was all B&M. But they had all these agreements like at one time when the CV first went diesel engines they didn't have fueling
facilities so they had an agreement with the B&M, they'd run their diesels across the bridge to Westborough and the B&M would fuel their diesels so they had all these cockamamie yard agreements
that nobody understood. I was telling John earlier that they had a yard agreement so that all the clerks and all the car inspectors were B&M, didn't matter which yard they were in and we had
mixed switchers in the B&M yard like 3 til 11 or 4 til midnight, you had the switching crew was all CV working in the B&M yard and at the same time you might have a B&M crew up in the CV
yard. So but it was done on a 60-40 basis. The B&M paid 60% of the expense and the CV paid 40 and this was for everything including the passenger station and...
IN2: You were yard master?
No, well I wasn't truly an operator because I could never telegraph but we did take train orders and I worked in the freight office for a number of years and I worked in both yards, the B&M yard
and the CV yard. So, I retired in 1983. I had my, the minute I turned 60 I left.
IN: You'd had enough?
HJ: Oh, yeah, well the jobs were disappearing
IN: You had what 40 years in?
HJ: Yeah, well, I had 38
yeah, but if I'd a stayed I'd a had to gone to East Deerfield, they were cutting my jobs in Brattleboro out so, as Jack can tell you,
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Yeah, my name is Jack Tosi and I worked for the CV from 1979 to 1989 and I started in White River as a telegrapher operator, I mean that was the title but it was basically typewriter that was used to
take the train orders. Everything had to be typed. Any you know, travelled around. I worked in St. Albans for a while as a clerk and ended up down in Brattleboro, that's where I got to know Harry
pretty well cause his last year he was there he worked in the B&M office and I worked in the CV office and they were all connected so we used to do things together because we had trains coming into
Brattleboro that you know we would have to put cars out in the yard, etc. etc. so I would tell Harry where I wanted 'em.
IN: What was the function of Brattleboro?
JT: Well, Brattleboro was I don't know
if you would call it a brake bolt (?) station or whatever because, an interchange point because they would come up from East Deerfield and leave the cars for the CV in Brattleboro in that yard and then
we would take 'em on to White River or some of 'em may go to Palmer (?) Mass. And at one time we had an intermodal train and the way it would work is it would come into Brattleboro and for a time it
was being taken down to Boston and so we would kind of interchange it in Brattleboro and I think that was maybe, I don't know if that was going on when you were there, Harry?
HJ: Oh yeah, the piggyback train. St. Albans
JT: Yeah and it just never seemed to catch on. The service was very slow because there would be times that it would take 'em forever to get from wherever they
came out of Boston to Brattleboro and then by the time they turned around to go back they would run out of time and outlaw somewhere. And I was basically the night clerk and then I became the general
agent in Brattleboro which was a title at that point. Well, I started with the railroad in '79 and I think I was in Brattleboro for a couple of months in '79 and then went to St. Albans then came back
in '80 and I was there for almost 5 years before getting to White River and the CV eventually closed the station in Brattleboro. And then White River they phased out in '89. So, I mean, I would give
the crews what they had to do for switching, take a list of the yard, sometimes we would have as many as 300 cars in Brattleboro, not just from the B&M but from our own trains that would come
down out of St. Albans, the trains going from Brattleboro to New London cause they had a station in Palmer and then the next one was like in New London, Conn. So it was pretty busy in the early
'80's and then when they put in the oh what was it what could you call it, you know when everything became competitive basically and deregulated, that's right, and the D&H was starting to be
revised so the CV started, when I was working there we had like 420 people on the whole railroad on the CV and when the deregulation came they started cutting jobs and started closing stations in
the thinking ahead that business was going to be dropping because of the D&H, which really never really happened becaused the D&H never really got up and running. That was, I think, Mellon
(sp?) took that over and just really sold off whatever was worth anything and then just...I think it was one of the grandchildren or whatever, but he came from that family and, of course, he bought the
B&M. And same thing, he basically sold off everything but that's when I saw things turning around and I knew that the end would soon be coming.
IN: How many years did you put in with them?
JT: 10 years, yeah, I was fortunate I made it 10 years.
IN: Any you retired out of there? Or
JT: Well, they gave me a year's severance. They were glad to get rid of me because the newspaper picked it up when
they were closing the station. They thought they were just going to sneak it through. They had a little piece in the paper and I think Harry it saw it that they were petitioning to close the station.
Never notified me and so the Valley News started talking to me it was front page headlines. So it took 'em about a year, year and a half to finally close it. So I wasn't too popular.
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JT: The big historic thing was there was a movement by the railroad to get the vans off the trains and put on Billy the Brakeman and up until my final
year they hadn't been able to do it but since, you know, the other company took 'em over, they don't have vans any more but they just reduced the crews when I started, they had like five men on a crew.
IN: What do you mean by vans?
JT: You know, cabooses, we call 'em vans, cabooses whatever and I always thought (buggies) it was a safety thing, especially when you were at a crossing. I thought it was
IN: Now, you've got Fred on the back end.
JT: Yeah, yeah, I saw him go by I guess
IN: ...cab rear end device
JT: and they don't always work, but you know that was a cost cutting thing
because it was very expensive to keep them maintained, the buggies and that was the big fight going on. But when I came aboard most of the big events, you know, the steam engines were gone, they were
downsizing the crews, the conductors even though they had the buggies were on the head end not on the back any more. They had it so basically whoever got the tail end got the benefits of the conductor
without the additional responsibility because they sat in there while the conductor was doing all the head end work. Because I think my last year they were down to an engineer, conductor and a guy in
the van. They eliminated the fireman on a lot of the crews and now they probably just have two men on a crew. I wouldn't be surprised. They just have the engineer and the conductor. And the big thing
with the movement, of course, I went through a couple of strikes. You know the B&M or Springfield terminals, that was the big one that lasted, oh I don't know, I think it was six months or longer
and it was pretty detrimental. A lot of people lost their homes and things like that. And we wouldn't cross the picket line and you know, fortunately, I guess they moved our operation back down to the
old CV so that we didn't have to keep butting heads because otherwise we were in the same building in White River back when those strikes took place. We were on the second floor in the same big
room--B&M had one side of the office and we had the other, so we would have been forced to cross the line and nobody would so they just moved us back to the old round house and I don't know, just
watching that whole thing take place, you know, changing it from the B&M to Guilford Industries Springfield Terminals in order to just destroy the union and I think it hurt morale a lot on that
line. I mean, I could see it in restrospect some of it was done for cost measures but some of it was done for other reasons. On the CV fortunately, that didn't happen but eventuallly sold out anyways.
I was a mobile agent there and that was funny. Mobile agent was supposed to have an automobile so I became immobile and I was working the midnight to eight shift not day times. And we had computers but
a lot of the work was being done in St. Albans so the could justify you know closing the station. That was what they were contending that we don't need anybody there because you know, we're doing
the work in St. Albans. So that was a big thing.
IN: Mellon bought Springfield Terminal first. Right?
JT: Well, I think he, I'm not sure if he had B&M first then bought Springfield Terminals, I'm not
sure but that's...
HJ?: The only reason he bought Springfield Terminal was it was non-union.
JT: That's correct so that's what he then that's happened in a lot of cases since then. He kind of set the
pattern for what railroads could do by taking over some of these little side railroads that are non-union and just kind of you know swapping it over instead of being B&M, I think it became Guilford
Industries first and then I think eventually it became Springfield Terminals.
HJ: The unions weren't out, their hands weren't clean entirely either.
JT: No of course not,
HJ: The line that used to run
from White River to Berlin, they gave the union a choice, they said you guys can work for something like $16 a hour with no arbitrary, you know, no claims or the union turned 'em down so they had guys
working for $10-$12 an hour and no benefits, you know.
JT: There was a certain amount of, I think, either greed or just wanted to show that they could stand up to the big bosses, but the arbitraries
killed 'em, so one of the main things was like a fireman. Now as you got into the '80's there really wasn't a function for a fireman. That was just somebody that would, you know, the engineer and the
fireman would swap off the running of the trains and you know, now I think we're into the era of being lean and sometimes it's a little too lean but that was the case as I say I remember 5 men on a
crew and now they are doing the same work with either 3 or 2. So I mean, it always could be done and you know, what bothers me is that some of the railroads are making a lot of money by just turning
around and cutting wages and cutting jobs when, you know, it's not always a great idea because you get into the safety issues and we've seen more train derailments and stuff like that, especially I
think they've cut big time into the road crews that take care of the maintenance of the tracks and that should be a NO NO. I mean it's one thing if you're going to cut the crews that are going over the
tracks, you know the engineers, etc. but to turn around and not maintain the tracks. Because we had, when I worked there the big incident I think back now, I can't remember the year, it might have
been '84, '85 when they had the Amtrak that went in, down the embankment up there north and five or six people were killed. And I remember that we had torrential rains from Thursday through the
weekend and this happened on a Saturday morning and because of the cost they didn't want to put out you know somebody to scout out the track.
IN: Where was this?
JT: This, I don't know if it was up
in Colchester or whatever, the Amtrak that I think it's the only one that happened.
IN: Was it the one by Sharon there?
JT: No, this is up further, they had accidents there but this is the one that one
of the Vern Church was a conductor on the CV was killed. He was in the baggage car and I think two or three passengers were killed. And it happened further up north, it was like I don't know if it was
a bridge, it wasn't a bridge but it was like an area where they had constant washouts. Nobody patroled the track because it, as I say it would have been an overtime move, so consequently, it went down
and a few people killed. But that was where I started seeing the beginning of trying to save where you shouldn't be trying to save cause you do have certain areas on the railroad where you're going to
have washouts all the time no matter how much work you do on 'em and there was a place in Sharon where the road disappeared and I saw that. I mean, I took pictures of it and the road was just gone and
yeah, but I don't think anybody got killed on that one, fortunately.
IN: It wasn't so long ago
JT: No, it was when it happened is when we had, it was like a major thaw and they had super big ice blocks
going across Route 14 up in Sharon cause I lived in South Royalton. It was like maybe '90, '91 something like that. And that whole culvert there it looked like a canyon just washed out and the road was
closed for about 6 months to a year because there was a debate as to whether the town would fix it or the railroad would fix it. It's like past the lumber place when you come out of where they have
the lumber drop you take a left and it's not too far up beyond that. But that was a mess. But anyways, those are some of the incidents I remember.
IN: Now when you were down in Brattleboro then steam
town was still down there at that time?
JT: Yeah, I'm trying to think, yeah they were but they left shortly thereafter. I think they left, do you remember
HJ: They were in North Walpole
JT: Bellows Falls
HJ: Well across the river in North Walpole and I think they were gone, I think they had gone to Scranton PA or some
JT: They might have left in the early '80's.
HJ: I don't remember seeing 'em when I used to go through.
JT: Yeah, I can't remember the exact year because I rememer they were there when I came up to Vermont in '75.
HJ: All I can remember is a bunch of
Green Mountain boxcars stored there.
JT: Yeah it wasn't exactly a land mark. I mean the equipment was kind of rusting and needed paint. I think it's a lot better in Scranton but it was kind of an
eyesore, I think.
IN: I remember seeing it.
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JT: Yeah it wasn't like the engine in White River. At least now that's painted and it's being taken
care of. Down there it was just kind of sitting and waiting for something.
IN: Do you know anything about the 905? The 905 was the 494 over in White River now.
HJ: Oh no, well when they first brought
that up here from Concord, my father was one of the ones that helped build a track and situate the thing. It was over near the municipal building at the time and that's before they moved it back onto
the main street. Yeah, I remember when they did that. It was in the late '50's. Yeah, I recall it but I didn't have anything to do with it personally but I know my father was one of the ones who helped
put it where it was.
IN: You were working when the Freedom Train came through.
HJ: Oh yeah
IN: Do you remember anything about that?
HJ: Yeah I remember watching it from down here in West Lebanon. We
went down by where the grain store is there now and we stood and watched the thing come from White River and it went along to Concord as I remember it. They had a rather large steam engine. It was from
the Reading Railroad was it or... I wasn't smart enough to take any pictures of it but
JT: When was that that it came through?
HJ: Yeah that's the Spirit
JT: I was working on the railroads then.
HJ: Yeah I think we saw it maneuvering around over the station too, you know they had to back and sashay back and forth to get the thing turned. I can't recall where it came from, whether it came up
the river from Springfield or where it or how it arrived here. Or it came from St. Albans. I really don't remember. It was gorgeous but they, I guess the school kids all got a look at it and
everything. Yeah, that was, I recall that.
IN: It was a Berkshire wasn't it, a 284?
HJ: A big engine
JT: It was pulling passenger cars?
HJ: Oh yeah, well this stuff was all display stuff, wasn't it? Didn't
they have copies, of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and I think they used to let the school children file through there and look at it, well the general public for that matter.
JT: Well, there
have been a few historic things in White River. Then they had that Amtrak you know the high speed train come through there a few years ago.
HJ: Metroliner, yeah
HJ: Well, quite a bit has
happened since I hired out over there. Of course, I got stuck in the middle of the transition from steam to diesel.
JT: Yeah, I was lucky though, the ones that were the first generation of diesels,
that's what they were using on the CV in the '80's.
HJ: Yeah, we never knew what we were getting. Unfortunately, I was working at the CV the year that they went from steam to diesel. It was a nightmare.
You'd get a train all made up for two or three diesel units and they'd say well were going to run steam instead so
JT: Hmmm, that changes the times
HJ: It meant you had to cut tonnage way down and we had
the last of the 700 class engines and half the time they'd get the train made up for them and there'd be something mechanically wrong and they'd have to go with a smaller steam engine. So you know
it was just unreal. And of course the CV did things different than the B&M. They had what they called a car factor and the car factor was going north to St. Albans I suppose because of Roxbury.
They had 7 tons to a car. If you had an empty car that weigh 23 tons you called it 30 because of the car factor and going south to New London it was something like 4 tons to a car
JT: Cause you didn't have the hills
HJ: Yeah, cause you didn't have the hills
JT: Except when we had the leaves come down in the fall you had a problem in Belchertown. That's when they had to double the hills.
HJ: Of course, they had a problem, CV always had a problem when they had steam because 700 class couldn't go south of Brattleboro so they would take the 700's off and turn 'em back north and put
smaller engines on to go to New London then. They had some strange happenings there.
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IN: They built their bridges to last a lot better than the
interstate highway system.
HJ: Yeah, but the strange part of it was they wouldn't let the 700's over those bridges and yet once they started using diesels you could put three or four diesel units all
hooked together and of course they didn't have the, they didn't pound the way the 700's were notorious for that, you know they were so heaving on the drivers that... so the last trip they made from
Brattleboro to White River, the engineer got carried away, I guess, and he exceeded the speed limit and CV wound up paying for I don't know how many miles of trackage on the B&M. He made spaghetti
out of the rail, I guess.
JT: They just had different weights right for the rail?
HJ: Well, they were restricted to I don't know 35-40 miles an hour with the 700's and because of the rail
JT: Yeah cause I mean you had a hundred pounds and if you
HJ: Oh yeah, well the rail was good, they had 100 pound or better rail but it was a wrecking machine when you got over a certain speed.
isn't it something to built a big engine and you really can't use it. It's just like I remember the thing when the B&M, when the transition went from B&M to Guilford, they wouldn't fix that
track. There was a stretch of track you could only, from maybe Putney south or something, you could only do 20 miles an hour.
HJ: They had so many slow orders you know you could fill a basket with
'em. By the same token, we had big steam on the B&M. They had the 4100 class. They used to come in out of Boston but they had huge high drivers and they didn't seem to be restricted for speed or
anything and we had the Sante Fe's that went to Berlin and they were a big heavy steam engine but
IN: Just the design of it do you think?
HJ: Yeah to do with the weight on the drivers. I don't know how
they figured it but that wasn't my department but the 700's that was different. I could tell you a story about the 700's. When they first, when CV first got them, they were better than anything B&M
had, you know up here in this country anyway. So they got one of their usual agreements that they would allow the B&M to run those 700's towards Concord and I don't know Lowell or Boston where they
went but this went fine til somebody got a newspaper that had a picture of one of the 700's sitting in Rigby yard up to Portland. The B&M was not only using 'em between Boston and White River, they
were diverting them on, they were getting a lot of miles on 'em that nobody knew about
JT: Yeah, that never changed though.
HJ: So that was the end of the B&M using the 700's.
JT: Yeah, we used to I
forget what trains but we used to swap engines, they would come in and the train would come intact and they would take it and maybe the piggyback and then we would never see the engines for a week and
a half cause they would do the same thing. They would be running them up to Maine, especially if they were CN's, so you know Canadian National was the mother company of the CV so they would send CN's
down and what they would say they can't go beyond White River cause they knew if they gave 'em to the B&M they would disappear because they were beautiful engines. They made the mistake a couple of
times and by the time they got 'em back they had an additional 100,000 miles
HJ: Yeah (laughs). Dirty work eh?
JT: Yeah that was interesting. 3600's we had, we'd get those back right away, instantly.
HJ: Yeah, well they weren't any good.
JT: Nobody wanted those!! A lot of refusals
HJ: When the CV first got diesels, you know, we never knew what we were getting. They had a bunch of Fairbanks-Morse
engines. I don't know whether you are familiar with them at all but they were a pancake engine apparently. That's my understanding anyway. But you'd get a mixture and you didn't know. Of course
they're all rated different for tonnage so I mean if you had Fairbanks-Morse they were rated one thing and if you had Alco's or GM's or they're entirely different.... So it was a real crap shoot, you
JT: Is that why you couldn't make it up the Roxbury Hill? Can't make that grade because you know they're all rated at so many tons.
HJ: You see strange stuff. I saw 'em one morning at
the engine house there. They had five units gonna go to St. Albans. They hooked 'em up. Of course they got that electrical connection between 'em there. They had four of them. The wheels were all going
forward and the fifth unit decided it wanted to go the other way so (Laughs) they wound up cutting it out. It wasn't compatible or some how.
JT: Because a lot of times you ran into that. Cause I know
that when the B&M would come into Brattleboro, they'd always be looking for the connections, you know do you have any laying around because we need this extra engine or some thing. It used to be
HJ: So you run into some interesting stuff like that.
IN: Harry, did you know the crew that was involved in that wreck up at Newbury tunnel?
HJ: Yes, I did, most of them. Yeah, in fact a couple of 'em
were killed. I think a fella by the name of Pierson. Arthur Gilmette was in the baggage car, the mail car or something and he was injured but he did come back to work and he finished out his years
to retirement. I don't remember just who the other people were. It was so long ago. I do remember seeing the remains of the engine coming through White River in a gondola. You know after they cut
'em up. Yeah, I remember that very well. In fact...
IN: One of the engineers was a fellow by the name of Golby (sp?) just raised to engineer position
HJ: Yeah but that was all because of fog. It was a very
foggy morning and one train ran by its...
IN: Oh, it ran out onto the main line.
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HJ: Yeah, well you know without realizing it they'd gone by
where they were supposed to take a siding and as I remember it. An unfortunate thing
JT: Yeah, and I think too with sidings a lot of problems were they were built with the old lengths involved or the
boxcars and then as they got longer and longer...
HJ: Yeah, but this was passenger trains.
JT: Oh passengers, OK
IN: Yeah it was 48 wasn't it?
HJ: Yeah, I'd been on the railroad only a couple of years
and the fact, seems to me it was in the winter time, wasn't it?
IN: I don't remember.
HJ: Because I was gonna drive up there you know just out of curiosity and see the wreck scene but it seems to me we
were getting a light slippery snow that morning or something and I said Gee I'm not going to drive 40 miles up there and 40 miles back--kind of a ghoulish thing to do anyway. But they used to come
IN: They had one right over here behind the new bridge restaurant or something. I guess that was just a derailment or something?
HJ: Oh, that was probably a derailment. We did have a
wreck in Canaan right at the station in Canaan if you're familiar with that out there. That was a freight and a passenger train. And that was, well human error. The headend brakeman on the
freight got off and he lined the switch up wrong and let the passenger train right in on top of 'em.
JT: I remember one time in Brattleboro you know that center track, they didn't throw the switch
back and Amtrak ended up going down that.
HJ: I don't think there were any fatalities in that fracas out to Canaan but I could be wrong. It was a while ago. But it was not unusual to have derailments
and wrecks. It was tough before they had the radios. In fact, some of the jobs that Springfield used to have what they called a middle man. They had an extra brakeman. Well, because the time of the
year when it's foggy. Of course it follows the Connecticut River all the way down, so they did give 'em an extra brakeman but they didn't have the benefit of the portable radios, you know, it would
have been a God send. Well, you're a mile back there and you don't know what's going on and in fact, we had a train going to Boston and I knew the guys in the crew very well. They left White River and
when they got to Concord the conductor was gone. Nobody knew where he was. Flagman didn't know, headend didn't know and so they made a concerted effort to... and he had been going over the top for some
reason--this was in the winter time--and he evidently fell and he went right in the river. All they did was find a hole in the ice and sure enough that's where he was. Between here and Concord, I
forget which community it was. A mystery. Yeah, it was dangerous business.
JT: Well, being out in the yard too with the switcher working... sometimes you could never hear those cars rolling.
course, in the B&M yard here you had a switcher working both ends of the yard and you'd have to cross five, six tracks of cars to get to the switching lead you know and you never knew when they
were going to move, it wasn't just the trains moving out of the yard, it was the switchers pulling the tracks and so you had to be very careful. It wasn't quite so bad with the steam engines because
you could pretty much tell where they were but once they got the diesel switchers it was a whole new ballgame. They're pretty silent. You didn't know where they were or what they were doing.
Yeah, Brattleboro was good that way because you couldn't fit in between like if train no. 6... you had to walk sideways.
HJ: Yeah, well same way in the CV yard. You couldn't get between the engine house
track and the bank because you wouldn't fit if one of the steam engines was going back to the house, you were in big trouble. I've seen times down at the B&M yard where these 4100's would come in
on the loop track down there and you'd be in between the loop and 17 and they were so huge and so over powering--in the middle of the night you're out there with a kerosene lantern you know--you're
standing there in a cloud of steam. The best thing you could do was lay right on the ground. Because you didn't dare--if you got over at 17 you know the switchers gonna move 'em and these engines were
so big that God it seemed overpowering to stand there--pretty tough to stand your ground--you gotta have a lot of courage to do that. Oh, in fact, they'd go by you with the steam engine if they
happened to open a relief, they'd blow your damn lantern out. You know, you'd be standing there in the dark in a cloud of steam and
JT: What about sparks too.
HJ: I never worried--that was the least of it.
JT: You never worried about your lantern.
HJ: You know the thing I worried most about was stuff sticking out of the doors of empty cars.
JT: Yeah, strapping...
HJ: You're out there in the dark and those cars are moving by you maybe both ways, you've got one track going one way and one the other and Gee you wouldn't want a piece of 2by4 or something sticking
out of there because...
JT: Yeah, I've seen that and plus the lighting was never that great in any of these yards.
HJ: No it wasn't.
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was like you were working in pitch black and there were holes. You'd be walking along and all of a sudden you'd drop a foot down.
HJ: Oh yeah, drainage ditches and stuff.
JT: Especially I remember the CV
yard in White River. They had those all over the place. You're looking up writing the numbers down and the next thing you're
HJ: Give you a shot all right. Well, speaking of steam engines. We still
had what we called hand bombers on the B&M for a number of years after I went to work over there. The local used to go from White River to Canaan. I think it was a 1400 class engine. That was hand
fired. The Canadian Pacific had their D-10's or whatever they called them. They were hand fired and they went all the way to Newport. Of course, the fireman better not be crippled and he better hope
he's on good terms with the headend brakeman because there was a lot of coal to shovel to get over the mountains up there and John probably knows more about that type of engine than I do.
IN: See I worked on all electric...plug em in and go
HJ: Yeah (laughs)
JT: Get a long extension cord and then you can go anywhere.
IN: I think that's how Mr. Mellon got the idea of what to do with the
B&M, Delaware. Mahan Corporation (sp?) bought the North Shore and immediately proceeded to do exactly what Mr. Mellon had done.
JT: That's too bad. I mean, it's become a real business.
HJ: Well, I can tell
you this though. On the B&M when we first started getting diesels, the old time engineers they were beside themselves. They didn't want any part of them. They didn't know anything about 'em. They
didn't know how to run 'em. They cursed 'em out roundly. But after they'd had a few trips on 'em, man, if they got called by the crew dispatcher for a job the first thing they wanted to know was
whether they had steam or diesel because, it made a difference how they dressed for one thing. They couldn't come to work in their tuxedo if they were going to have steam engine.
JT: You mean it was a little dirty.
HJ: Yeah, well, they soon learned the comforts of the diesel engine and some of them that used to putter with the steam--I know one particular engineer right in town
here that the management told him, leave your wrench and screwdriver at home. Didn't want him tampering with the diesel (laugh).
JT: Zip 'em up a little bit.
IN: The last steam engine I saw
was 53 over in Warren there. They couldn't get a diesel started in January and I think it was a 3600 or a 462 with a circuit type locomotive and they couldn't make the grade past Warren Schoolhouse and
they had to back down again cause there was ice on the rails and couldn't get her up there.
HJ: Well, we used to have those B10's I was telling about that went to Newport. Of course, the bulk of the
cars that went to Newport were empty Canadian Pacific cars going home. They'd come down loaded and they were going back empty. But they were limited on tonnage. But leaving White River till you get to
Wilder is a pretty good upgrade there and so the switcher would have to push em to the yard limits. Every day they'd get behind 'em when they were ready to go and give 'em a boost up as far as the
yard limits and hope they'd make it the rest of the way. But it was not unusual for them to double a hill. CV used to double the hills at Roxbury.
JT: Yeah, even with the diesels a lot of times they'd have to have a
HJ: I'm talking about back in the steam engine days. Boy they're right down on their hands and knees when they're climbing the
mountain there. Had an interesting occasion happen there. And this, of course, always happened in the wintertime, cause most inconvenient. But they had a freight train, had to double the hill to
Roxbury and, of course, the brakeman is thinking of comfort. You know if he's got to go back and pull the pin behind what say 40 cars and take them to the top of the mountain and then go back and get
the rest of the train. So in the middle of the train happened to be a deadhead buggy, a caboose that they were bringing down to White River or New London or some place. So what's he do, he says this is
a perfect place to make the cut cause he can get on the back of the buggy and ride you know kind of sheltered from the weather and the wind and all. So he gets to the top of the mountain and the other
train is there waiting. So they see the buggy go by. They figure, hey that's the end of the train. It's OK for us to head down the mountain. There'd have been one hell of a crash if they had of, but
one guy on the crew happened to notice there were no markers on the caboose. So they were saved by the bell that time.
JT: Tighten those rules.
HJ: Yeah, but it was sort of a trap. The guy set it by
pulling the pin behind the buggy and riding the buggy up the mountain so he'd be a little more comfortable. No he didn't do anything wrong, but I mean...
IN: Why did they put it in the middle of the train?
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HJ: I don't know. It was probably classified. You know, this group of cars was going. They
JT: It might have been a cut like it was all going to New London...dropped in Brattleboro or something.
HJ: There were certain trains that were you know pretty much classified right out of
JT: Made up where they were going in blocks.
HJ: So I don't know but it was a trap for someone
IN: He was lucky the guy was observant.
IN: Where is Roxbury?
JT: Up towards Montpelier
there. Is it right after Montpelier going north or
HJ: No it's this side, beyond Randolph but it's before you get to Montpelier.
JT: Is it Bolton?
HJ: I try and visualize it by the highway but nobody
ever goes through Roxbury anymore cause
JT: Barre Bolton,, it's somewhere before Montpelier.
HJ: It's this side of Montpelier.
JT: Yeah, I think it will say on the highway like the highest elevation or
something. That marker will say the highest elevation.
HJ: I think even on the interstate there's a marker up there.
JT: 1700 feet or something like that and that's probably where that grade is because it's
HJ: But even in a little one-horse town they always had operators there. You know you had telegraph operators around the clock back at the time. Of course, I go back far enough so we had
operators everywhere. You even had an operator at Evetts (sp?) North Hartland. Three at Claremont, three at Windsor. You had operators at Norwich. You had operators at Canaan, Lebanon.
JT: I don't
even know if any of the railroads have operators any more. I think it's all given to the train
HJ: Train orders all come over the teletype or their done by radio. I don't know, do you know Jim McFarland.
There's a guy that had a lot of experience. I mean he covered jobs all over the railroad and he did different things. I mean he was a conductor, brakeman, he worked in the offices and he's one of the
survivors of the three diesel units went in the Connecticut River down in Holyoke you know.
IN: Oh, I didn't know that.
HJ: Oh yeah.
IN: When was this?
HJ: I'd say back in the '70's.
IN: Bridge was out of alignment or something
HJ: I don't know what caused it. They have certain spots on the railroad where you know especially near the river banks where the track is a little shaky. They
do a lot of work on it but even so it's not that stable. Well, he was conductor or headend brakeman and they slid right down the bank into the Connecticut River. He and Al Davis and I don't know who
the third man was on the engine but Jim was out of work for a number of months over that you know. He was injured. Says he doesn't remember a bit of it. So.
IN: I mentioned Logan...
Logan, I think he worked in the B&M engine house here at one time but I don't know for how many years.
IN: Then Munn over here on
HJ: Oh Dave Munn
IN: He worked in Westborough.
HJ: Yeah he worked in
the engine house, I think. I know who he is but I don't know him particularly well.
IN: Another one I met was Jesse Truman.
HJ: Oh yeah I worked with Jesse for a number of years. Yeah, Jess would make a
good interview because he, you know, he did a lot of different things.
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