When a operator's hotel room was a cot in the freight house

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Wed Jun 1 03:38:10 EDT 2005

Date: Tue, 31 May 2005 08:37:48 EDT 
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org 
From: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org  View Contact Details  
Subject:  Re: Working at Remote Locations in the Old

A.B.  -- What timetables I have don't confirm it, but
I've been told N&W had operators 24/7 at Juniper.  To
the east, the first outpost of civilization would
be Yadkin, Va.  - 5.5 miles.  To the west, it was
Jericho Crossing - also about 5.5 miles. Whether this
is right or wrong, N&W practice was to place an
operating officer at each end of a detour.  I suspect
many a trainmaster has spent hours in the remoteness
of Juniper overseeing detours.
By contract, the railroad must provide lodging at
away-from-home terminals for train and engine service
employees.  CB&Q put their passenger service
employees from McCook, Nebraska up at one of Denver's
finest hotels. The same isn't true for operators.  If
you're on the extra board, there's generally
a list of "approved" boarding houses circulated among
operators.  The railroad makes no provision for
operators' expenses when  working out on the road.
Landon Gregory (a.k.a. "the man who stopped ACL No.
1") working VGN's extra board slept in his car on
various assignments, there being no boarding
houses in the vicinity.
December is a poor month for operators on the extra
board -- the old heads attempt to make every day so
they can pay Christmas bills.  In Dec. '64,
I got a leave of absence and went for a month's work
on the Jacksonville Terminal Company.  When I arrived
Jax, I'd been two days without sleep.  The Chief Clerk
of the Baggage and Mail Department suggested a hotel a
couple of blocks from the station, noting that the
hosteler offered good rates for railroaders.  Paired
on a project with Southern's General Road Foreman of
Engines some 25 years later, he noted that crews on
"The Skyland Special" laid over at the same hotel.  I
checked in and went to the room and collapsed.  Then
there was a knock on the door.  When a girl appeared,
that's when it became evident that I'd checked into a
um, uh, what do you call those places ?

Harry Bundy

June 1, 2005

Hello, Harry and Abram:

In later years, the agreement with the Order of
Railroad Telegraphers (ORT) usually included a per
diem payment for room and board when away from a "home
terminal" for extra board and relief operators. 
Nonetheless, as is recognized by most readers, many
locations were remote.  Access prior to automobiles
was sometimes by local passenger trains making flag
stops at towers, or aboard local freight trains.  If
the railroad needed an operator at a location, it
would stop just about any train, any time, any where. 
Not so when the operator got off duty and was trying
to return home!

There's not one former operator I can think of who
hasn't mentioned that they slept in a station when
assigned there, usually to cover a week's absence. 
Most freight rooms were locked with a switch key, so
they were accessible whenever needed.  Few towers were
not within walking distance of a station building that
could be used for lodging.  Those that were might find
the off-duty operator in the relay room below the

Harry, I noted your Jax stay at a "recommended" hotel.
In 1970, I was railfanning with William P. Clarke who
lives in Rocky Mount, Virginia.  We decided to stay
overnight in Bluefield, WV, at a hotel near the
station.  There were two: the Matz and the one we
stayed in that I cannot recall the name of, but may
have been the "Hotel Bluefield."  Obviously, the
building had seen better days.  So had the coal
miner's daughters who were strolling the halls
inquiring whether one wanted a "date."  And I thought
the reason for hotel "four-hour rates" was so that
railroaders could rest between runs....

Good night and good morning,


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