A lesson in getting along


Wreck Train


So, we were on a wreck in East Deerfield, Ma. We had both our local and Maine based rail mounted cranes on site. Each wrecker consists of either a 200 or 250 ton crane, stretcher car, cable and equipment car, workshop car, and diner car. We had been on site for about three days, working 24 hours a day cleaning up a 21 car wreck, and it was finally time to send the equipment back to the yard, and the crews home. I was the car shop manager for the local shop, and we had with us our local crew, plus crews from the rest of the system. We also had a few other local managers, yardmaster, and two wreckmasters, who were my immediate bosses. One of the managers had just transferred down to our location about 8 months ago, and had proceeded to make enemies of most the crews, especially the yardmaster. To make matters worse, he had irritated the yardmaster even more during the wreck cleanup.


Finally, after the wreckers were all tied down and crews loaded up, the wreckmaster turned the local wrecker outfit over to me, and the Maine wrecker over to the other manager. We were to make sure the outfits made into the yard without incident, and got tied down (handbrakes set, electricity reconnected, etc). This was the standard operating procedure. I told the wrecker operator from my crew to ride with the crane, make sure it got tied down, and then go home, and call me if you have any problems. I sent the rest of the crew home for rest. I then got in my car and drove to the yard, which was about 6 miles away by car, and about 8 by rail, to wait for the wreck outfit to arrive. As soon as I saw the wrecker enter the yard limits, I knew that it would be tied down soon, and I went home and went to sleep. My operator had everything put away and tied down about an hour after that, and my whole crew was home taking a well deserved rest by then.

The next day I talked with the other manager about his experience. He had decided to ride his wrecker back to the yard himself, and let his crew go to the hotel to sleep. While this might seem like a good idea, keep in mind that us managers were on salary, and our hourly rate was in the gutter by now, the hourly union men were on double time and a half by now, and usually were disappointed to be sent home. He had ridden the stretcher car (an empty flat car that the boom of the crane hung over) partway back, outside and sitting on the edge with his feet hanging over the side, which, in addition to being a bad idea, was probably a safety rules violation. The yardmaster saw this, and told him go inside the car. The manager told him to mind his own business, or something of the sort. Keep in mind that everyone had been up and working for at least 48 hours by now, and not in the best of moods. While talking to the manager the next day, I asked him what time he got home that day. I had hit the sack by 10:00 am, I figured he would have been home shortly after that, as his wreck train was right behind mine. He said he didn’t get home until that evening! He said he ended up waiting out in the yard for hours before he was pulled into the siding where the crane was to be tied up. This puzzled me for years. Usually the yardmasters are very good about getting our wreck equipment serviced and moved. They know we’ve been up for days, and the equipment needs to be serviced and ready to go back out at a moments notice. After all, my outfit had made it back in and was tied down in short order. I couldn’t have asked for better service.

A year or so later, I resigned my position as car shop manager to make a move to a less stressful position in computers, and was having a few drinks with my crew and friends from the railroad. I was having a conversation with the yardmaster, and he told me a little story. He and I, while not best of buddies, had a mutual respect for one an other, and had a decent working relationship. He looked out for me and our crew, and made it a priority to get us and our equipment where we needed to be. It seems that the other manager had so irritated the yardmaster that he had let him and his wreck outfit sit in the middle of the yard for hours before putting the wrecker in the siding. Suddenly it all made sense!

The moral of the story? Don’t piss of the people that you rely on to do your job!

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