Wednesday, April 27 – Our fuel delivery problems continue to plague us. The oil truck had broken down the night before and we weren’t able to get any #4 oil. We elected to buy 1000 gallons of off-road diesel fuel filling up the generator car tanks and putting the rest into 745’s tender. We pulled the nut from the problem rod and the cast insert around the bushing was now cracked, so it looks like we’re not going to be able to make it beyond Jackson without making a new shim and insert.
During the night, the Mississippi Queen riverboat had tied up at the levee next to the train. As we began our departure about 20 minutes ahead of schedule, we backed down the lead next to the riverboat. The Captain hit his whistle and the calliope was playing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”. I answered back with both whistles on 745 and the Captain and I spent the next couple of minutes trading whistle blasts.
We backed through the KCS yard until we could go through the crossover and over the switch that they would line to put us on the mainline to Jackson. The switch was lined and we started our pull up the 1.8% grade up out of the river bottom. 745 had no problem with the grade and I was really wanting to let her cut loose and walk up the hill, but prudence prevailed and I elected not to subject the problem rod bushing to any excessive pounding. We went up one more long grade and then stopped so that the “pit crew” could hit the rod with grease. We did this several times as we headed east and we soon entered the west side of Jackson. We heard a loud noise and discovered that a press helicopter was hovering right over the top of the locomotive. The helicopter stayed with us for about ½ hour as we made our slow 10 mph trek into downtown Jackson.
Amtrak’s “City of New Orleans” was sitting in the station as we passed by in the yard. We then crossed over the IC mainline and headed to Pearl, MS, a Jackson suburb, where we tied the train down. Jerry Mason from the machine shop showed up and the crew began pulling rods. We, along with some more of the LASTA crew and Jon Stern, our videographer, headed to town to find a motel and a place to eat. We got to town and checked into the Econolodge and then walked to Shoney’s for dinner. We were all pooped and called it a night.
I was exhausted and fell right to sleep. I was awakened around 12:45 am by the phone. The desk called to say that the hotel was on fire and we needed to evacuate. I quickly got dressed and went out to the parking lot and the hotel was indeed on fire and I later found out that the flames were shooting higher than the roofline of the building. Fortunately, there was a fire station across the street and they were able to knock down the fire quickly; however, it was quite sometime before we were allowed to return to our rooms. The fire department had to confirm that the power was off to the damaged area but didn’t have any way to determine this. I showed the Chief my Electrical Contractor’s license and he put me to work running down and disconnecting the electrical circuits in the damaged part of the building. As he was having some of the firefighters open up a wall so that I could disconnect some wiring, we discovered that the interior of the wall was still burning. They gave it a quick shot of water and the remaining fire was soon out. I ended up disconnecting about 8 electrical feeds so that the damaged part of the building would not have any power available to the damaged wiring.
After that, we were all permitted to return to our rooms and the hotel owners thanked me for my help and refunded our credit card charges for David and I for the two nights we’re staying here.