Engineer’s Journal – April 23, 2005

Published by Bill Johnson on

Saturday, April 23 – The day started out with beautiful weather. A cold front had gone through early this morning and the air was cooler and dryer. This was quite welcome since we’d be sitting in the hot cab for a while.  We performed our daily inspection and air brake test, our pilot, Jon St. Vigne (actually a Manager of Operating Practices) climbed aboard, and we started our shove back out of the yard.

We made it down to the throat of the yard and had to wait for a northbound train to pass so I used the opportunity to attach the grease gun to the problem rod pin and put a little positive pressure in the grease fittings to force more compound onto the pin. Thankfully, the center pin started feeding grease to the pin so we now have lubrication reestablished through both grease fittings. While I was preoccupied with the pin, Bill Morris, who was firing the engine, noticed that the air pump didn’t sound right and was laboring. I checked the pump and found that the secondary piston wasn’t moving and the compressor was no longer delivering air.

Over the next hour, we tried every quick fix that we knew. We were able to get the piston to move, but it wouldn’t go it’s full stroke and wouldn’t deliver air. Since we were clogging up the entrance to the yard, it was decided that the most prudent course of action would be to call yard job 132 and let them take us to Bossier City. They did a great job of handling us and I still worked 745 some so that we’d have the steam admission to lubricate the steam chests.

We crossed the Red River into Bossier City via the old Illinois Central bridge. This bridge is a curiosity in that it was originally built as a swing span drawbridge. Since its construction, the river has moved slowly away from Shreveport and toward Bossier City and the center pedestal for the bridge is now slightly inland from the shore.  We were dropped off at the yard and there was a good-sized crowd waiting for us when we arrived. This was especially nice of them to hang around since we were delayed by the air pump problem and also by having to wait for two trains to pass.  Upon arrival, I caught a ride in a KCS van with a Trainmaster and our MOP Mr. St. Vigne. They said that the delay from the air pump had caused some inconvenience to one train but didn’t delay it much and 132 didn’t have a lot of work, so I breathed a little easier. After picking up the Suburban, I immediately drove back to the train.

One of the friends I called while we were doing diagnostics was Ron Larson. Ron was originally going to be my fellow crew member on the 745 run and work commitments kept him from getting loose from work. We now think that it was divine intervention because this set up a chain of events which final result was Ron getting the Superintendent’s job at Austin Steam train. I called Ron back to tell him that I’d found the problem and had talked with Bernie Watts about some possible repair options. However, it wasn’t looking good that we had any field repair options. Ron called back in about an hour and asked me if we’d be interested in a loaner air compressor. It seems that 745’s sister MK-5, 786, has been undergoing a heavy rebuild and had a freshly rebuilt compressor still in the crate. I’d already borrowed some grease fittings from Ron from the 786 and it seemed that she once again, with Ron’s patient assistance, be coming to the aid of her disabled sister.

Ray Duplechain called all the crew into the Jefferson car and had a group meeting to discuss the situation ahead of us and to make a go – no go decision regarding our 3:30 am departure on Monday morning which was now looming about 29 hours away. We decided to go for it.