Morning starts bright and early in Dickinson, in the Kanawha valley of West Virginia. Blue collar families are all wide awake and stirring as the sun comes up, including those who make the early morning run over to Sam and Mickey’s for breakfast. Here you’ll find miners, railroaders, chemical plant workers, and other down-home local folks lining up for some of Sam and Mickey’s specialties, including sausage biscuits and gravy.
I’m awake early to be one of these folks over at Sam and Mickey’s, for I have a long day on the railroad today, working the Hitop mine run from Dickinson yard up the Hitop branch to Union Carbide’s Hitop mine and return. A long run indeed, as the twisting, winding branch following Blue Creek up the hollows means 10 mph, and 10-12 degree curves. I’m stocking up on plenty of coffee and those biscuits and gravy now. My engineer for today, Charlie, and old timer on the railroad, soon joins me. He’s already fired up our motive power for today, two old geeps: GP-9 7466, and GP-7 5628, regulars on the mine runs, for four axle power is all that’s permitted on the branch.
We shoot the breeze over breakfast, discuss our day’s moves, our tonnage, and the state of the Penn Central. Finally, full of coffee and breakfast, we pay our tabs, and head over the mainline to our yard office by our power on the service track. I still have to sign in on the register, while Charlie has already done so. Timetables, rulebooks, train orders, and switch list in hand, we climb aboard the old geeps and head for our lead unit 7466, ex NYC 6066. Newly repainted by the shops at Buckeye, it hasn’t accumulated much coal dust, soot, and dirt yet, but will on this trip.
Blue flags down, we get clearance to pull down out of the servicing track with todays cabin, an ex-PRR N5C, over to tracks 4 and 5, where our empty hoppers await. Setting our cabin off on the yard lead, we double up tracks 4 and 5, pull out, then back slowly onto our caboose. Some old timers and transfers onto the secondary will call these hacks, cabooses, crummies, or cabins, depending on what subsidiary they worked for prior to the merger in 1968. After pumping up the air, we slowly head across the crossing into the freight house and Armitage Furniture, and start around the first curve, as the grade starts, blowing that “blatttt” sounding horn for all she’s worth. There’s nothing like the sound of two 567’s when Charlie notches our lead engine out starting upgrade.
To be continued……