Whitesburg KY
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Track crews had backbreaking work



The CSX Railroad (formerly the L&N) had track crews working on the tracks in this area lately, and I am amazed at all the different machines they have now to do jobs that men used to do back when my father worked on a section gang for the L&N Railroad.

They worked like brutes because it was all backbreaking labor. They don’t even have to pull or drive the spikes now, and no lifting of ties or rails.

The diesel engines are not as rough on the tracks as the mighty old steam engines were. When the steam engine was coupled to a load, it would pull it or spin until it dug a hole in the rail with its huge drive wheels.

The diesels, being electric provided by the diesel engines through turbines, have six cylinders, can start out slower than the old steam engines could and can go in either direction without having to be turned around.

I worked for the railroad in 1966, and the only engines we turned were the passenger engines, using tracks instead of round houses.

Back during steam days, they would have a wreck and Dad would be called out, and we wouldn’t see him again for perhaps three days, during which time he got very little rest.

We saw engines come down the track with all different kinds of disfigurement, but there were two I remember well.

One had the whole front blown out of it, and the other was hauled on a flat car. It looked like a big log because everything on it was mashed flat with no sign of the cab at all. There was no place to put the tracks (wheels) under it, so they had to haul it on a flat car.

They had to mow the right- of- way by hand, which was time-consuming and hard work.

We used to pick dew berries on the right- ofway, but when they started spraying we had to quit berry picking around the railroad and head for the woods and pastures.

Dew berries are a lot sweeter than regular blackberries, and usually only grow in poor soil. But to tell the truth, I think perhaps there must have twice as many thorns on them, only smaller. They sure were rough on bare feet, too.

And that’s all from the funny farm until next time.



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