Busted Axle Road
CopyrightÂ© 1993, 2001, 2010
Josh had gotten over his dream about Amy and himself giving Mr. Sloat CPR, and now his dreams were more involved with the vision of Amy at the beach -- Marsha, too, to a little degree, but mostly Amy, in that tiny string bikini. Needless to say, they were pleasant dreams, and it was hard to surrender to the reality of his father's voice: "Hey, sack rat! Get up, you got to go to work!"
Unwilling to lose the vision of Amy in her bikini, Josh protested. "Mr. Evachevski said he wasn't going to need me today."
"I didn't say nothing about Mr. Evachevski," Walt said. "You and me are going to have to run the Kremmling turn."
"What?" Josh said, rolling over. He'd brought up the idea of getting a summer job at the railroad with his dad months ago, but had been shot down; insurance said he had to be 18.
"Bud ain't too happy about it," Josh's father said. "But he figures he owes you. He says a diesel maintainer back in three months is better than a diesel maintainer dead, so he got a rider on the insurance for you and your buddy. Now, we're short a brakeman, so you're it."
"Give me a couple minutes to get dressed."
"Don't be all day," Walt smiled. "The trip down shouldn't be too bad. We got a half a dozen empties to take to Warsaw, and then a cut of boxes from there. But we're going to have a full load of aggregate on the way back, and with only one motor, we're going to have our hands full getting back for supper."
"Only one diesel?" Josh asked, pulling his pants on. He hadn't grown up in his family without learning some of the ins and outs of railroading, especially as it applied to the Camden and Spearfish Lake Railroad.
"Yeah," Walt said. "Ed had the generator torn down on the 103. Now Bud and your buddy and Bill Lee from down to Lordston are going to try and put it back together again."
Half an hour later, with a quick sandwich in him and another couple in a lunch bucket, Josh watched as Walt throttled up 'The Rock', the blue former Rock Island GP-7 that the Camden and Spearfish Lake had owned since its founding. Though considerably older than Josh, it was still the premiere power the railroad had. Though the Rock had earned a certain degree of reverence over its role in the Warsaw fire a few years before, it was still a working diesel, and today, it would have to work hard.
"OK, Josh," Walt explained. "Most of what you're going to have to do today is just throw switches. We don't have a lot to do with couplings and uncouplings, but I'll help you out with that till you get the hang of it. The big hassle is going to be at Warsaw. We're going to have to go in the hole there till the rock train out of Summit gets past, so we'll have plenty of time."
It wasn't the first time that Josh had ridden out to Warsaw, or even down to Kremmling with his father, but it was the first time he was going as a railroader. Even so, things mere fairly familiar, and the cut of cars that were to go to Warsaw was already set up, so there were few hassles about getting out of the yard. As they were heading out the yard lead to the wye, Walt handed his son a harness with a battery radio attached to it, not unlike the portable the EMTs had carried, but operating on a different frequency. As Josh strapped on the harness, Walt took a pair of binoculars, to check the first of the wye switches. "How about that," he said. "It's set for us. The switch to the main better not be, though."
A further check with the binoculars a couple of minutes later showed that the switch to the main indeed had to be thrown. It was normally left that way, since the heavy rock trains passed right through Spearfish Lake on their way down to the barge loader at Camden. "OK," Walt said, idling the engine and letting the train slow, "You know what to do. Get down, throw the switch, and I'll pull forward. Call me when the tail's through, throw the switch back, and call me. I'll be nice to you today, and back the head end up to you. By the way, we're 'Slicker 41' today."
Josh had seen it done a hundred times before, even sort of helped a few, but this was different; it was exciting to really be doing it. As the Rock slowly crept by the switch, he stepped off of the running board. His father saw that he was down all right, and burped the power a little, to roll the short train of empties through the switch. In only a few minutes, the last car was through the switch. Josh threw the weighted ground throw over, and called on the radio, "Slicker 41, clear of the switch." The train halted, and slowly backed up. "Slicker 41, about three cars," he radioed helpfully. There was no response, but the train stopped with the steps right by him. His father had been running engines for a long time.
Josh climbed back up into the cab, even as his father was opening the throttle. He peeled off the radio harness; there would be no need for it until they reached Warsaw, which would take almost two hours. "No problem," Josh reported.
"Just remember one thing," Walt said, as the speed built up and Josh settled in the fireman's seat. "Be damn careful, whatever you do. There's a hell of a lot of weight moving here, even on a light train like this."
With the train light, Walt had it up to speed before very long. For a number of reasons, including track conditions, twenty-five was about as fast as he could go, and it didn't seem very fast to Josh. They'd get there, he thought, as his father opened a thermos and poured himself a cup of coffee.
They fell to talking, starting about railroading, but soon switched over to football. Josh wondered how much the job would interfere with football practices, if they held. It wasn't going to be a full time job, he knew, but it had a tendency to fall at odd hours. Mostly, Josh just sat back and watched the countryside roll past. After a ways, Walt blew the Rock's horn for the state road crossing. "Day like this, it's nice to be a railroader," Walt commented. "Problem is, you don't get many days like this. Seems like every time you got to take a train out, it's raining, or blowing, or darker than the inside of a cow, or snow all over everywhere."
"I don't know," Josh said. "I think I could learn to like it." It probably wasn't going to happen, he knew; college would take him off in a different direction. Still, if he didn't screw up, this probably would be a solid summer job that would last him for years.
Slicker 41 was getting away from the state road, now, following rails through a forest that mostly seemed to be scrub pine. One time, Walt laid on the whistle, to try and scare a couple of deer off of the tracks; fortunately, they got out of the way in time. A few minutes later, he blew the whistle again, two longs, a short, and a long, for the County Road 919 crossing.
West Turtle Lake was only a little ways past 919, Josh knew; he looked out the side of the cab, trying to make out something of the club, but all he could make out was the roof of Commons, in the distance across the lake. Amy was over there somewhere, he thought, wondering what she was doing. Maybe he could finagle her a cab ride up to Warsaw or something, sometime. She might like that.
Walt had a pretty good idea what his son was thinking. "Time was, when I started out braking," he smiled, "These trees wasn't here, and you could look clear across the lake. Every train that come up here in the summer then had everybody on board looking across the lake with binoculars, but nobody ever saw much of anything."
Josh didn't say anything; he just looked across the trees, his mind across the lake.