February, 2002


Griever’s Corner

With the recent changes in Railroad Retirement come a lot of unexpected, well, benefits, I guess.  It’s certainly great if you’re one of the fortunate few who can escape the madness of modern railroading and begin to regain your sanity. (Sorry, Billy-Bob. See below.) On the other hand, a lot of hands-on railroad experience is being lost.  The carriers never gave a damn for that, of course.  Evidence the fact that they can now create a Conductor in 14 weeks from the street and an Engineer in 6 months.  I guess we were really stupid, but it took a little longer than that to learn to railroad in the “good old days.” Nevertheless, I see safety going to hell in the coming years as the number of experienced old heads decreases and they are replaced by new guys who are essentially working alone…Here in Roseville the drones have come up with yet another bullshit “safety” idea.  They want to put orange vests (like highway workers wear) on anyone with less than 5 years seniority.  Makes for an easier target.  And, get this: if you have a personal injury, you get to wear one for a year!  Sounds like harassment to me… We hear the turnout for the DPU “refresher” course in Bakersfield was a little disappointing. No pay, just show up and help ‘em finish off your terminal.  The Drone from Omaha left without a word…Note to Cameron Scott in Salt Lake: The slaves can look after themselves, you jerk. Have a nice vacation…This month’s Drew Lewis Award goes to a Sr. MTO in Bill, WY, who does it in company vehicles…Speaking of awards, we have had many requests lately to expand our program.  Seems like some of the recipients of the coveted “Dumb-Assed Switchman” award would like to see a similar award for managers.  You know, something like “Moron Manager of the Month” Award.    Send in your thoughts (or some candidates’ stories).  The one just below is a good example.
As always, work safe and look out for each other…

From South Texas

On the UPRR in Laredo we have Manager of Terminal Operations Mr. D  winning the 2001 Laredo Manager of the YEAR award. With all the bloopers this was a tough choice with many close seconds.

In conjunction with his duties as a manager he is told he has to perform at least 30 tests a month on employees.  Now we have a stop test with a fusee or what the other people in the world call it a flare. 
Let me set it up: 
Manager, UPRR, Summer, South Texas, No Rain…..
Are you getting the picture? 
It just don't get any better than this. 
Can you take any more? 
Is your curiosity getting to you? 
The answer is YES.  30 acres later they stopped the fire.
I guess we could call this a fire stop test.    (Thanks to RRB)

Medical News

“Union Pacific Railroad will pilot a confidential assessment program in 2002 to help battle depression, an illness that affects more than 19 million Americans each year.”
(HDC Employee e-mail newsletter.)

I bet the UP medical Department thinks they’re onto something really big here.  Of course, only 65% of the train dispatching staff is on anti-depressants so that’s nothing major to worry about.  My mental health did not improve in the allotted time and so my employment, after 35 years in the business, was terminated. 

Probably more effort will be put in developing a program of rehabilitation of former CEOs like Drew Lewis, who was arrested for drunk driving last month for the third time in 1½ years, after rolling his personal car in his own driveway while backing out!  Setting ever-higher standards for UP senior management.
-Billy Bob-

NS Report

(From the war-torn former Conrail properties of the Nazi (oops) Norfolk Southern comes the following.)

Ya can’t tell the players without a program, so here goes.

The Grand Poobah:  David R. Goode, our illustrious chairman, chief cook and bottle-washer.  Ol’ Dave has but two reasons to live:

1. Acquiring a small piece of brass and wood, known to us as the Harriman Award. If you're an employee you know,   “It's the Bell or Hell!”

2. Collecting millions upon millions of small green pieces of paper at the expense of the employees and stockholders. In all fairness, he's pretty good at this, but evidently not good(e) enough as he's still collecting them.

The Field Marshall: Steven G. Tobias, President and Chief Inquisitor, in charge of Safety for NS.   Come on, Steve your military school days are over! Very good at thinking up redundant and ridiculous safety rules at the drop of a hat, which serve no purpose but to impede production, drive the stock price down even further, and screw our customers. Plus, the usual gang of Idiots. 
Now that you're familiar with the cast and crew, let's go on to the news.

That Damn Bell.
Otherwise known as the Harriman Award, it's what the NS world revolves around. God forbid one of those "Western roads" should snatch it away from us, as all executive officers are ready to jump from the top floors in Norfolk, and all managers have orders to take the gas pipe should it ever happen.  .If it does ever happen, we can all finally realize that we're all human, and can we get down to railroading now?   Please?

OOPS, got through that one.
Broken switches are the bread and butter of NS discipline. Putting it in UP perspective, it's probably a level 86 offense. Of course they've taken out all the Racor (semi automatic) switches, otherwise no officer would get a paid day off to attend an investigation. But, read on.

Couple months ago, a crew was pulling a track with no air, and wouldn’t you know it, the train had those loaded Wisconsin Central boxcars in it... (You know, the ones with the 50 foot drawbars on each end) Well, you guessed it, when the crew stopped for a switch those nasty cars shoved the slack in and pushed the engine right through that switch. With the trainmaster on his way in, and certain time off apparent, the crew took extreme measures. They all gathered round, touched all their rings together, and were instantly transformed into.......Trackmen!! A new spindle and some tools were rounded up, and damned if that switch wasn't fixed in 10 minutes, adjusted to perfection! Cost to NS - 0! Cost to our asses from not being reamed - 0! Out of service claims - None! Paper saved on investigations: One tree! Final score – Crew: 1, NS: 0.     Well, that's all for now, but stay tuned for more.
-Uncle Kracker-

Top Ten Reasons You Know You Just Bid In The Wrong Yard Job

1. The Engineer is wearing a "Talledega 500" T-shirt and muttering to himself,  "NO BRAKE, ONLY  #8."

2. You beg the Yardmaster to let you spot the Slaughter House, because the smell on the pit helps masks your Foreman's cologne.

3. The Yardmaster on duty used to be a clerk.

4. The Foreman on the job is actually a 'Planner' that just got bumped.

5. You just learned that the Foreman and Engineer have loaded up with over $5000 worth of job insurance and they announce: "It's time for some Kamikaze Switching!"

6. Your helper shows up for work with an umbrella instead of a rain suit.

7. Your Engineer insists on loosening his suspenders, taking off his shoes, and eating a whole fried chicken before moving the locomotive.

8. Your boots have been on the railroad longer than the new Trainmaster.

9. The Foreman and the Engineer are both from Alabama, after work they invite you to come on up for a little “Snipe Hunting."

10. The Yardmaster radios your Foreman telling him to be sure and pull the Rips, the Foreman replies: "Only if you come down here and pull my finger first!”

-RazeKane, BNSF, way down south-

Quote of the Month

Noli simul flare sorbereque.
(Don’t whistle and drink at the same time.)

World Class Railroading

Let me understand this.  We are at an industry and we have a work order to pick up three empties.  While we’re there, the customer just unloaded two more cars.  The foreman comes over and says we can have them and go ahead and give him all five cars we have for him.  Sorry, we can only pick up three.  Oh, and out of the five cars we have for you we can only spot three and the other two will have to go down to the storage track and we’ll switch them out tomorrow when we have the paperwork to pull the empties.  That is, if you call the “customer service” folks and beg to get a spot. Right?

Well, what happens if we go the other way tomorrow and cover the work of the other job they pulled off?  Do it on overtime?  What about the extra fuel, time and hours if we do get back tomorrow instead of while we’re here now?

Somebody else’s budget.  World Class Railroading.

Editor’s Note

You may not think so, but we here at Snakebites do take a few things seriously.  In spite of the fact that we are taking some of the easiest and cheapest shots in history, we are here because we care about railroad employees.  And we think our readers do, too.  Because of this, from time to time we’ll take off our sarcastic attitude and talk about the real issues that affect everyone in the railroad industry.

That’s why I’m really enthusiastic about a thing called STARPLAN.  What’s this, you ask? I’ll let the originators explain it, they do a much better job than I, but let me assure you, I know the people responsible for this and I have the utmost confidence in their professionalism, sincerity, honesty and willingness to go the extra mile for their fellow railroaders. (And they are not managers, they are us.  This is OUR program.) Check out the website at:

It is the humble opinion of your editor that if this thing catches on it will change the way you look at your railroad job.  And it may even change the way railroad management looks at their work force, but it doesn’t depend on them buying into it. It’s about us, the people who railroad for a living. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose here, so take a careful look.