Thursday, January 19, 2012

Operating Instructions

Do Not Hump, 2012

I don’t begin to know all you’d have to know to operate a train. Old-fashioned featherbedding notwithstanding, almost every job is important and carries a lot of responsibility. It’s probably hard for some young people today to imagine the role railroads once played in creating upward social mobility in America. Becoming a train driver was once one of the most prestigious jobs to which a working class guy could aspire. Becoming a Pullman conductor or Dining Car cook or waiter had the same meaning for young African American men.
These guys were professionals. They were proud of their work and knew what to do. Everyone else got reminders.
There are safety instructions all over rail cars, though as the photo above demonstrates, some might seem off-color at first blush.
“Humping,” it turns out, refers to a surprisingly simple and efficient method used to sort freight cars. A yard locomotive pushes a string of cars to the top of an incline (the “hump”). On the other side of the incline the rail splits into lots of individual tracks on which trains are assembled. A worker in a nearby tower activates switches, the car is uncoupled and given a nudge over the top of the incline. Gravity pulls it down the other side and onto the right track.
Think Safe, 2012

“Think Safe” and “Home Safe” are a little easier to figure out. They’re two parts of a famous Norfolk & Western Railway safety slogan that goes “Think Safe. Work Safe. Home Safe.”
Home Safe, 2012

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating--I'll have to send a link of this to RC--he's still reading emails and he'd enjoy this immensely. Thanks, Chris! LOVE these photos, and learned something new.