Car Inspector’s Job Was Not Always Pleasant

The first December that I worked the job of car inspector at Dearborn Station, Chicago was 1949.

I remember that all the passenger trains would have extra cars because of heavy traffic.

The Indianapolis trains. #14 and #15, would always have an extra parlor car for a couple of days before and after Christmas. One would be the Monon #75 and the other would be a Santa Fe or New York Central depending on the availability.

On Christmas Eve that first year, the Santa Fe El Capitan left in five sections. Each section had 14 or 15 cars. The first section had three baggage cars and was pulled with a diesel. The other four sections had one baggage car to separate all the coaches and these trains were pulled with steam.

It was a very cold night! The temperature was around 15 to 20 degrees below zero. Monon train #6 di not arrive until after 9 p.m. I stayed late because #6’s train was to be brought over to be held at the freight house overnight because the coach yard at 51st Street could not service it. The Chicago and Western Indiana switch crew brought all the cars over and had to have cars coupled with steam to make the move. It took about 20 minutes for the two unit Monon diesel to be switched over and coupled to the train. I had to make the steam connection between the engine and the coaches so they could keep steam on the cars all night.

In this 20 minute time period, ice formed in the steam hose leading to the coaches. It took another 20 minutes to a half hour after we had the engine steam line hooked up to the cars before we were able to get steam through the ice blockage and back into the train. It was 11 o’clock before this was all completed.

My fingers still get cold thinking about this.

Another day that I well remember was in the middle of summer.

The Wabash Bluebird, which was a streamlined train with five or six dome cars, including a dome diner and a dome lounge/observation, normally left around 5 p.m. It would be pulled by one E-9, 2000 horsepower diesel.

On this particular day, something happened with the diesel and they substituted one of the blue 700 series Wabash 4-6-4 Hudson locomotives for power.

What an impressive sight! A blue steam locomotive and all blue streamlined train.

At that time, the Santa Fe still used occasional steam locomotives in and out of Chicago and the Grand Trunk was still all steam on its passenger trains.

By Bob Schultz, as written in The Hoosier Line, Volume 23, Number 1


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