L&N Pigs on the Monon
Back a few months before the Monon/L&N merger, the L&N had a problem on Red River bridge between Evansville and Nashville, and they had to detour the hot Chicago-Nashville traffic over the Monon for three or four days. Since we didn't have enough manpower to handle all the trains, they sent a bunch of L&N guys over from Danville to work as brakemen, while the Monon men worked as the engineers, firemen, and conductors.
The first detour train, the first night, was #721, a pig train (piggyback), and I caught it as engineer. Monon guys Donny King, the conductor, and Dick Nydeggar, the fireman, ware with me, and two brakemen from the L&N.
We had three brand new GP38's, and forty piggyback cars. I don't remember what time we left Lafayette yard, but it was sometime after midnight, probably about 2:00 AM or so, and we had the middle division to ourselves. I had never run an engine with dynamic brake before, but I had read some about how it worked, so I tried it dropping down into the Wea. It worked like a charm, and I never used the big air brake all the way to McDoel.
When we rolled by Manchester just north of Crawfordsville, I had the speedometer dancing right on 80 mph. The head brakeman from Danville kept saying "we don't run 'em quite this fast over on my side". I told him to just "relax, enjoy the ride", and it was a ride indeed.
I ran it to Bainbridge, then gave it to Dick, who was also a promoted engineer, and he took it on to Bloomington. He was a good runner, and he took the bridle off the rest of the way. When we passed Gosport I looked at my watch, and figured we were going to make it from Shops to McDoel in 1'40". That's 104 miles on a railroad with a 50 mph speed limit on freights, and although the Monon never criticized us for speed, I thought we might be pushing it a little bit. I told Dick we'd better kill some time, so he stopped at Stinesville for about 15 minutes, and we still went into Bloomington in 2 hours flat. Best run I ever made, and those GP38's rode like Cadillac's.
When I got in the yard office, the operator told me the dispatcher, J.C. Stayton, wanted to talk to me. When I got on the phone he asked me, "Ron, why'd you stop over at Stinesville?". I said, "damned JC, have you looked at your clock?" He said, "hell, you wouldn't have had to stop, I had you covered". When we got to the motel, Donnie told me the young L&N boy who was flagging for him wasn't all that comfortable on the caboose on the way down. He said he'd shine his light on him and ask him if he was getting sleepy, and his eyes looked like a hoot owls watching the engines rolling around those curves. When we got ready to go eat breakfast, he said he didn't feel very well, and wasn't going to go with us. When I asked him what he thought of the ride on the way down, he said, "do you really want to know what I thought"? I said "yes, of course I do". He got dead serious and said, "all the way down I was just hoping I'd get to see my poor old mother one more time".
True story from the Monon days. (Photo Right: Dixie Piggyback Flyer. Not on the Monon. L&N Historical Society.)
- Ron Marquardt -
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