Prototype Railroading - A story of West Wye Tower on the Milwaukee Road

Part 1 - Introduction  Part 2 - The shift starts   Part 3 - The end

Copyright © 2005 by Kelly S. Loyd
Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company Employee from January 1980 to May 1982
Permission granted to reproduce providing the copyright notice is kept intact.
Updated 16 May 2009

Preface The events portrayed in this story do not record an actual 'day' spent working at West Wye Tower, but do recollect many of the things that happened on the 2nd trick (4PM to Midnight) job, which I worked for 2 years. Some jobs always had to be done, for instance:- copying train orders, getting clearance for trains, working with 3 dispatchers, 2 yardmasters, 4 tower operators and an especially cranky trainmaster. Dedicated to Tower Operators and Dispatchers everywhere. Nobody sees them and the job is not glamorous, but without them trains would not be able go anywhere.

West Wye Tower

KCS Dispatcher "20 - 2 0 Miles Per Hour - M P H between Milepost 56.2 5 6 point 2 and Milepost 57.1 5 7 point 1 C D A"
Milwaukee Road 2061 crew "2061 to West Wye - any idea when we will get the signal?"
Me "20 - 2 0 Miles Per Hour - M P H between Milepost 56.2 5 6 point 2 and Milepost 57.1 5 7 point 1 C D A"
KCS Dispatcher "Okay West Wye, Pittsburg?"
Me "West Wye to 2061 over"
Milwaukee Road 2061 crew "2061, go ahead West Wye"
Me "West Wye to 2061 - Traffic control says about 10 minutes - waiting for a Santa Fe to clear"
Milwaukee Road 2061 crew "Okay"
Yard Switcher "4012 to West Wye, can we get the signal on the lead?"
I reach over and line Signal Lever 24 Left.
Yard Switcher "Thank you!"
East Yardmaster "Kelly, where is number 2?"
Me "West Wye, Dispatcher"
KCS Dispatcher "Dispatcher, go ahead"
Me "Where is Number 2?"
KCS Dispatcher "Just passing Drexel"
Me "Thanks, dispatcher"
Me "Howard, Number 2 will be here in about an hour."
East Yardmaster "Okay, I will get Number 1 track cleared up."
I buzz KCT on the intercom.
KCT Operator "Terminal!"
Me "Yeah - how's it looking for this Milwaukee run through to the UP?"
KCT Operator "Bring 'em on, that Santa Fe is just about clear of Sheffield"
Me "Okay, here he comes"
Me "West Wye, 4012"
Yard Switcher "4012"
Me "You done with the lead?"
Yard Switcher "Just a minute, okay"

Tower Desks

I wait for 4012 to push his long cut of cars down the yard lead. Great, he is off the circuit. I reach over and line Signal Lever 22 Left. Me "You should have the signal now 2061". I've been waiting a while to get 2061 off the South track and out of my hair. Milwaukee Road 2061 crew "2061 is moving West Wye, thanks"

A little background about West Wye Tower and the surrounding railroads

Here is an explanation about West Wye Tower. It had a Union Switch and Signal Interlocking machine in the middle of the floor. West Wye Control Machine From the left to right, the Interlocking machine had a desk, then the KCS desk, then the Milw/CNW desk with the Intercom.

Tower Desks The KCS desk had all of the KCS train orders and paper work, plus a microwave link base station transceiver for the KCS Dispatcher. It had a Push to Talk microphone on the desk.

The Milw/CNW desk had all of the Milwaukee and Chicago Northwestern paper work, including clearance cards and train orders. It also had an intercom unit with gooseneck microphone, and two telephones on top of it. One phone was a normal telephone to the outside world, which we called the 'Ma Bell' phone and the other was a black phone which was for the Kansas City Terminal Railroad only. It used 3 digit phone numbers. I could talk to the KCT, or Broadway Tower (MP), or AY tower (Santa Fe) or Ustick Tower (BN) on this phone.

The intercom unit connected with the Milwaukee Dispatcher, CNW Dispatcher, Truman Drawbridge, KCT Control and several Field units (these were speaker/mike combos that were mounted on steel pipes at junctions where clearance was required, or where a crew might need to talk to the control operator.)

When a trainman pressed the call button on one of the field units, the intercom let out a loud high pitched squeal until I answered it or muted it. A blue light came on to let me know which switch I needed to operate and where it was that the crew was calling me from. I had a foot pedal to work that microphone.

On the Milwaukee desk, I also had the Base station radio, I could speak with KCS or Milwaukee train crews on this.

West Wye Control Machine

Above is the panel layout for the US&S machine. All of the turnouts were odd numbers and all of the signals were even numbered. Both the left hand and right hand signal head was controlled by one switch on the panel. You could not clear the signal both ways at the same time! That would cause a wreck for sure.

The panel was marked with the railroad initials, hence C.M.St.&P.R.R. is Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad - what a mouthful! We just said 'Milwaukee Road' or if you were in a hurry, 'Milwaukee'. The old joke around the tower was C.R.I.&P.R.R. ( Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroad). My grandfather said it stood for 'Cry and Pee'. Other joke names were Big Nothing for Burlingon Northern, Santa Flush for the ATSF, Haywire for the KCS and Mop for the Missouri Pacific. The KCS was called the Haywire because they ran on the 'wrong side', e.g. left-hand running.

Next - The Shift starts

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional