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

The shift begins...

Another fun evening on the Afternoon Trick at West Wye Tower, Kansas City MO. This is the North end of the Kansas City Southern and the West end of the Milwaukee Road's Kansas City - Chicago Line. The Rock Island used to come through here in the 70's but they had been replaced with the Yellow and Green of the Chicago North Western. We used to have to issue Rock Island orders and clearances, but the CNW operator down at 12th Street handles that now, all we have to do is move 'em on out to Polo Missouri. The switch on the intercom that used to connect with the Rock Island Dispatcher in Iowa City now talks to a CNW Dispatcher.

How did this day start out? I made my usual trip down to the tower, taking I-435 north, over Rock Creek junction and towards the Missouri River. A mile from the River is the Front Street Exit and the Interstate passes over the Milwaukee - CNW tracks just before Front Street. I always got a good view of the junction on the way in and I can usually tell if I'm going to have a bad shift by the number of trains waiting to move.

Today looks like another "Bad Day at Hanging Rock" - There is a Milwaukee train headed up with 3 GP-40s waiting on the South Track at Airline Junction, a Unit coal train is strung out over the MoPac diamond and the Chemagro Switcher is waiting to come in.

I turn off on to Front Street and head around the service road to get to the Tower. Front Street runs into Gardner Avenue, which goes all the way down to the KCS Roundhouse. West Wye Tower is accessed by a crushed cinder road just across the main line at Airline Junction. I park out the front and head across the yard lead and up the stairs to relieve the Day man, Jack.

"What's it look like, Jack?"
"Well, ya got this Milwaukee shuttle train waiting for a new crew on the South Track, Number 91 just left here (the Unit Coal train). Number 1 is going to be ready about 6 o'clock or so they tell me at Knoche Yard. I have the Santa Fe transfer still out and there is a 93 coal train due around 8 o'clock. The Chemagro guy is ready to come in. The Grandview turn was held at Grandview for Number 91, so he'll be poking in around 5 or so. I don't think he'll break any speed records now. (we laugh - If a Yard Crew is on overtime, they like to get the most they can - and the Grandview turn started work at 8:00 am this morning) Number 2 is a couple of hours away, I think the dispatcher will meet him at Drexel with Number 91."
Jack shows me the train sheet we use for block movements between Knoche (The west end yard), Lydia Ave and the Team Track (uptown). He points out the usual collection of slow orders and I know the dispatchers will issue new ones again tonight.
I nod to Jack as he picks up his lunch pail and heads for the door, "Okay Jack, thanks. See ya tomorrow." "Okay Kelly, try to keep 'em running!"

Now it's official, I am in the hot seat for 8 hours. Okay, check the paper work. Right, it's all in order and I'm set to start my shift.

A 'typical' afternoon shift

What follows is a typical evening on the 2nd trick at West Wye Tower. It wasn't always that busy every day, but it could get quite busy at times.

4:00 pm

"4031 to West Wye." "West Wye, go ahead"
"Yeah West Wye, this is the Chemagro run, we're ready to come in." "Okay, over"

I hit the intercom to the East Yard Yardmaster, Howard. "Howard, the Chemagro run is ready, do you have a track?" "Yep, he can come in on #3"

"West Wye to 4031" "4031, go ahead" "You are cleared into track 3" "Roger, track 3"

I check number 21 switch is normal and I flip number 24 right signal. "Thanks West Wye, 4031 out."

4031 starts across the diamond and 'knocks down' number 24 signal. The track occupation light comes on the panel.
4:20 pm - 4031 clears the diamond and I turn to the typewriter and type the entry into the train movement sheet.

"4010 to West Wye" It's the Team Track crew, I bet they are ready to come back in. "West Wye, go ahead 4010" "Yeah, we're down here at Lydia, ready to come in."
"Roger 4010"
I pick up the black phone and ring Broadway Tower - the operator there controls the interlocking from the Missouri Pacific and on to the KCT track at 12th street.
"Broadway Tower" "Hi Bill, this is Kelly down at West Wye, I've got the Team Track crew down at Lydia ready to come across" "Okay West Wye, I've got a transfer across the junction now, he'll get a clear after that"
"Okay, thanks Bill"
"West Wye to 4010" "4010, go ahead"
"Yeah, you should get the signal after that westbound freight clears." "Okay West Wye"

5:00 pm

"4034 to West Wye Tower" "West Wye Tower, go ahead 4034" "West Wye this is the Grandview turn with 10 cars, we are comin' down the hill towards Blue Valley" "Alright 4034, bring it on down to 23rd street." "Roger, West Wye"

All of the northbound KCS trains have to contact the operator at West Wye so that he can arrange the crossing at Sheffield with the KCT control center. I hit the intercom switch for KCT Control. "Control!" barks out of the speaker. "Yep Control, I have a KCS northbound with 10 cars, be at Sheffield in about 10 minutes, straight across. Can you take 'em?"
"Bring 'em on!" says the KCT operator. The problem with letting a northbound KCS train pass 23rd street without clearance from the KCT could result in level crossings being blocked, which would have the sherrif on our back, so we don't authorise past 23rd street until KCT Control accepts the train. Of course, with this little 10 car train, it won't be a problem. However, if this had been Number 92 (Unit coal), with 110 cars, there would definitely be a big hassle!

I buzz the East Yard Yardmaster, Howard on the intercom. "Howard, you ready for the Grandview turn?" He answers "Yep, bring him on in track 4"
"West Wye to 4034" "4034, go ahead West Wye" "Terminal says you are clear to come on north." 4034 answers with a "Roger West Wye - heading to Sheffield"
I line up 21 Reverse and set 22 Right for the Grandview turn. He rolls in a few minutes later, coming up the lead.
The buzzer from Kenoche sounds. "Yep go ahead Fred", I answer. "Number 1 will be ready to depart at 6:00 pm. Conductor Smith, Engineer Rybnick, Brakeman Williams. Lead loco 611" "Okay, Extra 611 south will be ready at 6 pm"
"Dispatcher West Wye" The KCS Dispatcher is calling me. "West Wye, Dispatcher" "Copy slow orders West Wye" "Okay, be right with you and Number 1 will be ready for 6:00 pm."
I load up the '20 copies at once' slow order forms into the typewriter and prepare to take the orders. "West Wye - Dispatcher, ready to copy." I begin copying out the orders as dictated by the dispatcher. During the day, Maintenance crews have given the dispatcher's office a list of where they will be working and what speed limits to set. Every number has to be sounded out and repeated back to the dispatcher. If I make a mistake, the whole order will be destroyed and I will have to type a new set. While I take this order, the Milwaukee crew has boarded the train (Extra 2061 West) at Airline Jct.

West Wye Control Machine

"2061 to West Wye, we are ready to depart for the UP."
I am just finishing up the slow orders, so I can't answer him just yet. I finish repeating the order to the dispatcher and he okays it. I let the switch engine out on the lead for a couple of minutes (set 21 Normal and set 24 Left), while I check with the KCT operator if they are ready for this Milwaukee Transfer run.

KCT says they can take the Milwaukee train, so I line it up. Make sure 21 and 25 are Normal and set 22 Left to clear.
"2061 to West Wye, we are moving." Sure enough, the red light comes on on the panel, indicating that the train is moving across the diamond. I can see Airline Junction from the tower during the daylight hours, but you need the panel lights after dark! The black phone rings. "West Wye Tower" "Hi Kelly, this is Floyd over at Ustick tower, are you ready for this coal train?" "I'll just check". I buzz the Kenoche yardmaster. "Hey Fred, are you ready for Number 91 from the BN?" Fred answers, "Yep, put him on 901". I do not directly control the yard tracks, but I will inform the crew which track to take when they arrive. "Okay Floyd, send him on over." "Right, thanks Kelly"
901 and 902 tracks are special 'through' tracks that pass around the yard. They are the holding tracks for the BN coal trains, 901 is usually for Southbound trains, while 902 is the normal track for the North bounds. The BN crews bring the train over, then they go home and the train waits for a KCS crew to take it south.

While I have been arranging the coal train move, Milwaukee 2061 has cleared Airline Jct. I record the time he left on the trainsheet and call the Milwaukee dispatcher. I flip the intercom select switch for the Milwaukee Dispatcher and kick the foot pedal, "West Wye Tower, OS". The dispatcher answers "Go ahead West Wye" "Extra 2061 East departed Airline Junction at 5:43 PM" "Alright, five four three p m 2061 departed Airline junction. Any idea when my next train will leave town?" "I'll just check."
I buzz Kenoche. "When will we see the Milwaukee train?" "Crew is called for 6:30 pm" "Okay, thanks". I kick the foot pedal, "West Wye, Dispatcher" "Dispatcher, go ahead". "Your Extra 163 is called for 6:30, Conductor Jones, Engineer Fletcher, Brakeman Clarke". "Ok West Wye, 6:30 pm"

"4010 calling West Wye Tower" It's the Team track job. "West Wye, go ahead 4010". "Yeah West Wye, we're in the clear at Knoche" "Roger 4010". I mark the time clear on the Yellow train sheet (Movements between Knoche and Broadway Tower). It is a double-track mainline extending from Knoche Yard to Broadway Tower, which is within Yard Limits (10 miles per hour), but we authorize movement on it and we have to record times. There are no signals there, until they get to Lydia Avenue on the Broadway Interlocking.

I call the KCS dispatcher to get clearance for Extra 611 South. "Dispatcher West Wye" "Go ahead West Wye" "I have clearance card for Extra 611" "Okay, read it out" "To C&E Extra 611 South. I have 2 orders for your train. Numbers 51 five one and 54 five four." The dispatcher repeats this to me as I check the clearance card. He replies with his initials at the end - "C.D.A". The dispatcher instructs me to hold Extra 611 South at Airline junction until Extra 669 North (Number 2) arrives.
Since the train will soon depart Kenoche Yard, I go ahead and bundle up the clearance card and the order flimsies into two bundles, one for the engineer and one for the conductor. I tie them with a couple of hoop strings. The strings are simple square knots tied in each end to make a loop, with a small loop between the two ends. I put the bundle into the small loop and pull the string tight to hold the bundles. The string fits around a funny looking holder, made from old coat hanger wire and a bit of wood. It is designed so that the engineer can hold out his arm as the train goes by and put it through the hoop and the string pops off the hoop and stays on his arm. I go outside and down the stairs to the train order stand and put the orders in their holders ready for Extra 611 South.

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