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

6:00 pm

I buzz the Milwaukee Dispatcher. "Go ahead West Wye". "Orders and clearance for Extra 163 East." "Okay, read it out to me" "To C&E Extra 163 East. I have 2 orders for your train. Numbers 101 one-naught-one and 102 one-naught-two." The dispatcher reads it back to me and adds his initials. I okay and initial the clearance card. I get these ready to hang after the KCS Southbound has left.
"KCS Extra 669 North calling West Wye Tower" Looks like KCS Number 2 is coming in! "West Wye, go ahead Extra 669." "Yeah West Wye, we're coming down the hill out of Grandview." "Alright 669, bring it on down to 23rd Street." "Roger West Wye, 23rd Street."

I buzz Howard. "You ready for Number 2?" "Yeah, gimme a minute."
EEEEEEE! It's the intercom down at the ASB bridge. It must be that BN coal train. I hit the switch and answer, "West Wye Tower". "West Wye, this is BN crew with Engine 5035, ready to enter the main." I buzz Kenoche. "All clear for the BN coal train?" "Yep, bring it on, track 901." "Okay." "BN Coal Train, come on down the north main and take track 901." "Roger, track 901". I fill in the yellow trainsheet for the BN train.
I call KCT Control. "Gotta KCS Northbound be at Sheffield in about 10 minutes. Can you take him?" "No, hold him for now, I have a lot of cross traffic at Sheffield." "Okay".
The drawbridge intercom light comes on. "Yeah Don, go ahead." "Hey Kelly, I got a CNW train coming through Birmingham, can you take him?" "Yeah Don, send him on over, south main. By the way, Extra 163 looks like leaving around 7 o'clock or so." "Alright, thanks Kelly, my board is not too busy right now."
"Extra 669 North to West Wye, we're passing Blue Valley siding. Have we got clearance past 23rd?" I ring the KCT operator again. "Hi, can you take this KCS northbound yet?" "Yeah, that traffic has gone, bring him on down to Sheffield." "Okay, thanks." "West Wye Tower to Extra 669 North." "Extra 669 North, go ahead West Wye." "You are cleared across Sheffield."
I buzz Howard again, "Are you ready for Number 2, Howard?" "Yep, he can go into number 1 track."

The CTC panel (The Board) lights up a westbound traffic indicator. Old Don has cleared the signal across the drawbridge. I check that 49 and 51 are normal (they usually are) and flick 54 Left to clear the CNW train down to Airline Jct. While I'm here, I line 21 Reverse and clear 22 Left to bring in Extra 669 North. About 5 minutes later, the track circuit lamp comes on, showing that the KCS has crossed Sheffield and is now approaching Airline Junction. I call him and advise that he needs to take track 1. Once they get past the signals, all the turnouts are manual, so the head end brakeman must set them all. I soon see the 3 white SD40-2s heading across the MoPac diamond and start around the bend into the Yard. I put down his arrival time and call the KCS dispatcher. "West Wye Tower, OS" "Go ahead West Wye" "Extra 669 North arrived Airline junction at 6:41 six four one P M" "641PM, Okay West Wye"
West Wye Control Machine Now the approach light comes on the South Main at Freight Line junction. There's that CNW train, coming off the Drawbridge. Time to call the KCT operator again. "Hi Mike, can you take a CNW to 12th Street yard?" "Just a minute, I'll check". "Okay West Wye, after the KCS clears, you can send him on." "Okay, thanks Mike".

The KCS northbound has just cleared the diamond and the CNW has knocked down 54 Left at Freight Line junction. I can see the green and yellow locos far away under the I-435 highway overpass. I put 21 back normal and 25 normal and then clear 22 Left. The KCT line beeps again. "West Wye, I have the Armourdale turn coming past Union Station, will be at Sheffield in about 10 minutes, can you take him?" "Yep, bring 'em on after this CNW clears."
The CNW has gone now and I record his time on the train sheet. I buzz the CNW dispatcher. "West Wye Tower OS" "Go ahead West Wye" "Extra 2520 South departed Airline junction at 6:56 six five six pm" "6:56 six-five-six pm, OK."

7:00 pm

"Extra 611 South to West Wye Tower" "West Wye Tower, go ahead" It's Number 1 and he is ready to roll. "Yeah West Wye, we're ready to leave Kenoche." "Allright, you've got clearance."
I line 21 reverse and 23 reverse and set 22 right for the Armourdale Job. A few minutes later, the approach light shows him coming. Sure enough, he is stuck at the MoPac diamond, waiting for them to clear. As if that wasn't enough, here comes Extra 611 South, I can see his headlight down near the roundhouse. I set 37 and 35 normal and clear 36 right, at least I'll get him to Airline. "Extra 611 South to West Wye Tower, we have a red at Airline" Duh - I think to myself - He can see the other train (the Armourdale turn) on the other side of the MoPac diamond.

Soon the radio crackles with another voice, one which I know too well. "024 to West Wye Tower!" "West Wye, go ahead 024" Oh man, it's the trainmaster - he ain't gonna be happy about Number 1 getting delayed. "What's happening with Number 1?" "He is waiting for the MoPac diamond to clear, and then the Armourdale run is coming in."
Oh dear, I haven't buzzed the KCT yet to see if they can take Number 1! I quickly buzz KCT, "Hi Mike, can you get a southbound KCS across Sheffield." "Nope, not yet, give me about 5 minutes." "Okay, thanks!" "024 to West Wye" "Go ahead 024" "Is that Mop moving now?" I look out across the diamond. "Yes he is 024" "Allright, lets get Number 1 out of here, West Wye." "Roger, 024" Phew - The Armourdale job zips up the lead and clears the diamond, he doesn't want to hear from the trainmaster, either! I am sitting right on top of the controls, I quickly set 23 normal and as soon as it sets, I clear 24 left. I hear the brakes let off on Number 1 and soon there is a boom as the coupler slack comes out. Number 1 is moving!
I buzz the KCT again. "Hey Mike, can you take this KCS now?" "Yep, bring him on and don't spare the ponies! I got a couple of hot Santa Fe trains to get across Sheffield real soon."
I just remember to record all of the times on the train sheet. Here comes Number 1's caboose! Soon, I call the KCS dispatcher. "West Wye Tower OS", "Go ahead West Wye" "Extra 611 South departed Airline junction at 7:17 seven-one-seven PM" "okay West Wye"

It's starting to quiet down a bit now, the Milwaukee Dispatcher buzzes me and dictates the new slow order for tomorrow. After finishing that, I go out and hang the orders for Extra 163 East. (The Milwaukee train)
"Extra 163 East to West Wye Tower" "Go ahead Extra 163 East." "Yeah West Wye, we are ready to leave Kenoche." "Allright, you have clearance." I buzz the Drawbridge. "Yeah Kelly?" "Hi Don, that Milwaukee is ready to leave Kenoche, can you take him?" "Yeah, bring him on.". I line 35 reverse and 53 reverse. After the switches throw, I line 36 Right and 52 Right to send the Milwaukee train out of town. Soon, I can see his headlight coming down the north main. Three SD40-2s rumble past the tower and you can hear them notch up as the engineer rounds the bend towards Freight Line junction - looks like old Don has cleared the Drawbridge signals, so he'll get a green at Freight line.
The train rattles and bangs across the frog of number 35 turnout and the jointed rail. Soon the caboose is in view. I head down the stairs to watch the caboose pass by and collect the 'soup ticket' from the conductor. The conductor tosses out a piece of paper with a lead strip wrapped around the end, which makes it plummet to the ground and stay there. I wave to the conductor and pick up the soup ticket and head back up to the tower.
The 'soup ticket' is a wheel report, which I will relay to the dispatcher. I enter the time that the train left West Wye and Freight Line. I switch in the Milwaukee dispatcher circuit, "West Wye Tower OS" "go ahead West Wye", grumbles the dispatcher. Yes it's old Mr Grumpy 'Where the H*ll is my train?' John the dispatcher. He was not noted for his friendliness - but you could work with him. "Extra 163 East departed Freight Line junction at 7:38 seven-three-eight pm. 42 loads 25 empties 7450 tons." The dispatcher repeats this to me to ensure it's right and I okay it. Another job done. I reset signals 36 and 52 to stop (straight up on the handles) and put 35 and 53 back to normal.

8:00 pm

The KCT operator buzzes me. "Go ahead" "West Wye, I got light Milwaukee engines out of the UP. Can you take them?" I answer, "Yep I can take 'em" He will buzz me when they get closer to Sheffield.
Kenoche buzzes me, "West Wye, number 91 is called for 9:00 pm, Conductor Smith, Engineer Holmes, Brakeman Stark" "Okay, Fred". I get on the radio to the KCS dispatcher and get a clearance for Extra BN 5035 South. I get the orders and clearance card ready for hanging.

"West Wye Tower, Milwaukee 2041" "Go ahead 2041", I answer. "We are heading out of Armstrong Yard (UP) now, going back to Liberty for the Santa Fe delivery." "Allright 2041, I'll get you set up." I buzz the Drawbridge. "Don, can you take the Milwaukee light engines for Liberty?" "Yeah no problem."
About 15 minutes later, the KCT operator buzzes me. "West Wye, these Milwaukee light engines are approaching Sheffield." I reply "Okay Mike, send 'em on in." I line 21 normal, 25 reverse and when they change over, I set 22 Right. This will send the engines up the North Main to the Drawbridge. I check that 49,51 and 53 are all normal, then line 52 Right to clear through Freight Line junction. Soon, the occupancy lamps light up and there come the engines with caboose across the MoPac diamond. The engines 'knock down' signal 22 R ('knock down' is slang for a train passing a signal and putting it to stop.) I 'stand up' signal 22 (There is one lever per pair of left/right signals, with straight up the stop position, so we 'stand up' the signals after a train 'knocks down' the signal. I record the train times and buzz the Milwaukee Dispatcher. "West Wye OS" "go ahead" "Light engines 2041 passed Freight Line junction at 8:47 pm, headed for Liberty"

The trip to Liberty will take about 30 minutes, where the crew will couple on to the cars left there for the Santa Fe. During the later period of the Milwaukee bankruptcy, they tried an idea to save on Yard work at East Yard. Normally, a Milwaukee train would arrive at East Yard and then the yard crew would break it up into transfer traffic for foreign railroads. Now the trains were 'pre-blocked' before they left Bensenville Illinois into blocks for each railroad. Today the train had a block of cars for the UP on the front, followed by a block of cars for the Santa Fe and then a block of cars for the KCS yard (Local industries/grain elevator).

9:00 pm

"Extra BN 5035 South to West Wye Tower." It's Number 91 coal train, ready to leave Kenoche. "Go ahead Extra BN 5035 South", I answer. "We're ready to depart." "Roger".
I get on to the KCS dispatcher. "West Wye Dispatcher" "Go ahead" "Number 91 (Extra BN 5035 South) is ready to depart." "Okay he is cleared out of town." "Roger" I head down to the train order stand and hang the orders for the engineer (high) and conductor (low). I return to the Tower and check 35 is normal, then line 36 Right.

I buzz the KCT again. "Hi Mike, I've got a KCS southbound, can you take him?" "No, hold him for a couple of minutes." "Allright"
I can see the headlight of the coal train approaching down the north main. The GE U30C's are making the funky sound only GE's can make. "West Wye, Extra BN 5035 South has a red at Airline" "Extra BN 5035 South, waiting for the Terminal" "Okay"
The KCT operator buzzes me. "Yeah Control?" "I can take your south bound KCS now, right across Sheffield?" "Yes, thanks!" I check 23 is normal and 21 reverse, then flip 24 left. "5035 West Wye, we're movin'" Great, he will be gone soon.

Finally, after about 110 cars or so, the caboose passes the tower. I call the KCS dispatcher. "West Wye Tower OS" "Go ahead West Wye" "Extra BN 5035 South departed Airline junction 9:37 pm nine-three-seven pee em" "Okay West Wye."

10:00 pm

It's quieted down now, most of the transfer jobs are done, speaking of which, here comes that Santa Fe transfer that left from Kenoche around 7 o'clock with just his engine and caboose. I line him into the yard (21 reverse, 23 reverse and 22 right), and he heads down the lead.

I take advantage of this quiet time to make up some more copies of the Milwaukee and KCS slow orders and maintenance orders. This involves onion-skin paper with 1 sheet of paper, 1 double sided carbon, two sheets, 1 double sided carbon and so forth to make 20 copies in one go. Lucky we have the electric typewriter to make the impressions needed for 20 copies! There is also some teletype work to catch up on for the Milwaukee Road. In one corner of the office is an old Teletype unit, with a keyboard and paper tape punch/reader.
Every sixty seconds, Bensenville polls the line to see if a tape is loaded. When there is a tape loaded, it takes off and the printer prints whatever I punched on the tape and transmits it up the line to Bensenville. Tonight it is just a few wheel reports, so not too much work.
It is a strange experience, to type a report and have nothing come out but a paper tape. Oh sure, if you have to you can decipher the holes in the tape to make sure you are typing correctly and don't even think about making a mistake! Once I have finished punching the tape, I load it and soon after, I get to see what I actually typed coming out of the printer.

11:00 pm

"Hey Kelly, it's Don over at the Drawbridge" "Yeah Don". He asks, "Can you take Milwaukee 2061 with a string of 25 for the Santa Fe? He is leaving Liberty." "Bring him on."
I get on the intercom to KCT. "Yeah West Wye?" "Can the Santa Fe take 25 cars from the Milwaukee shuttle crew?" "I'll just check", he answers.
Hmm, the crew went on duty at 5:00 pm, so they will soon be on overtime. The terminal operator buzzes back - "Santa Fe says they got room for 25, what time is he on the law?" "5 AM", I answer. "Yeah okay, call me when he gets closer."

About 25 minutes later, I see the westbound traffic light come on the south main at Freight Line. Looks like Don has lined up the Milwaukee transfer. I check 49 and 51 are normal, then clear 54 Left. "Hey Kelly, that Milwaukee job is just heading over the bridge now.", says Don. "All right - I'll get him going." I buzz the KCT operator. "This Milwaukee for the Santa Fe is coming, can you take him now?" "Bring 'em on", he answers.
I line 25 Normal and 21 Normal. When they finish throwing, I clear 22 left, just in time, looks like! "2061 to West Wye Tower" "Go ahead 2061" "We're coming up to Freight Line for the Santa Fe." "OK 2061, I got you set up to head on over to Sheffield." "Thanks West Wye." Soon 2061 'knocks down' 54 left and approaches Airline. About 3 or 4 minutes after that, he 'knocks down' 22 left and lights up the KCT approach circuit. I call the Milwaukee dispatcher. "West Wye Tower OS" "Go ahead" "Extra 2061 West arrived Airline junction at 11:44 pm and departed at 11:47 pm" "Okay"

The door swings open and here comes Brad, the 3rd trick operator. I finish recording the train times and welcome him in. "Hi Brad, here's the scoop" About 5 minutes later, he's got the whole picture and I head off home to get some sleep. Tomorrow we will do it all again, the trains will change and the times will change, but West Wye Tower will always remain one of the hotspots in Kansas City.

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