In my 21 years on the railroad, I'd thought I had seen it all; Accidents, fatalities, derailments, blackouts, blizzards, floods, washouts, etc. But even I was surprised by what happened yesterday.
It was my first train of the day. We had just left New Haven Station and I began collecting tickets. I was half way through the last car when I heard the loud whoosh sound of the train's emergency brakes "dumping." You've probably heard this sound before in action films. It usually occurs when a bad guy, is chased by a good guy onto a passing train. The two protagonists run through the cars, when one or the other invariably pulls the train's emergency brake cord "whoosh! " The camera then pans to the train's squealing wheels as they seize up and slide across the iron rails. Sparks fly.
To the best of my knowledge, we had neither cop nor robber on board. No cowboys. No Indians. Not even a fugitive chasing a one armed man. What we did have, however, was a "pull apart."
For reasons that are still unclear, the head two cars of my eight car train separated from the rear six cars. Luckily, the train was only going about 15 mph at the time and no one was injured. The engineer, still not realizing what had happened, recharged the air brakes and continued west toward New York. Luckily, an assistant conductor was in the third head car and saw the head two cars pulling away. He immediately got on his radio and called for the engineer to stop the train. The head two cars now rested about 100 ft away from rest of the train.
When the engineer called the Rail Traffic Controller and told him what had happened, the RTC could not believe it. Neither could the Line Superintendent, the Mechanical Foreman, Operations Manager or the rest of the crew. I knew my passengers would have a hard time believing it as well. My initial announcement to them sounded like this:
"Folks...You're not gonna believe this, but..."
After several minutes we hitched our train back together, and brought it back to New Haven Station where we transferred our passengers to another train.
It was quite an interesting day.
After work I went to my daughter's field hockey game. On the drive there, I thought of how I'd tell the story to the regular group of parents that attend these games. Should I come right out and say: "My train pulled apart on the main line today." No, I thought; Instead of blurting it out, I'll slowly reveal my story, starting with the whoosh of the emergency brake and slowly work my way up to the "pull apart."
When I got to the game, each of the parents greeted me and asked how my day went. Normally I would just say "good," and leave it at that. But yesterday....yesterday I had a story to tell. I began as I had planned, starting slowly working my way up to the climax i.e: "my train pulled apart." After I finished, I waited to bask in the glow of their amazement. It was then that Joe, the father of a two year old, spoke: "Ya know" he said. "That very same thing happened on Thomas the Tank Engine this morning."
Everyone burst out laughing.
Some people are hard to impress.