Old Girl

By Chip Syme

The following is a story I had written in June 2004 about getting to meet a close friend again. I had worked as an engineer in Canton, Ohio on the helper jobs for years; most of the time I was by myself on these jobs. Canton was assigned GP38-2’s for locals, yard jobs and helper units in the 8200 series. An early afternoon helper would be called first and after the local or a yard job was tied up, another helper or two was called. Some might think it is strange to have these as helpers but it worked very well. Canton would call 3 to 6 helper jobs in 24 hour period. They were used to keep tonnage trains on the Ft Wayne running at track speed so as to not hold up the TV or mail trains. I really liked the GP38-2’s. The only thing wrong with them, was there wasn’t enough of them.

June 2004

I had been working the Conway to Toledo jobs and after a 6 month absence from Canton I went back for a couple of months to work some jobs with Saturday and Sunday off. On my local C41 to Massillon I had the NS 5356 as a single unit. Once inside the cab I knew we were once very close friends. The FRA card answered my question. Yep, the Conrail 8211. The conductor was still in the yard office so we discussed how things are now and the good times we shared, just her and I alone on HLP 40C. (HLP was for helper, 40 was the Pittsburgh Division code and the letter was number of helpers called since midnight started at A) The many nights we went to Big Run and waited for the 14,000 ton COPI to show up. We talked about tipping the hill at Smithville going west and hearing the detector going off at Shreve knowing that we would be arriving at Big Run the same time and making a quick move because the mosquitoes are always bad at the Run in the summer. She reminded me how many times she and one of her sisters pushed like hell to the top of the hill at 12 mph. When I heard the engine start to relax I could put the throttle into #4 and put seat back and take it easy going across the flats between Orrville and Massillon then tear into it again for Massillon Hill. We talked about me bring the latest issue of MR and getting some good articles read while in the clear. I almost didn't recognize her with the new black dress and white eye liner. She was proud she had kept the same old voice box hanging outside over the cab. She sounded like the same old girl to me. She also reminded me about the time we lifted the 16,000 ton GRB grain train off Wooster hill without a single slip. I honestly don't remember us doing that but, she must have. I looked her over inside and out. The inner guts were clean, the cab was nice and the toilet was good shape also. She was disappointed about all the places she used to go in Canton that are now gone.

Republic Steel although open is almost dead: Danner press, White Engines and Diebold all gone. She is a little older now with a little vibration from the main generator. She said she's gotten by the last 4 years but misses the good times we had over the years hauling stowaways and doing what she did best. She asked if I still had all the roster slides I had taken of her over the years wearing a fresh coat of blue paint. She said if she gets a scratch she could still bleed a little blue blood. I think she is content wearing her new black dress but, I did spot a little cancer from inside the nose facing toward the fireman's door below the battery box. After shutting her down tonight and driving out of the parking lot she was silent but still happy to have survived all these years.


PS She did remind me she is 26 years old now.

Canton helper job HLP 40C at Canton ready to go east on 49 track October 20, 1998. Taken by the engineer on the job that day, Chip Syme.

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