The Jensie Job

By Chip Syme

All photographs are Copyright Chip Syme, with the exception of Kelley’s Creek Railroad 500 which is a John Beach photo, from the collection of Chip Syme

I was working the fireman’s extra list at Minerva, Ohio. Today’s date is May 7, 1970. My last article was about the PF 2-1 (Piney Fork job) that went from Minerva yard, at MP 42, to Piney Fork, at MP 82.8, and returned. Today, I will give you an insight about the other mine run from Minerva yard which is MJ 2-1, locally known as the Jensie job. It goes to Phillips, at MP 62.4. At Phillips, you had the north and south leg of the wye which connects to the Wolf Run Branch, ending at Jensie mine. Since there was no runaround at the mine, the train had to shove up to the mine. For this reason, the Jensie job always followed the Piney Fork job since it had to pull by the south leg of the wye, clear of the Alliance Branch, and shove to the mine.

My phone rings at 1:15 pm sharp. Fred Barnett, who was the agent operator/ crew clerk at Minerva, tells me that I am called for MJ 2-1 at 3:15 pm. I’ll be filling the vacancy of L.E.Unkefer, who is on vacation. Later, I jumped into my black 67 Impala and headed out to the yard. While driving back to the enginehouse, where I report, I saw our train sitting on # 7 track. I wave at Finney, the conductor on the Piney Fork job, who had just finished getting an air test.

Arriving at the enginehouse, I now see the hostler has added F7 1697 to the rear of the first trick yard job’s power, who has tied up for today. I walk into the old NYC passenger car that now serves as the engine crew reporting location. I’m greeted by my engineer Russ Jones, who hired out on the NYC at Minerva on December 24, 1936. Russ’s dad, Bob, had also been an engineer at Minerva who hired on February 5, 1917. I read the daily bulletins and signed the whiskey sheet that says I have read all the current bulletins for today and understand them. I look up on the crew board and see we have engines, GP9’s 7325 on the south end of our trip today and 7326 in the middle with the 1697 on the rear. The two GP9’s were the yard job’s assigned power. Within a few minutes, the brakeman arrives from the yard office with the train order and mark up. Before we leave the building, we each read the train order and clearance form A. After reading clearance form A, everything looks OK to me. The date and the train order number matches the one on the form A. Form A also tells you how many order(s) you’re supposed to have. The engine number is correct with a good signature and time.

Although the train order is important, I feel the form A is the most important. Train order # 328 tells me we are using timetable # 3, and twenty eight is the number of orders issued since midnight. The train order reads “May 7, 1970, To C&E eng 7325, At Minerva Yard”. The body of the train order says “Eng 7325 run extra Minerva Yard to Phillips and return to Minerva Yard”. This gives us a round trip ticket to Phillips and return. The rest of the order says “Pull by and back in at Phillips” meaning we will be using the south leg of the wye. Finally, it states that “Extra 7325 south must not pass or run ahead of Extra 1709 south between Minerva Yard and Phillips”. What this means is the Piney Fork job must leave the yard first and we must follow. Signed “G.A.S” (G.A. Street, the Valley Division Superintendent) and made “complete at 3:03 pm”. This is the time the operator read this back to the train dispatcher. Without much wasted time, we head outside to board the engines. I board the lead engine first, then head back through the engines to make sure we have a MU cable, and a steel tow cable. The steel tow cable would be needed in case we had a drawbar come out of the wrong end of the car. The cables would allow us to pull it to the nearest siding. The engineer would check the outside running gear and make sure the sanders were working and lined up with the rails. After returning to the cab, we all looked over the train orders again.

With a couple of blasts from the horn, we departed the engine house tracks. The Piney Fork job was already gone, so we didn’t need to worry about him. We backed onto our train on # 7 track, and started pumping the air into the train line. Since the caboose did not have a radio, we would have to wait for the car inspector to come up. Shortly later, the car inspector came driving up from the caboose in the Penn Central green Dodge truck with the tool box car body. He yelled up to Russ, we have 75 pounds of air in the caboose, set your brakes. The car inspector turns around and heads back to the rear. Old Russ draws 15 pounds of air off the train line, then lets the air settle (equalize). He looks at his watch, and makes sure he doesn’t have over a 5 pound leak per minute. He then draws off another 10 pounds of air and waits till the car inspector drives up again. The car inspector finally arrives and tells us the brakes are applied on the caboose and to release when ready. After we hear a couple of stories from the brakeman and what Russ’s little dog done today, Old Al, the car inspector arrives at the head end again and says the brakes are released in the caboose and it’s ok to go. With a couple of blasts from the horn, we depart the yard. Today, we will need to get ice on the caboose. At the south end of the yard, there is a little 5X5 foot building where blocks of ice are stored. When we get to the ice house, the conductor opens the angle cock on the rear of the caboose to set the air. The engineer sees the air dropping and we come to a nice easy stop. After the flagman gets the ice, he closes the angle cock and the air restores on the head end and away we go.

Heading out of the yard, we pass the 15 mph slow board. Rocking along at this break neck speed was a rear killer for me. Most of the line had cinders for ballast, but some sections had limestone. We rolled along past Cat Fish Pond, Spring House Curve, and then arrived at Watheys, MP 48.2. This day, we had 64 empty hoppers with a 25 car set off at WA (old telegraph code for the Watheys telegraph station). Watheys was a 3,579 foot siding which would hold 70 cars of 50 foot length. The cars we would set off most likely were extra hoppers that weren’t needed for tomorrow’s loading at the mine and could be used tomorrow if the job from Cleveland shorted us hoppers for the mine.

The Alliance Branch was manual block railroad on which you must have a train order to occupy the track, but you still had to protect the rear of your train. When we stopped, the flagman went back the prescribed distance placed two torpedoes on the track and returned ½ of the distance. After we made the set off in the siding and tied back on to the train, we made the air test. The engineer called in the flagman with five blasts of the horn and waited about seven minutes before starting to pull. If the flagman wasn’t on, the conductor would open the angle cock and set the brakes till he reboarded. When the engineer saw the brake pipe air returning to 85 pounds he knows it was OK to go. About another mile, we go around the curve and start down Specht Straight. At the crossing, the engineers usually give an extra toot as this is where my wife was raised and my now brother-in-law Ron Lutton’s girl friend lived, soon to become his wife. We then rolled past my conductor Charlie Herrington’s Bottom (large flat tract of land, his farm was here), continued pass Kangaroo Crossing, Goods Woods Crossing and Jumbo Straight and still just rolling down hill at 15 mph.

We enter the little town of Bergholz, which had two little loaders that loaded strip mine coal when they had orders. At the south end of town, we were always greeted by a section man’s son who always waved to us on his bicycle. We roll past the north leg of the Phillips wye switch and arrive at the south end of the wye and pull the train south of the switch. The conductor again opens the angle cock to stop us because they don’t have a radio. The flagman lines the switch, the conductor closes the angle cock and we start backing up into the wye. The engineer knows when to slow up for the switch on the east end of the wye. The conductor gets this switch and remains at this location till the head end arrives then lines it back after we clear the switch. The flagman will ride the rear end east up the Wolf Run Branch. When the head end arrives at the east switch of the wye, we stop when we clear the road crossing and the conductor goes to the telephone. This is a city line phone in a locked railroad phone box. He reports to the dispatcher in Youngstown that we are clear of the Alliance Branch at Phillips and gives him the time we cleared.

We will now back the train up the four mile long Wolf Run Branch at 10 mph. The track from Phillips to Wolf Run is less than .5 percent grade. We continue till we’re about half way up the hill to the little town of Wolf Run. It has two crossings, two bars, a post office and several houses. The town had had several boom times over the years till the mines panned out. The flagman drops off at the main crossing and we continue backing up till the head end clears the crossing. At this time, it’s 7:00 pm. I set the hand brake on the engine and all five of us walk up the road maybe 100 yards to Joe’s Bar. I guess you could say it was a little crude even in 1970. Joe and his wife always had good food for us. Joe would scratch his head, then his butt and start making the food for us. I always got the same old thing, a hamburg, fresh cut french fries and a Coke. The engineer and brakeman would always get two beers with their food, but as on the Piney Fork job, it was never abused. After lunch, we head back to the train. After I released the hand brake on the engine, we would let the train drift forward down the hill with the head brakeman, flagman and conductor waiting at the crossing for the caboose. They jump on board while it is moving slow and open the angle cock to stop us. Then we’d start backing up the hill.

From Wolf Run to the top of the hill at Jensie Mine the grade is almost a 2 % grade. The engineer always dropped sand going up the hill to help with the braking coming back down. When approaching the top of the hill, the engineer will slow up so the flagman can run ahead of the caboose and close both split derails. The engineer will continue at a very slow walk till both derails have been closed. This is a serious hill when protected by two derails. A split derail is a piece of rail split in half so if a car were to get away it would hit the split piece of track and derail. When the derail is thrown closed it puts both sections of rail together so the train can pass. After both derails are closed, we go over the crossing shoving past the loaded cars sitting on both sides of the running track. The flagman is on the rear platform of the caboose with a spot light calling out the car numbers of the loads on the left side to be picked up. The conductor, who is sitting at the desk in the rear of the caboose, is writing them down. The brakeman is in the bay window of the caboose writing down the car numbers on the right side. The quicker we get this job done, the more down time we have to rest. Everybody gets a little bit of a break to sleep during the 14 hour run.

We continue shoving past the loads, down the empty track lead and cross over to the loaded track on the left. At this point, we uncouple the caboose and pull back out to the running. The switch is lined towards the loads. The caboose is then coasted down and coupled on the loads. We now have the last section of the train made up. The switch is then lined back towards the empty tracks where the empties are to be spotted for loading. The brakeman and flagman start to place the empties from right to left. Some conductors prefer left to right, but when going right to left you’re able to see the cars being spotted. There are six tracks behind the tipple that hold the empty hoppers. Again, each conductor spots his cars a different way. When getting ready to place these cars, the brakeman will slightly open up the angle cock which signals to the engineer the switches are being lined. When the angle cock is closed, the engineer will start backing the first cut of empty hoppers into the track. At the end of the track the flagman will either step in front of the moving train and open the angle cock or ride the cars in to the track and kick the angle cock open, putting the train into emergency. The brakeman has positioned himself at the clearance point of the track, closes the angle cock and makes a cut with the first section of cars on the track. After three minutes, the engineer automatically releases the brakes, drifts forward three car lengths, stops on his own, waits about three minutes before starting to back the second cut into the track. This continues until the empties are spotted. The entire spotting of the empties are made without a radio or lantern. The brakeman now takes the engines down to the west end of the mine track and couples the engines onto the loaded track that has the caboose. During this time, the conductor is walking the last section of the train coupling the air hoses and checking the angle cocks to make sure we will have air to the rear of the train. At this time, the air will be worked on the rear portion of the train. After a set up and release of the air, we cut the engines off the train placing it into emergency. We now start on the front sections of the train.

Jensie Mine (shown here in 1979) is owned by North American Coal Company. The tipple was designed and built by Roberts and Shaefer Company of Chicago. Jensie Mine was near the town of East Springfield, Ohio. They have two engines that load the coal from under the tipple. These GE 65-Tonners are ex-Kelley’s Creek Railroad 500 and 501. One of the units is green, the other is yellow. The coal for Jensie was belted in from some distance away.

At this time, the engineer and fireman get to take an hour or so down time while the brakeman and flagman are taking the hand brakes off the cars and coupling the air hoses on the front portion of the train. When the conductor feels we have just enough time to get the train doubled up, air tested, and make it into Minerva Yard, we start making the train up. We would double two or three loaded tracks together, then back onto the cut of cars that has the caboose coupled to it. At this time, the air is charged, making sure that we have 75 pounds of air in the caboose. The engineer makes the air test and when the brakes are set, the conductor will walk to the head end of the train making sure that all air brakes have applied. He will also tell the engineer how many loads and tonnage we will be taking to Minerva. Now comes the changing of the guard. The fireman takes his turn at running the train.

We are now ready to start down the hill. The engineer will drift the train down past both derails and stop on his own without the conductor opening the angle cock on the rear of the train. We have certain places along the railroad that we know are 30, 40 and 50 car length markers. Once stopped, the flagman will open both split derails and the engineer will wait sufficient time before we will start drifting the train to the bottom of the hill. At the north leg of the wye at Phillips a 23 car siding is adjacent to this leg of the wye. This track was used for shop cars or if Jensie mine loaded more tonnage than we had engines to haul we would put the excess cars on this track and if the Piney Fork job couldn’t pick them up because of excess tonnage also. An extra job on Saturday would get these cars plus up clean any other work that needed done along the line. We will stop at the bottom of the hill on the north end of the wye switch at Phillips. The brakeman will take a 10 minute flare, light it and lay it on the Alliance Branch main track in case the Piney Fork job is close. He will then open the main track switch and we will proceed till the rear end is clear of the wye track. Remember, our train order #328 today said Engine 7325 run extra Minerva Yard to Phillips and return to Minerva Yard so it was not necessary to call the train dispatcher for permission to occupy the Alliance Branch northbound. Again the air will be applied from the rear so the engineer knows when to stop. After the switch is lined back for the Alliance Branch, the angle cock on the caboose is closed the engineer seeing the brake pipe pressure is returning to 80 lbs brakes we now proceed north toward Minerva.

Since we used the wye track at Phillips, we will be heading back north with the same engine 7325 in the lead. After leaving Bergholz, we’ll have a .5 % grade till we get to the Beaver Dam where it goes to 1.25% till we tip Mechanicstown Hill. With 5000 horsepower and 3300 ton of train, we’ll have no trouble making Mechanicstown Hill. When our work order showed bring 3300 ton from Jensie, notice they didn’t say bring a specific number of cars because at this time we were hauling 55 ton cars, 70 ton cars, and 100 ton cars. This is another reason why the conductor walked the train, got the car numbers, and noted if they were 55, 70 or 100 ton cars. This gives him an accurate amount of tonnage that he then gives to the engine crew. The 7325 does the EMD chant in number 5 throttle position till we hit the Beaver Dam, we then hit number 6 throttle position and a different melody is heard, then seven. Tonight we won’t need the company notch (#8) as the old 1956 girl just purrs along without any problem. She has good footing tonight as we haven’t had many wheel slips. This wouldn’t be the case if it was foggy tonight or a drizzling rain. After we go through the cut at Mechanicstown and pass mp 53 we’ve started to tip the hill so I turn the feed valve back reducting the amount of train line pressure by three pounds this lets you put a smaller amount of air on the train for better handling. When we arrive back at Minerva Yard, the brakeman walks up from the second unit. I assume he wasn’t sleeping back there all this time in the dark. Maybe he was just saying his prayers. He lines the NYC-type high switch stand from the main track into the yard and proceeds up the ladder until he comes to #10 track. After lining the switches, he gives us a highball with a lantern. We proceed ahead picking him up. Old Russ was a real pro at knowing how many car lengths were needed to be at any location. He slows the train to a crawl to let the flagman reline the main track putting us in the clear of the Alliance Branch. We take the train up to the north end of #10 track, uncouple the engines from the train and go back #8 track, paralleling our train to pick up the conductor and flagman. I usually bail off the engines before we start back and head into the yard office to talk to John Barnett the third trick operator/crew dispatcher and see how many times out I’ll be when we get done. This saves the crew from walking to the yard office. Once at the rear, we bring the conductor and flagman up to the yard office, drop them off and the brakeman takes the engines to the north end of the yard at Murray Ave. We pull past the engine lead switch and the brakeman lines the switch. We back onto the engine lead and the brakeman lines the switch back. He walks to the rear of the engines and we back down the engine lead to the engine house tracks. Once we arrive on the pit, I set a hand brake on the engine. The brakeman drives back over to the yard office after the engineer gets his time slip done, and I get the work report made out on the engines. One of us will call the yard office and inform the conductor what time we are marking off duty. We would usually tack on an extra 15 minutes for doing the paperwork. And so concludes my May 7, 1970 trip on the MJ 2-1.

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