We have a friend who visits our offices from time to time, and my blog about the Tintic branch gave him cause to reminisce about being young and living near the branch. One of the signature features of the line is 120’ trestle where the Tintic branch crosses Union Pacific’s Sharp sub. One afternoon in the early 1960s, he and some friends were passing time at the bridge. There was a flange greaser at this location, and nearby, there were buckets of grease. The doldrums of summer demand creative invention, and in time, aimlessness turned to a balancing competition. The challenge was to step into the grease and see who could walk the furthest along the rail. The summer day was long, and untold minutes were spent as the young kids tried again and again to outdo each other.
At this time, Union Pacific operated heavy, iron ore trains from Iron Mountain, Utah (in the southwestern corner of the state) to Geneva Steel and Ironton near Provo, Utah—a distance of about 230 miles. Typically, these trains were powered by SD7s, and, due to their weight, they were long, slow moving drags. When the headlight of the day’s train came into view, the young boys stepped from the rail and eagerly awaited its passing—the thought of the greased rail already long absent from the fickle consciousness of youth.
The grade is uphill. Of course, when the train reached the section of rail greased with a thousand footsteps, it spun to a halt. And of course, the conductor sees from his window the toothless smiles of the feckless summer vagabonds of perfidious toil. Their soiled shoes and pant legs leave no doubt as to who perpetuated the crime, notwithstanding their friendly grins. According to my friend telling the story, the conductor had “a come apart”—meaning he emerged from the cab and, with a violent slur of words, commanded the attention of each one of those young boys.
In the Utah desert, anthills can be large. Our friend recalled with a memory reinforced from a dozen stinging ant bites how the conductor marshaled the boys to use the anthills to sand the rails. Imagine what that looked like: four or five young kids dancing around, swatting ants, and pouring sand atop the rails underneath a massive iron ore train from cups and little pieces of tin they found scattered about. Meanwhile, the conductor stood from behind, a twinkle of schadenfreude in his eyes, while the day’s wrongs were made right. It is almost a Norman Rockwell painting, right?
God bless the railroads.