The Life of a Spokane Division Trainman 1960 - 2004
By John E. Langlot and Mac McCulloch.
Cloth with dust jacket, 8.5x11.25", 348 pages, bibliography, endnotes, photos throughout. November 2020.
"Rocky's Rail recounts John Langlot’s career and experiences during the tumultuous period of railroad history between 1960 and 2005.
"John hired out on the Great Northern at Hillyard in July of 1960, was forced to the W-O in 1961, and worked the line in the early 1960’s. The first chapter is about John’s life as a boy in Hillyard. The next eight chapters describe John’s work on the lines of the Great Northern Railway’s Spokane Division as it was from July 12, 1903 to February 1, 1956 and from July 1, 1967 to March 2, 1970, arranged on a geographic basis.
"Two chapters describe the planning and implementation of the Burlington Northern merger, which was finally accomplished March 2, 1970. The balance of the book recounts John’s career after 1970. To allow the reader a broader view, some of these chapters include a section that summarizes what was going on at the corporate level. Very fortunately, John has an excellent memory and is a great storyteller. This book is founded on his wealth of stories.
"With the Burlington Northern merger, the territory available for John to work expanded to include the former Spokane, Portland and Seattle main line between Spokane and Pasco, and the former Norther Pacific main line between Spokane and Pasco, the main line between Spokane and Paradise, Montana, plus the Palouse & Lewiston and Central Washington branches. We discuss these lines in the context of John’s work on them and issues related to them that impacted John’s working life.
"Co-author Mac McCulloch grew up in Wenatchee and worked as a clerk in Wenatchee and Seattle in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mac was there at the end of the Great Northern era and the beginning of Burlington Northern.
"This book is unique in three ways.
- First, it is set in Eastern Washington, a region relatively unremarked in the railroad literature.
- Second, it covers the time period from 1960 to 2005, a period of technological change as sweeping as the period from 1825 to 1870 when everything was new and the technology was in constant flux.
- Third, it provides a first-person view of the craft of trainman, a work life experience seldom discussed in the literature about the railroad industry.
On January 25, 2016, two days before my birthday, I lost a close friend and my braking partner Gene "Spanky" Sponcler. Many of my experiences recounted in this book occurred when I was working with Gene. The time spent forced on the W-O local, working the Kettle Falls Turn, plus three years on the Cour d' Alene local were with Gene. The time we spent at our model railroad club after we both retired were moments to cherish and remember. I never met one person who didn't like Gene. Gene always had a smile on his face and his quick wit always bought laughter even during the last six years."
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 A CHILD OF HILLYARD
Chapter 2 TRAINMAN Crew Duties – Seniority, Bidding and Preferred Jobs – How does this job pay? – Time Table and Train Order Operation – An Illustration of Time Table and Train Order Operation
Chapter 3 HILLYARD YARD Introduction – Blocks and Blocking – Hillyard Yard – Air Brake Tests – Runaways on the East End – Runaways on the West End – The End of Hillyard – The Mead Turns – The Priest River Turn – The Newport Local
Chapter 4 SPOKANE JOBS Spokane Yard – Switching the Passenger Trains – A Day of Passenger Service at Havermale Island – The SC&P Yard – The Moscow Local – The Coeur d’ Alene Local – Traffic Between Spokane and Hillyard
Chapter 5 KETTLE FALLS JOBS Introduction – The Chewelah Turn – The Kettle Falls Turn – Not Always a Good Trip – The Nelson Local – The Republic Local – The Kettle Switch Local
Chapter 6 THE MAIN LINE WEST OF HILLYARD Introduction – Chain Gang – Eastward trains – Westward trains – The East Pig – Train Number 5 – The 490 Series Second Class Trains
Chapter 7 THE MAIN LINE EAST OF HILLYARD Introduction – Through Freight Service East of Hillyard – The Bull Local – Scotia Canyon and Kootenai Canyon – Ditching in Kootenai Canyon – Colorful Characters
Chapter 8 LOCALS WEST OF HILLYARD Introduction – The West Local – The Beet Local – The Quincy Spud Local – Wenatchee Locals – The Alcoa Local – The Wreck of the Alcoa Local at Quincy – The Mansfield Turn – Summary
Chapter 9 WORKING THE W-O BRANCH IN THE 1960s Introduction – Operating Overview – Wenatchee Terminal – Where at Wenatchee? – Air Brake Tests – New Guys – Seasons of the W-O – The Keremeos Turn – The Drop at Braker – Hobos, Cops, and The Wild West Boys – Curly Kills Two Cows – Stories, Wrecks and near Wrecks – Train 697 at Appleyard – My W-O Experience – L’envoi
Chapter 10 MERGER PLANNING Introduction – The Physical Geography of Spokane – The Northern Pacific Near Spokane – The Great Northern – The Spokane, Coeur d’ Alene & Palouse – The Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway – The Union Pacific – The Spokane International – Planning Spokane area Main Line Changes
Chapter 11 IMPLEMENTING THE MERGER Line Changes – Spokane area Main Line Changes – The Kettle Falls Line – The Moscow Line – The SC&P Spokane Yard – The Coeur d’ Alene Branches – The Palouse & Lewiston – Seniority Issues Following the Merger – Operations on the Kettle Falls Line
Chapter 12 THE BURLINGTON NORTHERN Introduction – Congestion at Yardley – Working on the BN – One Day on the Greenacres Turn – Signal Systems – Signal Problems – Red Dog Concentrate – The Appleyard Explosion – Regulatory and Corporate Activities 1970-1980 – Summary
Chapter 13 THE FRISCO YEARS The SLSF Merger – Rubber Rooms – Working on the Frisco – End of Timetable and Train Order Dispatching
Chapter 14 DIFFICULT DAYS Introduction – Corporate Activities 1981-1995 – The SP&S Abandonment – Winona Bridge and Montana Rail Link – The Network Operations Center – The Lamona Rail Grinder Collision – Fred and Mary – The Sprague Wreck – Safety
Chapter 15 BURLINGTON NORTHERN SANTA FE The BNSF Merger – Easing the Bottleneck – My Last Years on the Railroad – Hauser and Yardley in 2020 – The Iron Triangle – I Left my Train at Espanola – Work Trains – Plowing Snow – A Look Back at the Changes I Saw – How I Feel about it all Now
"John Langlot, the son of a Great Northern trainman, grew up in Hillyard, Washington. John worked his first day as a Great Northern trainman on August 6, 1960. For most of the 1960’s he worked as a brakeman on the Wenatchee-Oroville locals at Wenatchee because they were the only bid-in jobs he could hold. Over the course of his career John worked every trainman job available at Hillyard; all the locals, Chain Gang to Troy, Montana, and later to Whitefish, Chain Gang to Wenatchee, and passenger trips as a brakeman to Seattle and Whitefish. John was promoted to conductor in March of 1968. With the BN merger John could also work former Northern Pacific routes from Yardley to Paradise, Montana, Pasco, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho. John’s favorite job was the bid-in work trains on which in 1997 and 1998 he participated in the two main track construction projects between Spokane and Sandpoint, and between Sandpoint and Troy, Montana. John retired from BNSF on December 31, 2004 and has served as a Director of the Great Northern Railway Historical Society since 2008 and Vice President since July of 2009.
"Mac McCulloch grew up in Wenatchee, Washington, where he worked his first day as a Great Northern clerk in June of 1967; the first of four summer clerking stints as a clerk at Wenatchee. He continued with the Burlington Northern at Seattle in the fall of 1970 and graduated from the University of Washington in the summer of 1971. Mac joined the Association of American Railroads Bureau of Explosives on October 1, 1974 working as Inspector at Portland, Oregon, and Manager Field Operations at Washington, DC. He joined Southern Pacific’s Hazardous Material Control department at San Francisco in 1979, later becoming Superintendent of that Department. While working for SP he earned a MBA in Business Administration from the University of California at Berkeley. He also worked for the Chicago, Missouri and Western, the AAR’s Transportation Test Center, the Washington Central Railroad at Yakima, and the Portland and Western at Albany Oregon. Mac is now retired and lives in northern Mississippi.