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Signal Maintainer

NOTE:This article was originaly posted on "Connections", the DT&I Modelers List in response to the two photos (included here) which were posted to the main page of this web site. The article's author, Jim Sinclair, was 16 when he rode DT&I train DC9, desribed here.
Be sure to check out more of Jim's photos using the link at the bottom of this page.

Fellow DT&I fans:

 Let me tell you about my trip on DC-9 and how it was arranged. Growing up in Ann Arbor and being a regular "fixture" about the Ann Arbor Railroad's "Ferry Yard" office and it's close proximity to the UofM football stadium was my "key" to several nice train rides on both the DT&I and Ann Arbor during my teen years. A typical football Saturday would bring several high-ranking DT&I-AA officials to Ferry Yard for parking and a tailgate picnic before the game. By not being too shy, I got to know some of the officials fairly well and by far the friendliest was the late President Charles L. Towle. He was a real gentlemen and was never too busy to ask me how I was, how school was going or tell me about the "latest and greatest" happenings on the railroad. His wife was a dear lady, too! Other officials often included Vice President A.C. Robinson, Superintendent J.E. Schlosser and/or others from the Dearborn headquarters.

 Rarely a football season passed without me requesting a trip somewhere. Since I felt most comfortable around Mr. Towle, he's the one I would usually put the "squeeze" on for cab rides. He'd carefully listen to my request and never hesitated to tell me to write him a letter. Once he received my letter (which was usually by Thursday of the next week!!), he would hand it down to either Mr. Robinson or Mr. Schlosser and within a couple of weeks, something would be all arranged for me per my request.

 The very first request I made of Mr. Towle was in the Fall of 1968 and it was indeed quite simple -- to ride the switch engine (which would be an old Alco "S" series switcher) around Ferry Yard and Ann Arbor proper for a day. Upon hearing this, Mr. Towle gave a quick glance over at the old smoking and wheezing Alco and rendered a deep chuckle. Initially, I thought I was dead in the water until he made a statement along the lines of, "I think we can do better than that." As requested, I wrote him a letter and anxiously awaited his response. About 10 days later, the mailman brought a letter that had been typed by Mr. Towle personally. He had made arrangements for me to be picked up at 8:00 am, November 2, 1968 at the Ferry Yard office by Mr. R.R. Potts, Captain of the DT&I-AA police department, wherein he transported me via auto to Flat Rock where I was given a complete tour of the hump yard, diesel shop and anything else that I wanted to see. He then put me on train DL-1, which I rode from Flat Rock to Diann and picked me up at Diann and transported me back home in Ann Arbor!! Now, the worst part of this whole arrangement would be the week's wait until it happened!! I recall being so excited about it that I actually had difficulty sleeping, concentrating on school work and just about everything else for that matter! In a nutshell, the day finally came and I had a fantastic time!! Everyone treated me like a king and I finally realized my dream of sitting in the engineer's seat and blowing the whistle somewhere between Carleton and Diann.

image copyright Jim Sinclair - do not use without permission - DT&I train DC-9 at the Fulton curve (just a few miles north of Delta, Ohio) with units 409-406-209-956-957 on October 20, 1972 Scrolling ahead to October 20, 1972 and my trip on DC-9, that was a great trip as well. Not only was there brand-new power on the train, there was no fireman on this trip and the head brakeman chose to ride in the second unit (406) with conductor Howard Buck. This left the entire left hand side of the cab to myself where I could really "stretch out" and enjoy the ride! Engineer "Red" Lowe was very quiet and didn't say a whole lot to me. In fact, I think he was quite suspicious of me and my reason for riding his train. This didn't bother me too much since it allowed me to just sit and enjoy the trip without a lot of "chit-chat" going on. As the trip progressed and he observed me taking a lot of photos with an old camera and I asked what must have been some pretty dumb questions to him, I think Red realized I was harmless. With that, a little more dialogue began to flow between us.

 The weather was great the whole day -- sunny and warm. We left Flat Rock at 9:15 am with units 409-406-209-956-957 and 64 loads/32 empties/5680 tons. Units 956-957 were dead but I do recall a message stating they could started and used if needed. These old girls were making their last trip over the DT&I and were enroute to Paducah, KY where they would become ICG units in their "Paducah rebuild program." We passed through Carleton at 9:30, Diann at 10:01, Riga at 10:16, Delta at 11:03, Liberty Center at 11:15, Malinta at 11:24, Hamler at 11:33 and arrived Leipsic at 11:45. After waiting for 64 minutes (north of Leipsic tower) for B&O track gangs to clear up, we finally got onto the B&O at 12:50 pm and I promptly discovered why the B&O had track gangs busy at work -- the track was in awful condition and riddled with numerous slow orders (at that time) between "XN" and "DT&I Jct." On the B&O, we met a northbound B&O at Ottawa and then passed by CG Tower at 1:26 before exiting off the B&O at DT&I Jct. at 1:50. Arriving Ford Park at 2:00, we met northbound JD-2 and was moving again at 2:35. We passed by Sugar Street at 2:40 and SJ Tower at 2:44. My notes don't mention meeting any northbound trains between Lima and Junction but I do note that we passed by Quincy at 3:29, St. Paris at 3:45, Thackery at 3:55 and arrived at Junction at 4:35 PM.

image copyright Jim Sinclair - do not use without permission - Another shot of DT&I 409 on train DC-9 at the Fulton curve, Delta, Ohio October 20, 1972 Although this was not my first cab ride ever, it was my first trip between Diann and Junction (Springfield) and the first time I had ever ridden in a brand-new locomotive. I absolutely fell in love with the DT&I south of Lima where the terrain wasn't so flat and the track wasn't so straight. I don't recall anybody telling me about the "High Bridge" north of Quincy and I further recall it took me by surprise to barrel around a curve at 45 MPH and there's this long, tall trestle...!! All in all, I was very impressed with the overall condition of the DT&I -- track and otherwise. I also found the DT&I to be a very friendly railroad -- everyone I ever met from the President on down where good people.

 I had dinner with Howard Buck that evening and learned a lot more about him and the DT&I. Not only was he a really pleasant and intelligent person, he also had a lot of seniority and I listened to him talk about his lengthy career for a good two hours or so before he announced it was time to turn in. After Howard and I parted company, I headed back to my room and it wasn't long before my head hit the pillow and I was fast asleep...

 The next morning, I met Howard for breakfast and then we were off to Junction. JD-2 was called for 10:20 am with brand-new GP40-2 units 407-408 (what a treat!) that would be pulling out of Junction with 52 loads/13 empties/4550 tons. We departed Junction at 10:55 am and passed by Thackery at 11:33. We blew by Morgan tower in Quincy at 11:57 and snagged some orders off the "Iron Man" directing us to meet DS-1 at Jackson Center. Once tucked into the siding, the dispatcher hollered for Howard to come to the phone box where he copied a "telegraphic train order" for us to stay in the siding and meet DJ-1 as well. DS-1, Engine 400 south passed us at 1:11 and DJ-1, Engine 208 south was hot on his heels passing us just 5 minutes later at 1:16. Our head brakeman lined the north switch and we proceeded out onto the main. The flagman, who worked in the caboose alone, finally gave us a "highball" via the radio at 1:26 that the north switch had been restored to normal and he was back on board the caboose. Meeting DS-1 and DJ-1 had delayed our northward progress one hour and twelve minutes.

 Just a short distance north of St. Johns and at approximately 1:35 pm, the deafening sound of rapidly escaping air filled the inside of the cab. We were in emergency and ascertained from communicating with the flagman that the rear end of the train had indeed stopped while we were still moving. Red muttered some expletives followed by "we're in two!" The flagman started walking north and Howard and the head brakeman started walking south. The flagman discovered a broken carrier iron on the south end of a high-cube box car which caused the coupler to drop and become disengaged. Since a broken carrier iron is a repair that only the car department can perform, it was going to have to be set out. I don't exactly recall where the bad order car was in the train, but I seem to recall it was no more than 20 cars ahead of the caboose. Thus, we left the rear of our train sitting on the main where it stood and proceeded northward to Uniopolis to set out the bad order car. Once set out, the whole train had to be backed southward to rejoin the rest of our train. This little ordeal cost us another 49 minutes in delays and we had our train all back together and was on the move northward at 2:24 pm.

 We received clear blocks at both "SJ" and "Sugar St." interlockings in Lima and met train DC-9, engine 357 south at Ford Park. This meet did not delay us but a few minutes. At DT&I Jct., we entered the B&O main at 2:49 pm but the B&O dispatcher impeded our progress by routing us into the Columbus Grove siding where we waited on a B&O drag freight south that finally passed by us at 3:25. Moving once again, but not for long, the B&O dispatcher then routed our train onto the 4-mile long Ottawa Industrial Loop track at South Ottawa, which is the old DT&I main through Ottawa -- a nice treat for a first timer! We arrived at Kleman (the "Loop's" north connection with the B&O) at 4:00 pm and waited just a few minutes for a B&O southbound to pass by. Once back out on the B&O main, it didn't take too long to reach "XN Tower" where we exited the B&O and we picked up train orders "on the fly" at Leipsic tower (NKP crossing) at 4:30 pm. After a quick pick up and set out at Hamler, we proceeded onto Malinta and passed by the decrepit leaning tower at 5:20. An unknown symboled southbound train (maybe DS-3?) with engine 218 was tucked away in the siding awaiting our passage. After a pick up and set out Malinta, we then proceeded northward at 5:55.

 Since the crew was anxious to get home, we made good time and passed by Liberty Center at 6:04, Delta at 6:14, Fulton at 6:21, Riga at 6:40 and arrived Diann at 6:57 where we did another pick up and set out. We departed Diann at 7:25 and had to make a one car set out at Maybee that took us from 7:38 to 7:48. We passed by Carleton at 8:02 and arrived Flat Rock at 8:16 and was walking into the yard office at 8:33.

 My two-day adventure on the DT&I between Flat Rock and Springfield, Ohio had been great! Before I left the yard office, Howard gave me his home phone number and invited me to come back and ride with him anytime I desired. I took him up on his offer and made three more trips between March 1973 and September 1977. My only regret is that I didn't go more often, but then, I didn't want to wear out my welcome.

 And these are just a few great memories of a great railroad...

 Jim Sinclair
Lafayette, IN

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