Portions of this book were taken from WP Mileposts March 1953, March 1986, etc,
Fifty Candles for Western Pacific
The Western Pacific is born
Depression ahd Post World War Two Era
The Golden Age of WP Passenger Service
WP Final Years
Union Pacific Takes Over
An Engineers Journey
WP Operating Subdivisions
WP Steam Locomotives
WP Diesel Locomotives
I fell in love with trains when I was a little boy. My family home was only two blocks from the Western Pacific yard in San Jose and when the WP was switching the yard I would stand out in front of the house and watch the engine go back and forth. My earliest memory was engine No. 104, a 4-6-0. The 4-6-0's were used as switchers and for the local freight to Niles. Later the 4-6-0's were replaced with 0-6-0's because of an ICC order requiring air reverse equipment on switch engines, (The 4-6-0's had a hand operated "Johnson Bar" for reversing).
As soon as I was old enough I would scoot my wagon down to the tracks and later ride my bicycle to watch the trains. On several occasions I rode my bike across town to the freight house, put my bike and myself into an empty box car and rode the train back to the yard. Before long all the crews knew me.
The daytime engine watchman, Lee Yerrington, would try to discourage me from hanging around the railroad. He would point out all the AAR safety posters in the roundhouse, but I was not dissuaded. I kept bugging him to let me pull the throttle on one of the steam switchers, he finally gave in and I moved the 0-6-0, No. 160. It was probably only a few feet, but it was something I never forgot. In the sixth grade our class was asked to write an essay on what occupation we wanted when we grew up, I wrote I would like to be a locomotive engineer.
With the nation totally involved in World War II, the railroads, along with most other industries, had a shortage of workers. After graduating from High School at age 17 I was employed by the WP as an engine watchman at a wage of 56 cents an hour. My first assignment was a 2 week vacation relief. My duties were to keep the steam pressure up on the local's engine which was due to leave at 9:30 PM. I had to have a full tank of water and all the supplies on the engine when the crew reported for duty. Two 0-6-0's were assigned to San Jose during the summer months when the canneries and vegetable packing houses were in full swing. The round-the-clock switcher assignments would often involve overtime so a second engine was needed. The job of engine watchman often involved moving an engine to spot for water and occasionally turning an engine on the air operated balance turntable.
WP was often given a share of troop train movement duties. The trains would be given to or received from the SP interchange. Hog engines (2-8-0) would power the trains. When the engines arrived from Stockton they would have to be turned for the return trip. One
time I remember the engineer would not surrender his engine over to a 17 year old to be turned. He said the engine was hot and it could get away from me. He ran the engine onto the table.
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