Daniel M Schroeder

Locomotive Engineer

St. Louis, MO

August 23, 1974-still working


What was your first job on the Mopac and what were the daily duties?  

$1A.    August 1974, Started as a switchman at MoPac’s 23rd/12th Street Yard in Downtown St. Louis. Four man crews then, Engineer, Forman, and two switchmen. You learned the job from those you worked with, OJT. There were so many different jobs, lead jobs at 23rd Street and 12th Street, industry jobs and transfers.

 The job at 12th Street was called the Breakup. It usually had a pair of SW12’s for power. The 12th Street yard lead dead ended at 7th Street, (Busch Stadium). The cars were kicked uphill into the yard. The switchman had to ride the cut, hold the pin-lever up on the car ahead with his foot. The cars were kicked and those two SW’s really got them rolling, then the foreman gave the stop sign and you really had to hang on while the slack jerked out.

Other jobs worked were transfers to Dupo or Ivory, (the Heavy Hauler) and the Louisville & Nashville in E. St. Louis, I think we also went into the ICG yard at Valley, Jct. A ton of industry jobs, almost all started at Ewing Ave. There was a lot to learn about track configurations to do efficient switching.  

What was the most interesting job on the railroad you had?

I did like switching, so much to learn. Being cutoff a few times that first year gave me the opportunity to get emergency work when the crew callers were out of men. I would get called for road jobs to Jefferson City or Poplar Bluff or the iron trains to Pilot Knob or Pea Ridge. (It seemed it was always late at night!) I also would get called to work at Lesperance St or Dupo yard as a switchman.

BUT, working as a young engineer, that was truly a learning experience! Being scared pulling those heavy trains. Being forced to protect the turns out of Jefferson City to Kansas City and running across those hills on the Sedalia Sub was a real test. Working the Fyler Job out on Oak Hill in south St. Louis, I was always afraid I would not get the cars stopped when spotting some of the industries on those short steep grades. The can company was always a  bit nerve racking for this young engineer as we usually shoved a short cut of box cars down into the plant, the doors were usually closed in the fall and winter and there was a ramp across the track behind the door that they had to raise up. I always worried that the cars would slide right through the doors. (Never did!) There was a furniture warehouse on the other side of the main that was really a steep grade. The tracks would get covered with gravel and vines or leaves. You’d have to shove down into that place with a full service brake application and use the independent brake to creep down to spot the car. 

What were the typical duties?

$1A.    Pretty much as already covered. Pulling pins on lead jobs. Pulling or spotting industries. There was a job at 23rd Street yard worth mentioning, The Bullring Man. He worked with lead job which kicked cars into the yard. If there was a clear track, the Bullring Man would catch that first car and ride it down into the track a ways and stop it with the hand brake. If there were multiple cars, he could tie enough hand brake to hold the cut and the others that would be kicked into the track. If only one car, he may have catch another and ride down into the track to the coupling and apply the hand brake. He had to make sure there were enough hand brakes to hold all the cars that were to be switched into the track so they did not roll down to the12th Street end of the yard. Well, more than once, either the car was rolling to fast to get on or no one told the Bullring Man that they were kicking into a clear track, that car rolled through the yard down to 12th Street out the lead and off the end of the track and on to 7th Street.

Another of my jobs, once I transferred into engine service, was to work as a “Hostler” at the Ewing Ave Diesel Shop in St. Louis. Our chores were to fuel and sand the locomotives when they came in off the road and all the yard engines. There were hostlers at Lesperance St and Dupo as well. Usually those hostlers brought the power to Ewing Ave that needed to be shopped and took good locomotives back. Every once in a while, the Ewing Ave hostlers would take the power over to Dupo. There were two hostler jobs each shift at Ewing Ave, Inside and Outside. The Inside hostler worked with a laborer and could only work at Ewing Ave. The Outside hostlers were a pair of firemen/engine men who could take power wherever instructed. Both jobs fueled and sanded locomotives and spotted the shop as well as making up consists for road trains.

What were the most interesting or challenging areas?

Learning to be an engineer was a long process. But I did have a head start, some of the engineers I worked with as a switchman would let me run. This was especially true when I borrowed out at the C&EI yard in Mitchell, IL. The engineers taught me how to get the trains from Mitchell to St. Louis and back across the Merchants or Mac Arthur Bridges over the Mississippi River.


What was best part of working of the Mopac?

$1A.    I had a career doing what wanted! The people were usually great. There were a few really grouchy conductors and engineers.


What did the railroad focus on as your responsibilities?  

$1A.     Safety has always been stressed, from the very beginning. Coming to work was another, weekends, holidays, they are a 24/7 operation and needed the manpower. 


How did the MP differ from other railroads?

Not really able to answer that. Locomotive wise, the MP did not pick up dynamic brake units till late. Now it is the preferred way to slow and stop trains.

What changes did you see in your career that you felt were significant?

$1A.    Bigger, more powerful locomotives. Used to get coal trains from Colorado/Utah with 6 or more SD40/U30C type locomotives, now just 3 locomotives power trains with almost twice the tonnage. Air conditioned cabs, I remember we used to get Santa Fe units from time to time and their GP30’s had A/C. The cab environment is much nicer today. Loss of most car load industries in big cities. (Not many industry jobs in the St. Louis area!) Mergers, both the Katy and the Cotton Belt/SP. The merging of the engineer rosters always brought complaints, and a few always complained how they got screwed.  



Any stories you can tell now you couldn't when you were working?

$1A.     I don’t remember stories well. But I always liked the time, working as a hostler at Ewing Ave in winter, when one of the hostlers was shoving a set of power into the shop on Track 1. Included was a UP SD40 which had the horn mounted above the radiator fan to keep it from freezing.  Well, they knocked the horn off going in. (Luckily the door still worked.) So, why put the horn back on outside in the cold when you can put a new horn on inside the shop. That is what they did.  With the power ready, another set of hostlers were called and out they went through the door and bam, there goes the horn again knocked off by the door.  More than once, the hostlers slid engines into the closed shop doors.  Also, the late 1970’s was a time of long hair. The long time Superintendent, Mr. Crimm, did not like long hair and told employees to get haircuts.     


How did working for the railroad affect your personal or family life?

$1A.    Not knowing when you are going to work is a hardship on a family. I was very fortunate to marry a great woman. Not many would put up with a railroad man who works in thru freight service. Divorce is not uncommon for train service employees. To this day I cannot tell someone where I will be tomorrow or on the weekend!


What will be regarded as accomplishments you made in your Mopac career?

$1A.    I was a representative for the BLE at safety meetings. Also a Division Secretary/Treasurer for 15 years. I also had a number of engineer trainees who I helped learned the craft locomotive engineer.   


What was Mopac's relationship like with the unions?  Other railroads, customers.  

$1A.     I was not involved in union/company relations till after the UP merger. They did hold meetings with labor asking for ideas to help lower the dwell time of cars in the St. Louis Terminal.  


What were the train operations like on your territory?  

$1A.     When I started, seems like there may have been 5 or 6 regular trains each way between St. Louis and Jefferson City. Today there are 15 to 20. At a peak there were up to 30 each way. In the 1970’s the road trains were very predictable as to approx. on duty times. Running time to Jefferson City was maybe 4 hours, with a train or two being on duty a total of less than 3 hours. Track speed was 60MPH. Today, the UP holds most trains to 50 MPH and those that can go 60 don’t usually have the power to make that speed. Working west of Jefferson City on the Sedalia Sub or River Sub there were still a few open train order stations. Meets were by train order. Now the Sedalia Sub is all CTC and the River Sub only handles eastbound traffic, seldom a westbound.  


What was it like working for the Mopac during the UP merger?

$1A.    Very long hours. Business was very good with the coal traffic from the west, but the St. Louis Terminal was not able to process that amount of traffic. Trains would back up to Pacific waiting. After your 12 hours on duty, just tie the train down. Sometimes your next call on duty would be for the train you tied down the day before.