Sunday, April 22, 2018

Robert Bynum - Track Walker

Every piece of railroad is divided into sections from five to seven miles long if it is a single track.  A foreman with a gang of five or six men will maintain that section track.  One of gang however is a track walker.  The track walker has to be an experience trackman or gandy dancer and he is picked from the gang of trackmen to be a track walker.  The track walker patrols the track all day long looking for weak points and obstructions along the tracks.  In Delmar Robert Bynum (patriarch of the Bynum family in Delmar) in the 1920s was the track walker.   He would ride to Laurel on the train and then be dropped off to walk back to Delmar in good weather or bad weather.  He would walk in the middle of the track facing the direction the train would be expected to come from.  More than one track walker has been killed by a train coming behind them.  He would walk at about 2 miles an hour back and forth from Delmar to Laurel, looking for loose spikes, broken track, sunken ties, joints that didn’t fit, broken or mis-aligned fish plates and angle plates.  If he encountered a broken track or something more than what his limited supply of tools he carried could fix he would put torpedoes (explosive devices that when the train ran over them would produce a loud bang to warn the engineer of problems ahead) on the track and go to warn the track foreman of the problem. The main tool he carried was a long wrench to tighten bolts and nuts and to tap the rail to listen for a cracked or broken track and a spike hammer to tighten loose spikes.  The trackwalker was also usually the first to discover dead bodies along the tracks.  Since the track walker was usually alone and in isolated spots of the track he faced danger from hoboes and others.  The experience track walker was an expert in section of the line.  The only time the trackwalker didn’t have to walk the track was when snow covered the track and then he could go with the rest of the track gang to clear the snow.

Photo Track Walker Pennsylvania railroad NYC  not Robert Bynum

Southern Pacific Co. (Pacific Systems), Rules and Regulations for the Government of Employes of the Operating Department, July 1st 1892.

"308. Each foreman (or his track walker) must pass over the section or sections under his charge every day, taking with him a track-wrench, two red flags and four torpedoes, and carefully examine the track to see if it is safe for the passage of trains; and if any place is found unsafe he must at once fix red signals on both sides of such place, at a distance of ninety (90) rails (or fifteen telegraph poles). The flag-sticks must be firmly driven into the ground, and a torpedo fixed on the rail on the engineman's side. ...

The Track Walker - Burbank Calif by Shielda Cavalluzzi

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