Story: Moving a Loaded Flat Car of Wood on the Grand Trunk Western in 1988

Reprinted from "GTC Today", a quarterly newsletter from the Grand Trunk Corporation in 1988. this depicts a typical freight movement - a flat car of treated lumber for Wickes Lumber - from obtaining the order, spotting the car in Romeo, Michigan.

January 22, 1988. Working through his list of potential customers, Gordon Parr from Market Development in Detroit calls Wickes Lumber in Chicago. Wickes, a former Grand Trunk customer, hadn't moved any traffic on GT lines for about three years. Like most "cold calls" Gordon had made since joining the Market Department, the person he eventually reaches at Wickes. transportation analyst Pam Crump, has never met or spoken to him. It is one of the 20 or so cold calls he will make that day. Equipped with the confidence he holds in GT services, Gordon introduces himself and review GT's shipping rates and various Wickes lumber yards in southeastern Michigan. "We offered Wickes some very competitive rates," Gordon recalls.

February 17, 1988. Pam returns Gordon's call to let him know that GT rates are indeed competitive and that Wicks will begin shipping a few cars to its lumber yard in Davison, Michigan. Gordon thanks her for the business. "I told Pam that as long as Wickes was going to ship to Davison, it might as well keep the other two GT sidings active at its lumber yards in Auburn Hills and Romeo", Gordon said.

March 1, 1988. Pam calls back and says that Wickes will ship lumber, via GT, to all three yards, totaling about 45 cars and $40,000 in revenue per year.

May 27, 1988. Responding to an order from Wicke's Romeo yard, flatcar WCRC 9016 - loaded with 181,200 pounds of treated lumber - is on the CSXT (Seaboard) System in Fitzgerald, Georgia, headed for Queensgate, Ohio, near Cincinnati. In Queensgate - the southern most point of the Grand Trunk system - the flatcar will be marshaled onto GT train 473 for shipment to Flat Rock, Michigan. From Flat Rock, the lumber car will make connections with two more trains before reaching its final destination in Romeo. Pam Crump says that Wickes expects its lumber shipments to be delivered within two weeks of placing the order.

June 5, 1988 at 3:00 am. About two yours before GT Train 473 is ready to leave Queensgate, Ohio, a call is made to the Best Western Airport Inn in Erlanger, KY. Grand Trunk pool crews stay in the hotel, located near Queensgate, between trains. At the hotel, engineer Terry Hopkins, conductor John Shy, and brakemen Larry Mustang and James Sizemore are told that their train will be ready to department in about two hour. When the crew members get to the yard, they report to the crew room to pick up their train consist (listing the sequence and number of cars on their train (each car's waybills (listing shipping weight, destination, etc.0, and any special instruction for morning Train 473. I the train contained any hazardous materials, the crew would get the special safety instructions for moving that freight. (For greater efficiency, GT is implementing a new program to send the train consist to connecting railroads via computer.)

June 5, 1988 at 7:20 am. Equipped with the appropriate papers, brake and safety inspections, and clearance from the dispatcher, Train 473 leaves Queensgate. Powered by GT engines 5928 and 5913, the 79-car train arrives in Springfield at 10 a.m. Since Springfield is the pool crew's home terminal, a crew change is made before Train 473 proceeds to Flat Rock. bout two hours before the train arrived in Springfield, engineer Ray Palmatier, conductor Harry Hardy and brakeman Charlie Cochenour are called. At 11:50 am, the train leaves Springfield for its new crew. The crew stops in Lima, OH to pick up four cars of automobile engines and then stops in Delta, OH to set them off. The two stops take bout 85 minutes to complete.

June 5, 1988 at 7:50 pm. Train 473, with its 79 cars stretching more than  mile long, arrives in Flat Rock. Like an assembly line getting its next product to work on, Flat Rock's hump crew (engineer James Olives, conductor Dale Harvell and brakeman Perry Bonneer) moves the train's cars to the top of the hump at Flat Rock, brakes down the cars into one- or two-car cuts, and then moves the cuts into the classification yard. The next morning the trim crew (engineer B.E. "Earl" Cannon, conductor Mark Lenart and brakeman Clyde Saters) will couple Train 473's cars to the appropriate outbound brains. The crew will marshal flatcar WCRC 9016 into Train 439.

June 6, 1988 at 8:00 am. After getting the necessary papers, inspections and clearance, engineer Tom Simincki, conductor William Bially, and brakemen Clarence Avery and Robert Fuller leave Flat Rock on Train 439 and head for Battle Creek by way of Pontiac. At 11;05 am, train 439 completes the 50-mile trek to Pontiac and sets off four cars, including flatcar WCRC 9016, before continuing on to Battle Creek. At Pontiac, the flatcar of lumber is switched to track #14 where it will be marshaled with other cars bound for local destinations.

June 7, 1988 at 9:00 am. Warmed by the 90-degree heat of the day, engineer Lorne Deacon, piloting yard engine 6052, begins marshaling the local cars from track #14 to their designated trains. WCRC 9016 sit about 12 cars deep on track #14, waiting to complete the final leg of its trip from Fitzgerald, Georgia, to Romeo. Helping Lorne with the switching are conductor John Bunnell and brakemen Craig Farr and Al Daidone. Wearing T-shirts because of the heat, the yard crew couples the cars to the engine, pulls them out of track #14, stops, switches them to adjoining tracks, then moves the onto the proper tracks. As the cars roll freely down the track, brakemen Farr and Daidone board them to apply the hand brakes. Lorne couples the engine to WCRC 9016 to take it about three miles away to the Pontiac C-P-C Yard. At C-PC, Train 111, powered by GT engine 4920, will take the lumber-filled flatcar and four other cars to their individual destinations.

June 7, 1988 at 11:15 am. There to meet flatcar WCRC 9016 at the C-P-C yard is train inspector Hanley Johnson. As soon as the car is uncoupled from the engine, Hanley begins to inspect the car. Armed with an assortment of tools, Hanley begins methodically walking around the flatcar checking the brakes, making sure that the cables that hold the lumber in place are secure, and looking for safety defects. "its my responsibility to inspect all the cars that come into this yard," Hanley says. "If one of these cables comes loose, it could cause a lot of problems and delays."

June 7, 1988 at 3:00 pm. Hanley makes a final check of the brakes and gives the OK to engineer James McBroom, conductor Don Willea, and brakemen Earl Ashby and Mitch Kimbrue. Train 111, powered by GT engine 4920, then leaves the C-P-C yard. At 3:20, train 111 drops off two other cars of lumber at a business in Auburn Hills before completing the trip to Romeo.

June 7, 1988 at 4:20 pm. After more than 1,000 miles and clockwork-like switching, flatcar WCRC 9016 arrives at the siding of Wickes Lumber Yard in Romeo. Waiting for the car is Wickes manager Chuck Laux. Chuck estimates that the 181,200 pounds of lumber will take a full day to unload.