I posted Symington Yard Part 1 and Symington Yard Part 2 in January 2011. In February, I received an unexpected and hauntingly cryptic comment from 'Anonymous':
"Saved some lives as the bottom of the A-side hump retarder back in '87. Wouldn't do it again. If the same event would have played out again, I would have grabbed Bryan and jumped, and left the rest. The only one worth saving. Unreported incident but the boys involved will remember. Note...not the McLean fiasco that killed Brent Armbruster, Rest in Peace Brother. That incident was very nearby, but at the top of the A-side group retarder."
Little did I know that in my files I had original newspaper coverage of the incident (above). On June 7,1987 an auxiliary crane was being used to replace a master retarder. The retarder sits too high above ground for the outriggers of the auxiliary to reach the ground, so the crane was unsupported. The unstable crane toppled over when the retarder was being lifted, with its boom landing on a CN pickup truck. The ensuing coroner's inquest found CN at fault for safety violations. The news photo shows the roof and striped boom of the crane, a CN worker crouched atop the crane body, and the crushed truck.
On December 15, 1983 a trimmer set of locomotives, 214-262 was pulling eight grain loads over the hump from the yard bowl for re-humping. After cresting the hump, the units' brakes failed, causing a runaway, colliding with the B-side hump set under the Trans-Canada Highway overpass. Deflected into the abutment, 214's engineer was killed instantly.
On February 2, 1990, eleven cars comprising tank cars and autoracks jack-knifed at the bottom of the hump (above). Here's hump set 209-261-260-214 at the same location as the above photo, under the Trans-Canada in 1982:
These incidents show that while a hump yard is a very efficient design for classifying cars, it has inherent dangers to those working the hump.
The BBC aired a four-season series in the 1970's called the Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, a reference to carmen and trainmen. I suppose a North American version could have been called the Carknockers and Yard Apes Social Club, or something similar.
London's Olympic Games are wrapping up. Here are ten suggestions I jotted down to spice up some of the stultifyingly boring, non-TV-friendly events I watched:
1. At the pool: swim in circles. This back-and-forth, end-to-end stuff has got to go. No need for the swimmers to perfect their turns. Have crossover section each lap.
2. Shotput. Create explosive target areas on the field that throwers try to hit. Much more skill, much more exciting.
3. Javelin-catchers. On second thought, forget that one...way too dangerous.
4. Beach volleyball. Have cheerleaders and sell beer. IOC already accepted my suggestion on that one. CHECK!
5. Gymnastics: vault. Replace mats with a ball pit. No need to 'stick the landing'. Way more fun.
6. Fencing. What's with all the masks and padding? They'd move a lot faster if it was gone.
7. Relay races. Passing a baton way too easy. Replace with 10-pound bag of potatoes. There's a race.
8. Indoor cycling. Bring back a spoked rear wheel, attach a hockey card with clothespin. Noisy!
9. Medal ceremonies: Give the gold medal winner a microphone for a shout-out to the folks at home or short rap number if they prefer and have the talent.
10. Opening ceremonies: edit to 30 minutes max. Light the freakin' flame and get on with it. Closing ceremonies: It's over people. Extinguish and exit.