Sunday, February 20, 2005

Going to Work with Daddy!

This week's pictures (which you can see by following the link below) are some pictures I took on a snowy morning earlier in the week., and some pictures I took in the wetlands across the street from my home this morning. You'll notice in this later set of pictures that there are a number of them that are blurry. No, I haven't been drinking already, I was trying to take the pictures while tethered to my dog, Saga. Here’s a tip, don't do this. I imagine that I must have been something like this to my parents when young. Every few seconds, Saga would wander off and when she reached the end of her leash, she would just keep going. The force of the leash pulling on my belt (where it was tethered) shook my body and caused the camera to shake, and hence, the picture to blur.

Picture her saying things like: "Dad, this is boring!" and "I thought we were going to do something fun! You said we would be doing something fun!" and you pretty much have a picture of what it was like to try and take me to do anything when I was a kid.

Fishing? "Dad, this is boring!" Sporting events? "I thought we were going to do something fun!" Gardening? "You said we would be doing something fun!" I still have the same opinion of these events, except for the gardening, I do like that… but then, I only complained about it then because I was expected to! What kid wouldn’t like playing in the dirt?

On he short list of things that was fun when they said it would be was going to work with Dad! First off, Dad had a cool job! He worked for the railroad as a Claims Agent (whatever that was…) and he had a real working railroad engine headlamp in his office! To go to work with Dad, we drove from Village Green (in southwest Dade county) to Virginia Gardens (in central Dade County) past the airport. We then went past the strikers (the Florida East Coastline Railway was always being struck as long as I can remember.) and then into the railyard itself. Here the tracks split and split again; over and over until there were hundreds (okay, it was maybe twenty) tracks running parallel to each other, side by side.

This was where they put freight trains together that were headed north, out of Miami. There were locomotives and freight cars everywhere. All the cars (except the auto haulers, they got emptied across the road back by the airport, off the south end of the yard) were lined-up on the various tracks where the switching locomotives would shove them around, a giant's hand shuffling a very large deck of cards, until they were assembled into a train ready for departure. And on the off chance that trains could ever become boring, the best part was that I just had to look south to see the cars being offloaded, or just east of that I could see the planes taking off at Miami International airport. (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!)

I was told by my dad that there were places where the switching yards did not need switching locomotives. The whole yard was built on an incline where the cars to be sorted into trains were pushed to the top of the hill at on end of the yard and gravity provided the pushing that was needed for the cars to be switched, and shuffled into their place in the trains. It wasn't until I moved out west that I had ever seen a gravity-powered switching yard. They were impractical in South Florida where the biggest hills available were the highway interchanges.

I think my favorite time at work with my Dad was this one time we were doing some testing of a locomotive's braking distance. We went somewhere in the northern part of South Florida (West Palm Beach, I think, but I cannot remember.) where we got on a locomotive and pulled out of an abandoned passenger station. We then took the train down the tracks a certain distance, got it up to speed, and applied the brakes at a marked point to see how long it took to stop. We did this repeatedly all day long. I cannot remember what, exactly was going on, but that was what we did.

Now I know that there are those of you reading this who are thinking: "That is boring!" and "I thought you were going to do something fun! You said it would be fun!" and to those of you who I can only say to you what my Dad said to me when I would complain about fishing being dull: "Shh! Be quite! Sit still! You're scaring away all the fish!" (I know, I know, but it made no sense when Dad said it either!)

Have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 20 February, 2005 - Lakewood, Colorado

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