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March 1997 - Page 60


RIGHT: Icicles hang Irom the cab 01 a snow service GP38-2 at Truckee, Calif., on Dec. 22, 1 998. This loco motive is experiencing lirst hand the drastic change Irom its previous duties in Houston. BELOW: From the cab 01 the spreader, Jim "Bear" Mahon, district di vision engineer, gives in structions to the dispatch er in Denver on Dec. 23, 1 998. OPPOSITE PAGE: On Dec. 22, 1 998, a mainte nance-ol-way crew helps a IIanger crew dig out a switch in the Truckee yard.

T he flanger has a blade, controlled by the cOlduc tor in the locomotive c a b , that drops between the rai l s to clear ice and snow. Flangers are allowed to op e r a t e at s p e e d s up to 40 m p h-we l l a bove track speed-so that the blades can throw the snow clear of the track. Train crews out of Rosevil le are cal led to run the flangers with an engineer, conductor, and a brakeman (who rides in the flanger). As t h e storm progres s e d , the flangers s h u t t l ed back and forth over the pass, operating between the balloon tracks at Truckee and Fulda, just below Emi grant Gap. ( Flangers can make a round trip over this 40-mile section of snow territory in three hours. ) Road Foreman of Engines Jerry Tausch sat i n the trainmaster's office in Truckee, C a l i f. , the hub for snow operations. Tausch maintained constant contact with the WS 74 dispatcher in Denver giving instruc tions on all movements on the mountain. After dark on Dec. 2 1 , La Vigne returned with the regu lators and reported on the progress of snow remova l . At 8 : 3 0 p . m . , a third f1anger was called out of Roseville, and at 1 0: 3 0 p.m., the crew of the first f1anger was fi nally ordered back for their rest. The first day of winter had brought 1 8 inches of snow to the summit, but the trains continued operating. On Dec. 22 the storm raged on, with snow falling at a steady two inches an hour and the snow level de scending below 3 ,000 feet . La Vigne and the regula tors were dispatched again, to work the area west of E m i grant Gap as the heavy wet snow was causing problems as far down as Gold Run at 3 ,000 feet. An other flanger call was made at 1 0: 3 0 a.m. Three snow service crews were now in Truckee, with one crew resting while the other two worked. La Vigne and his regulator crews struggled to move the heavy water-laden snow. Their progress was halted near Blue Canon, and they retumed to Truckee. Hoping to photograph the operations, I had man aged to make it to Soda Springs, crossing 1-80 j ust before i t re-c1 o s e d . Winds were gusting above 5 0 mph, and the snowfall was heavy. Visibi l i ty was re-

stricted , making photography d i ffic u l t but reward ing. By mid-afternoon conditions had worsened, and I d ecided to get off the summit and make a run for Truckee . The eight miles on 1 -80 consumed an hour and a h a l f-much of it spent stopped in whi te-out condi tions created by howling winds. At no time did my speed exceed 1 0 mph. Trains continue to move over the mountain, but at gre a t l y restricted speed . Amtrak N o . 5 , the west bound California Zephyr, e ased by the Truckee office at 7: 1 5 p . m . At 1 0 : 3 0 p . m . , a c a l l came into jerry Tausch that t he seventh car of the 1 0-car train had derailed its tra i l ing truck between B l ue Canon a n d M i d a s . Tau s c h n o t i fied Trainmaster Todd jacques at Roseville and c a l led Amtra k headqua r ters to develop a plan to get the passengers off the mountain. Since the area of the derailment is only ac c e s s i b l e by rai l , p a s s e ngers were moved from the last three cars of the train to the diner, lounge, and sleepers. While Todd Jacques was assembling h i s forces to rera i l the Amtrak coach, a n emer gency call from the Amtrak crew reported a p a s senger s u ffe r i n g s evere a b d om i n a l pain. jacques left Colfax o n a pair o f light l o c o m o t i v e s , p i c ke d up p a r a m e d i c s a t Gold Run, and headed for No. 5 . The ail ing passenger was removed and brought to the waiting ambulance at Gold Run. At 1 :45 a . m . , No. 5 uncoupled from its derailed car and resumed its westward jour ney. After a brief stop in Colfax, it arrived in Sacramento, where buses took passen gers to their destinations. While No. 5 traveled on, Jacques picked up eight workers and returned to the de r a i l e d c o a c h . B e c a u se ice and snow had built u p around the coach's trailing truck, when the car went through a sharp curve, the truck c o u l d not swivel enough and it

G O- March 1 997

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