This is his page of Carknocker.Com , to write stories, and express his opinions. He has some intresting info to share with us Im sure. His picture is posted on the Train Yard Page of this site. He is the one working under a Tank Car. In over 30 years, that I worked with him, I've seen him, laying up under a railcar many times. Im not saying he liked to take breaks or anything. (LOL) (Just kidding he was a hard working fellow. Now that he has retired he may be slacking off a little.
In all seriousness though, he is a fine fellow, and a devout Christian and a friend to all. I might add that he hails from the mountains of North Carolina. We all know mountain folks are good people.
Video About Jim changing A Pair of wheels
You may as well get a cup of Coffee because we talk a lot and you may be here a while. You are welcome to respond to, or write any comments to Carman Jim, in care of Carman Parks. Send any E-mail to, email@example.com
As I have said in my past stories, hobo's were some of my favorite past reflections. There were so many in my career, that they became a part of the job. Some stand out because of their cleverness and skill, in the way of life they had chosen for themselves. A few had become so proficient in their journeys on our nations seemingly endless network of rails, that they deserved respect for their ingenuity and sense of pride, for their ability to live such a carefree life. I know there were many hardships faced daily by our travelers, but somehow most of them were able to overcome them, and continue a lifestyle of romance for the rails, and the embracing call of the train's whistle, as it echoed thru the mountains and the valleys of this great land we call home.
There were others, that were not as polished as the few honored above. I remember one summer morning, I saw a hobo approaching me from the North end of the yard. You could tell by his movements, that he had had a hard night on the rails. As he got within arms length of me, my heart went out to him. At that moment, I believe I would have given him the clothes off my back had he ask. He was about 20 years of age, and a very small man who wore no clothes ( shirt or shoes ) other than a pair of, what once had been blue jeans. He without doubt, was one of the dirtiest men I have every seen. After a few words, I learned that he had come from South GA in an empty coal hopper. Of all the cars on the rail, that would not have been a choice for a more mature hobo. Can you imagine sleeping at the bottom of a coal car, with the black dust covering you from head to toe. How he managed to climb out of the steep sides of the car is a miracle. The only thing about him that showed any white were his eyes, and even they were black when he closed them. The only request he made was a plea for water. " Could I have a drink of water? I am about to thirst to death," he said. When he left he had all he could drink and some food that had been left by the previous shift. I also filled two, one gallon jugs, with water for him to carry with him. I believe this must have been his first experience at hoboing a train, and hopefully his last.
In contrast their were others who were rail wise from years of traveling coast to coast, and city to city. These were the true hobo's that had honed their skill to a fine art. Men who knew the trains by number and name, that they would catch for their journeys to another adventure. Men who knew their destination, and the jungle they would call home shared with other travelers, that had been made friends from past encounters.
The year was 1972, late summer, and almost fall of the year. Atlanta at this time of the year is just beautiful. The day's are comfortable, and the evening and nights are cool. The leaves on the trees know, that their time to begin the transformation from green to the vivid colors displayed in fall, is almost at hand. Kids at play just before sundown get a burst of energy as they run thru the cool grass with bare feet, at what must be a hundred miles per hour. That's the way I remember it as a child, and the memory still brings an excitement after all these years.
It was such a night when a train from the North ( Detroit ) had pulled in the receiving yard at Atlanta, and was being sent over the hump to be broken up and arranged in the class yard, to be made into train's for other destinations. It was at this point that someone noticed a tri-level ( car with 3 levels ) loaded with new automobiles, that had the center car on the top deck with the interior light on and someone sitting in the car. The hump operation was stopped and someone was sent up the car to investigate and remove the person from the car. When he got to the car he found a hobo with the doors locked and he refused to come out. Usually while loading, the key was left in the car and the door locked. Someone had forgotten to lock the car. All efforts to talk to the hobo failed, and resulted in the hobo turning the radio up a little louder. At that point the railroad police were called to remove the hobo. They showed their badges and demanded that the hobo unlock the door and come out, but he still refused. At that time there were keys hidden on one of the bottom cars, and the police went to the car for the keys. When he got back to the top and unlocked the car, the hobo being the wise traveler that he was came out and gave himself up. What do you do with a hobo? Nothing!! You take him off the property and turn him loose. Of course you tell him not to come back on the property, knowing ten minutes later he will sneak back on, and find another box car to continue his ride.
It was later learned that the hobo had two six packs of beer, several cans of food, an ample supply of cigarettes, candy bars, peanuts in the shell and a newspaper with him. It was told that the inside of the car was trashed with the beer cans, paper, opened food cans, and of course empty peanut shells. The hobo had planned a first class trip with all the amenities. The view from the top deck would have been splendid. Better than a dome car on an expensive excursion train and free. Unlike our friend at the bottom of a coal car, our older and more knowledgeable hobo rode in style. They both possessed knowledge, but the latter had the wisdom that hopefully comes with age and experience. A lesson the young man must learned if he continued to ride the trains that romance us all.
As I have stated in some of my past stories, hobo's are some of my favorites to ; tell. I am going to attempt to tell this story but with time some of the details have grown dim. That's what happens when time moves on down the track and the body and mind get lost on a siding in the middle of nowhere. Oh well, it happens to all of us, and if not to you, your time will come. I will be as accurate as possible but if I exaggerate a little, only I will know where, which in my mind make's it OK.
Sometime in the very early 70's we had a young man come to work with us as a carman. He was nice guy but just didn't have what it takes to be a railroad man. We all have been around people like this, good- but not quit possessing the timber it takes to do the job they are undertaking. Misplaced at that time in their life. Given another line of work they could and most often do well. This is a story of such a young man.
As I remember, he was with us a couple of years, working in the forwarding yard inspecting cars being put together to make up a train that would be leaving for the main line. Remember the railroad runs 24 hour's a day 7 day's a week. This young man was low on the seniority list and was forced to work the 3rd shift-11:00 PM to 7:00 AM in the morning. anyone who has ever worked at night is aware that it is very hard to stay awake after midnight. Nine of my 33 1/2 years were spent on the night shift so I am well aware how hard it is to stay awake. It is against the nature of a man not to sleep at night. I say all this for you to form your own opinion after you have read all of the story.
While inspecting the train our young carman reported upon his return that he thought he saw a body ( his story and I'm sticking to it) in the back of a box car and had climbed in to investigate when the train suddenly pulled out of the yard and picked up so much speed he couldn't get out. Now what do you think we have? I'll tell you, a "Hobo Carman!" A "Hobo Carman" bound for Chattanooga TN with no way to get off until the train arrived at it's destination. When our "Hobo Carman" got to Chattanooga he found a carman and they took him to the car department office where he told his story of a dead body in a empty box car. After investigating, it turned out to be a large piece of rolled up paper that he mistook for a body.
At that time we had a thru train from Chattanooga to Atlanta called the "Spark Plug." The yard forman put our "Hobo Carman" on the head end for his return trip to Atlanta. While I am here let me mention that at one time the railroad had some great names for our trains. Some that come to mind are "Dixie Bell" ; "Hot Shot" ; "Monon South" ; "Humming Bird" and of course the "Spark Plug." There are others, I just can't remember them. Now, just about all that's left are numbers for the trains. I suppose computers had a lot to do with the names being lost in the name of progress. Names gave a personal feel for the trains running. Numbers seem cold and indifferent.
As I remember, it was about 10:00 AM when our weary "Hobo Carman" walked in the Senior General Foreman's office after his ride back to Atlanta on the head end with the engineer. I was in the office at the time and I can tell you he received an "A--" chewing that would make an old Army Sergeant blush. The Senior General was a big man who was very skilled in the art of addressing someone down. A good man who was well respected and treated all men fair with the exception of those that screwed-up and had to go before him and face his wrath. I was there once and I will never forget it. Let me say, I had been on the railroad about 6 months and the infraction was minor but I learned a lesson that stayed with me the rest of my career. After our "Hobo Carman" received one of the worst verbal chewing-out ( make up a string of curse words and he covered all of them ) I think I ever witnessed. He was dismissed and told to get out of the "D---" office. At that point our hobo carman went to the door, stopped- turned around- and ask. "Could you give me a ride to my car?" Talk about a dumb question!! General Foreman-- "You found a "D---" ride to Chattanooga now get you "D--- A--" out of here and find your own "D---" ride or walk back to your car." It was told later that he had climbed in the car and went to sleep and woke up on the main line and had to ride to Chattanooga. That is most likely what happened.
It wasn't long after that he quit working for the railroad. I don't know what ever happened to him but it's possible that he fell in love with riding the rails and is to this day a "Hobo Carman" still riding to Chattanooga and all points beyond.
Over the years there have been many stories told by railroad men about the carmen who worked on the railroad. They never received the glory or the exposure that some of their fellow crafts did. The railroad engineer being one of them. It's not easy sitting on a locomotive with many tons of freight behind you, sometimes pushing you along on a long down hill run or an engine heaving with all it's might to cross a steep grade. No, it's not an easy job running a train in all kinds weather and all hours of the day, burning up in the summer and freezing on a cold winter night, but the engineer is the one that waves at all the people that love to salute a train as it passes by. Sitting at the throttle is like being under a halo with all eyes on you. Many don't know of the long hours on duty, or the fear of having to look into the eyes of someone you are about to run over with your train and you are helpless to do anything about it. Many men have walked off the job after experiencing such a tragic event. Others have went on with good railroad careers but even they have nights with dreams that wouldn't let them sleep.
Behind the man that runs the train are many that never see the glory just mentioned but their jobs are just as important. It takes a lot of men doing a lot of different jobs to keep the train on the track and hopeful running on time. Without any of them the rail would come to a stop. A chain with a broken link is good for nothing. It's ability to pull has been lost. So it is with the men that make up the body that we call railroaders. Men who have given the best years of their lives in some of the worst conditions possible. Men who have watched their families grow up without them and their fellow workers grow old beside them. Men who have a bond so strong that they stay in touch with one another years after retirement.
In the beginning it was for the money that most of us begin working for the railroad. For me it was. I had left the mountains of NC and needed a job. Any job would have been OK. Little did I know that God would bless me with a railroad job. Like I said, in the beginning it was for money, than something happened, a love-hate relationship developed that I didn't want. I must say, I was hooked as so many before me have been and those in the future will be. There is something magical about a train that moves itself inside your very being and makes you a part of it forever.
This web site is about the men who worked as railroad carman. Men who's job was to inspect an insure that a train was safe to move. Men who would make repairs to all of the rolling equipment. It took years for a man to become proficient at his job because of so many different characteristic from one type car to another. A carman with years of experience behind him could look at a car type and almost tell you what you most likely would find wrong with it. The carman was also responsible for getting a car back on the track when it came off. For years the carman followed the derrick that would clear up the massive wrecks and the small ones that could not be handled without a heavy derrick crane. The day of the derrick is gone, replaced by private contractors, who use side winders ( bull dozers ) with a side boom attached. They get the job done but they don't take the pride that a carman did working to save as much of the car and do the least amount of damage. After all, he was the one who would make the necessary repairs to put the car back in service. I have seen the contractors do more damage to a car putting it back on the rail than the wreck itself caused. This is another story for another time. Another story of the men who were called railroad carman or as we with pride called one another-"carknocker."
There has always been a lot of interesting things about railroading and it history but one of the things that seemed to fascinate me were the hobo's that we would encounter from time to time while working on the rail. As long as there has been rail, there were people who used it for an uninvited means of travel. From this need to move about the art of riding the rails was born. Although it is not as prevalent today as it has been in the past there are a few who have made a life of riding the rails. The hobo has left a trail of stories among railroading men as long as the silver rails he let behind him in his travels.
I remember in the early 80's a hobo came thru Inman Yard, Atlanta Ga. on his way to FL. It was the month of Nov. and the days were still warm but the night's had began to get cold. Late in the evening a hobo stopped a Carman in the yard to ask what train to catch for his free ride to Fl. Carman were frequently ask for directions and most were willing to tell them what track a train would be leaving from and the direction it would be traveling. It was not that Carman were willing to help but it was more a need to stay on the good side of the hobo's. Some of those travelers could be mean and no one wanted to get hit in the head in a dark train yard in the middle of the night by a teed-off hobo. Anyway the first class traveler to FL was put on a train and away he went. As the train pulled out of the yard and began to pick up speed the Carman laughed and told one of his buddy's that he had just put a hobo on a train bound for Ohio with no stops in between. Remember the month was Nov. and the weather was a lot colder where out traveler was headed.
One morning a few week's later a hobo stopped a Carman in the yard and ask about a certain man he had talked to. He even described him to the letter. The hobo was told he worked another shift and he was off for a couple of day's. Lucky for the Carman the hobo was in a hurry to get to FL, ( probably to thaw out) and didn't have time to wait around but he did leave a message for the Carman. "You tell that S.O.B. if I ever see him I am going to kill him!" There is no doubt that he meant ever word of it. As for the Carman, I don't think he ever had another day on the job that he didn't look over his shoulder at every sound he heard. The Carman retired a couple years later because of health issues and the hobo-I don't know but I bet he checked his ticket to make sure he was going in the right direction.
As I have said previously, stories about hobo's are among my favorite to tell. I imagine that there might be a little hobo in all of us. There is just something magic about riding the rails. For several years I was on the derrick crew that went to the wrecks and most of the trips I went on will always be a part of my memories. I know that now I can look back and see so much of the road we traveled over. There is nothing like standing in the doorway of a rail car, watching the country roll by. I once heard Charles Kuralt say, "Riding the rails was like looking in the backdoor of America." How poetic and descriptive of looking at America from the miles of rail in this country. It does seem as if every town and home in America backs up to the rails that pass by and ever man has within himself a desire to get on board and go.
In the late 70s, I was working on the rip track at Inman Yard, Atlanta Georgia. After 30 years, I don't remember the month, but I do remember that it was getting cold. We had stopped work to have our lunch at 3:00 AM. We had been at lunch about 10 minutes when the door to the lunch room opened and in stepped a hobo. Not a bad looking guy for someone riding the rails. Most of the hobos appeared to be a little dirty but this man was rather neat. When he walked in he ask, "Could you men spare a cup of coffee? I'll be glad to pay you for it." We poured him a cup and offered him a sandwich which he most graciously refused. Turned out to be a most interesting person. He told us that he had spent 20 years in the U.S.A.F. and after retirement he had always wanted to travel the country by rail and had never had the opportunity to do, while in service to his country, but now that he was retired there was nothing to hold him back. He had been traveling for over a year and when he saw a town or place that he liked he would stop and stay awhile. Sometimes getting a job, a room, and just staying till he was ready to go again. Said he didn't think he would ever be able to quit the rails. " It's in my blood," he said with a big smile and a look of contentment that few men ever realize. One man ( out of hundreds ) that made a dream come true. One man who fulfilled a desire that stirs the imagination of all of us. One man who stepped out of a dream onto the ribbon rails of this great country.