There are two camps of railroaders when it comes to the rules. One learns just enough to get by. Just enough to pass the rules exams that must be taken every two years. They can recite the rules but they seldom understand the rules. They do not want to discuss the rules. The second camp finds the rules interesting. They enjoy discussing and arguing about the rules. They try to understand the why of the rule. I belong to this second group.
Read and TearIf I write these two words and ask each of you to pronounce and explain what you think they both mean I will get at least four different results. When each of you read those two words you make your own interpretation of each. About half will look at the word "read" and interpret it as the form rhyming with reed. The other half will interpret it as the form rhyming with red. Both interpretations are reasonable. Similarly half will see the word "tear" as the drop of water from one's eye. But the other half will interpret it as a rip in a piece of clothing or paper. Considering both words and the two interpretations of each I will get four difference answers.
A person might write out a contract which to him seems absolute and black and white. He feels there is no way anyone reading his contract could interpret it in any way different from the author's original meaning. But other parties to the contract might read a different meaning into the same words. Sooner or later a dispute results. That is why we have so many darn lawyers in this country. It also illustrates the problem with the written railroad rules. There is almost always more than one way to read them.
Unfortunately in this world there are those people who seem to think that their own personal interpretation of anything is the one and only possible. They refuse to listen to or consider the merrit of any other reading. A few of these people come to mind. The Iatolla. Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Members of the former Taliban government. Closer to home we have Rush Limburger and.... railroad officers. Even though your interpretation of the written word may have great legitimacy you will be stoned to death, shot, hung, ridiculed, or, if you work for a railroad, fired, for your interpretation.
The railroad breeds these "Little Napoleons" and tells them they are trainmasters. They get all puffed up and start making up rules interpretations that are just crazy.
I once had one of these Napoleons tell me I had failed an efficiency test for not whistling at a public crossing. When I inquired as to which crossing it was he said MP 779.8. I told him that crossing was not a public crossing it was a private crossing. It had no whistle posts and never has had any.
He said, "Don't you know how to tell a public crossing from a private crossing?"
I said, "Yes. Public crossings have whistle posts."
He bristled and said, "No. Public crossings have crossbucks and private crossings have stop signs."
Now THAT is crazy. Why does he think the rule book has the Whistle Post sign shown in it. According to him it is useless. By his interpretation, for an engineer to be "qualified" on any particular route he would have to memorize every single crossing on the entire route and know whether it had a crossbuck or a stop sign. Geeze, gimme a break! Does he know how long it would take a crew to become qualified on a new territory that way? Some current day engineers, with little seniority, being bumped from region to region are qualified on a thousand or more miles of routes. There is no way anyone could memorize the signage at every single private and public crossing. That is what whistle posts are for.
But these idiot dictator trainmasters (and sometimes even superintendents) with their own interpretations can hang crews that have actually not violated any rules. Worse yet is that when these Napoleonic trainmasters, superintendents, or division rules men are promoted, fired, or otherwise move on, their replacement may be just as autocratic; but with his own new interpretation of certain rules. Add to this problem the fact that the crews themselves can have their own interpretations of certain rules and you can see that the crews can be caught between a rock and and a hard place. You should now understand why most railroad crewmen carry job insurance. You expect to be fired for a rule violation sooner or later. It is just dumb luck if you manage to work your entire career and never be fired.
I work for BNSF. This railroad uses the GCOR. (General Code of Operating Rules). GCOR is used by many USA railroads, most of them west of the Missippi River. There is disagreement in interpretation even among the big railroads that co-authored the book. Unless otherwise noted, my discussions of the rules pertain to BNSF and specifically to that region of BNSF, the former BN, which I work on.
Some discussions of the Rules
Absolute or Intermediate CTC authorization
Reverse Movements in CTC
Entering a CTC Main at an Electric Lock
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