Cleaning Out Switches

I’ve mentioned several times in previous posts about Jack Delano’s habit of documenting the human side of railroading. As rail enthusiasts we tend to focus on the trains themselves. And on occasion we’ll study the more common structures, such as depots, towers and roundhouses. But we seldom focus on the people behind those machines and facilities.

Even more so, we often have no idea of the many tasks required, and the enormous work force needed to keep a railroad operational. This photo is a good example of that. We’re in an Illinois Central Railroad yard in Chicago, and a yard gang is going about it’s daily business. Pictured is a worker inspecting and cleaning out debris around a track switch to insure it’s proper and dependable function. Note the oil can at right, used to squirt a bit of lubricant into moving parts where needed.

Image by Jack Delano, November 1942.

Cleaning Out Switches

2 thoughts on “Cleaning Out Switches

  1. Jack

    During my commuting days on the Milwaukee into the “loop” I was always intrigued with the crews that kept switches ice free—with small fires —in the yards near the station.

    A small but critical task

    Roger Sekera

    • Roger, it’s amazing how railroaders find ways to overcome problems. Back in 2018 I posted a photo showing a crew thawing the air pumps on their steam locomotive . . . by packing cotton waste around them and setting fire to it!


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