Chuck Hitchcock, at left, is the engineer on Job 322, while Jim McCroskie, with his back to the camera, is the conductor. “Mac” watches the cut being shoved around the tight curve at Industrial and Mill Streets in Los Angeles.


    Mac eyes the train as it slowly moves up track three at First Street. They’ve just finished getting all of the “pulls” out of the Patch in preparation for taking back their “spots.”

    Ernie the cat relaxes in the aptly-named easy chair at right, while Mac the conductor fills out his switch list using the car destination tags. Mac used to do this as a clerk when he started out on the “Q.”

    The switching process starts over with a cut of cars for the Patch. The midnight job 322 will make multiple spots overnight with several PFE reefers, loaded with bananas for the Western Distributing Company. Every Tuesday a solid train of bananas comes up from LA harbor to First Street. Western Banana is a big customer for these cars, despite its diminutive size.

Inaugural Patch Session 03/19/09

    Operations on the Patch commenced Thursday, March 19, 2009. I invited my friends Chuck Hitchcock and Jim McCroskie over to operate the inaugural session. We began with a short Apple Keynote presentation which gave an overview to the area and industries, followed by a 10 minute film, produced in the 1950s by the Santa Fe, titled “Assembling a Freight Train.” The film has many scenes shot around the First Street Yard and talks about how the car tags are used.

    After the introduction and film, I gave a brief description of how the work was to be done and what tools to use. They began with the midnight trick, Job 322, which works both the Freight House and 7th Street Alley in the Patch. It took them about two real hours, which translates to an 8 hour shift using a 4:1 fastclock. That’s what I wanted.