The Greenwood Line revisited

Trains 57 westbound and 56 eastbound were responsible for servicing the Greenwood Line, as well as running up the main line to Spencer and up the Ashland Line as far as Medford. The work load between Marshfield and Medford was such that in part it was responsible for Soo Line's decision to cut back service on the "G-Line" from 3 days a week to 2 in 1973, and to 1 day a week in 1976. Train 56 would return from Medford with trains that oftentimes would be more than a single locomotive was capable of handling. Here was a case where Soo Line felt justified in cutting service in one area to beef up service in another.

56 & 57, universally known as the "Local", faced problems not necessarily connected with the track work be they out on the Greenwood Line or out on the Ashland Line between Spencer and Medford. The Yard Switch crew in Marshfield did not pre-block 56's train. That is, switch the cars in the train in a predetermined order. On the contrary, most times their train would be in random order, causing the Local crew to have to re-switch their train a the first stop where it would be possible, be it Loyal in one case or Spencer in another. What kind of problems did this cause, you ask? I quote Bruce Shupe, longtime Brakeman on 56 & 57. "Jesus Christ! We finally get to Loyal and the first car we need is the last car by the caboose!!" Such are the joys of real railroading.

Switching out on the "G-Line" was a fairly straight-forward job, although at Greenwood itself the crew would be forced to run around cars on the House track several times to get the cars in the right position either in front or behind the locomotive Otherwise, the general track arrangements in Loyal and Greenwood lent themselves to being worked by a westbound freight train. The lone exception to this was the short spur into Stewarts Redville Dairy in Greenwood which was on a switch back off of the track into the U.B.C lumber yard.

When the train arrived at Loyal from Marshfield, the first order of business was to pull all the loads and empties off the House track, then O.W. Trindal’s and finally the Loyal Canning Co.'s spur. The Local crew would then start switching out their in-bound train and integrating the in-bound cars with any cars that may have been remaining behind. ( There usually was at least one).

Generally, it took the Local crew about 2.5 to 3 hours to do their work in Loyal, and then the boys would be ready to head to Greenwood, where the procedure would be much the same as switching at Loyal, except that the train crew would be running cars through the House track as described before.

There were exceptions. Train length played a big part in how the Local would approach their work. If the train exceeded 12 cars, part of the return train, the Caboose and the empty/loaded cars from Loyal would be left in Loyal for the local to pick up on the way back to Marshfield. And, I can't think of a time where the Caboose didn't act as the splice in the middle of the train between the Greenwood cars and the Loyal cars after the Local crew finished switching their train around in Loyal and headed off for Greenwood in this manner. And, lastly, switching in Greenwood could be complicated by the Midland Co-op's empty ag lime gons which were unloaded on the east and west sides of State Highway 73. Early in the Spring, when train lengths got long, you needed a thick skin to work on the Greenwood Local, as some of the switching movements could and did get complicated.

If you were unfortunate enough to read my first article on the Greenwood Line, I lambasted the Soo Line for their attitude in general about continuing service to Greenwood and Loyal. However, the Soo did do a few good turns for the customers on the line that seem somewhat out of character. One that sticks out in my mind is the time the Soo instructed the Local crew to place an Ice refrigerator at Stewarts and wait for the car to be loaded.

If a person could build the Greenwood Line in scale, it would be worth the effort. The switching action that was cut the line could please the biggest advocate of operation for hours. Although I only saw the train switching in Loyal and Greenwood once, it was fascinating to watch the crew jump into their work. I've always been fascinated by switching operations, because this is where the payoff was after Dad had done all the paperwork. Yep, I miss it, but time marches forever on, doesn't it.

'Till Next Time

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