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Two Long and a Short…Trains a Comin’

Story ID:7984
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montand
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Two Long and a Short…Trains a Comin’
By Chuck Dishno

When I was a kid in Bly Oregon, the logging train from Klamath Falls, would arrive about 4 pm daily to pick up the log cars that had been loaded that day. We always knew when the train was nearing Bly because there were two grade crossings and the engineer would blow for them. The standard whistle for a grade crossing was two long and a short. Since this was a steam locomotive the sound could be heard several miles away.

As soon as my friend Herb and I would hear the first grade crossing whistle we knew the train was about 3 miles out and we would head for the depot and await the coming train. The second crossing was about 1 mile away so we were ready for its arrival. When I say depot, I am exaggerating a bit. At one time it really was a passenger and freight depot but had long since been abandoned. The only train that visited Bly at this time was the daily logging train delivering a long string of flat cars to be left and loaded the next day. .

As soon as the train came to a stop, the brakeman would get out and proceed to un-hook the empties. As the train had come a distance of 60 or more miles the air tanks had to be bled to get out the condensed water. Herb and I would volunteer to do this much to the welcome of the brakeman and engineer.

Herb would take one side of the string of empties and I would take the other. There were two air compressor tanks on each car with a long handle under each. We would grab the handle pull it out and the water and air would whoosh out. The entire process took about 20 minutes to bleed the entire train. This seemed like a lot of work for us but there was a motive to our madness.

After we had done our work we would go back to the engine and keep our eye on it while the train crew walked the short distance into town for a bite of supper.

I will never forget the sound of that old engine as it chuffed, crackled and popped. We didn’t dare climb up into it but just watched and listened to this living and breathing monster.

About 30 minutes later the train crew came back to work. Their first job was to back the detached engine and coal tender down a sidetrack to reverse the engine in order to pick up the string of loaded cars. This turn-around was done at a wye. A wye is track in the shape of a “Y” a triangular junction that enables the engine and tender to go up one section then back down the other thus reversing them. The wye in Bly was located about a half mile down the track and the entire process took less than 20 minutes. Herb and I would stand around wistfully looking at the train crew and usually they would invite us to hop into the cab and take the short trip to the turn around. This made our day and on getting back would watch the engine hook up to the loaded string of cars. With a couple of short toots on the whistle, the train was on its way back to Klamath Falls where the logs on the flat cars would be dumped into the millponds.

As the loaded train left Bly, we would hear it blow for the two grade crossings on its way home. I always felt they were signaling to us that all is well and a job well done.

With our job complete we would head for home and anxiously wait for the “two long and a short” whistle the next day.

How I miss those days of the steam trains and their unique sound and smell. Living in Dillon we have a few trains going thru each day but they are diesel and don’t conger up the memories of the good old days.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, when my time comes, that I could ride a steam train to the Pearly Gates. I can just hear it now blowing for the crossing into Heaven, Two Long and a Short! I think St. Peter will give it the green light signifying, Clear Track Ahead.- All is Forgiven.