Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wheeler Sugar Beet Ops

A short exchange of info about sugar beets out of the Wheeler area gleaned from an email group.

Wheeler Sugar beet jobs

Message 1 of 3 , Oct 13, 2012

I have a 1968 Idaho Division train brief off Dan Bolyard's website about the Wheeler Trunaround Local, train 1234-1235 between Pasco and Adrian. The brief includes statement "This train supplemented during beet and potato harvest with road switcher at Wheeler and Turnabound local Pasco to Connell."

Does anyone know anything about the seasonal road switcher at Wheeler? I suspect this job went to Adrian in season to deliver empty cars and get loads of beets from GN at Adrian. Can anyone confirm? Anyone know official or unofficial name of this assignment in the 1960's?

I intend to use info for a sentance or two in a book xxxxxxx and I are writing about the GN in the 1960's and his career. xxxx worked the GN beet local for at least one stand in the 1960's.

Thank you,

Oct 26, 2012

I arrived in Wheeler WA on September 25, 1963. Here is a link to a news paper account of the explosion.

I was filling a temporary position as Operator for the fall sugar beet harvest that was about to start. Before the day was over my job had been eliminated and reinstated by Mr. Westine, the train master. The reason it was reinstated was the U&I officials declared that they would open as usual. However, there would be no sugar storage facilities, and every ton of sugar produced would be loaded and shipped within about 24 hours.

There were at least two ramifications. One the sugar loading tracks needed to be switched at more frequent intervals, so a 16 hour seven day a week switcher job was created. The crew actually worked 15 hours and took "beans" at the end of their shift. It was an extremely popular job. The crews could fill their time cards for the month in just a few days and then take the rest of the month off. We saw mostly the top of the seniority list.

The beet car trains moved according to need and were a daily occurrence. That may well have been your Wheeler to Connell turn around local. I know at least on one occasion I rode the caboose to Connell and back. This became a source of embarrassment for me. This train set out empty beet cars at each siding. At one such stop I was in the cupola watching the activity on the ground. The brakes were releasing and I was listening for the slack. I heard it coming, ripping down the train and I ducked back inside. I wasn't quite fast enough and the window frame snicked my glasses and sent them spinning out of the window onto the ground. I quickly wrote down the number of the beet car adjacent to the location, and next morning I sent a note to the agent and asked him to search the ground nearby. The local that evening brought me an envelope with my glasses, no worse for the wear.

The switcher would make up the train in the afternoon and push the whole thing out the main line north of town. The local would arrive and pull through the storage track with loaded beet cars, empty sugar hoppers for the bulk sugar and fifty foot double door box cars for bagged sugar. Nothing but the best! I would take up a position at the wye to the plant lead in the afternoon as the switcher pushed the train. I could scribble car numbers for my train list as fast as the crew would push. In fact they were inclined to push at the dead slow so as to help me. The plant lead was the top of a long hill out of the plant. Then the main line continued on a slight down hill slope. One day I was on station scribbling furiously when the slack came ripping by and a knuckle whistled by my head. After that I stood a bit further away.

The average beet car train was over a hundred cars. I must have scribbled a million car numbers that winter.


Message 3 of 3 , Oct 28, 2012

To add a few additional details to xxxx’s excellent write-up about his experiences at Wheeler in 1963:

The only station I ever worked on the Connell - Wheeler line was Connell. One day I rode with the local all the way up the branch and back again. We had GP9 216 for power. We did go all the way to Adrian with some interchange for the GN. I don't remember what it was other than 1 or 2 cars. The NP crossed over the GN mainline on a long timber trestle. North of this trestle was the NP station of Adco. There was a spur of about 1/2 mile that dropped down to the GN station of Adrian which was the interchange point and had a small yard.

The NP line from Adrian (Adco) to Odair was seldom used from the late 1950s, but it survived into the BN era. I don't have an abandonment date, but the Adrian - Wheeler line was abandoned 5/24/1983. The concrete bases for the timber bents are still visible at Adrian. The Odair - Adrian line went through some rugged country and there was at least one large trestle.


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