TOM'S RAILFAN PAGES
THE 14 YEAR OLD CONDUCTOR
My experience as the youngest conductor at IRM
CSL 144 the "Red Rocket" was my first assignment.
In 1966 I joined the Illinois Railroad Museum to enjoy coming out with my Dad and ride for the day. As the museum grew, an opportunity arose for me to become a working volunteer Conductor. My job was to open and close doors, assist with boarding passengers, collecting tickets and changing the trolley poles. This would be a thrill to anyone but I was only 14 when I started and was overwhelmed with the opportunity. I had to get a uniform and my Dad went to a store in Chicago and got me a real conductor's hat. It was a little too big for me but it stayed on my head, knowing I would grow into it. (I still wear that hat)My first day I was assigned to car 144 a red CSL Streetcar known as the red rocket. Bob Opal was my motorman and he showed me how to operate the doors and how to raise and lower trolley poles. Before we operated we had to sweep the car out and align the switches to get the car to the depot. Bob told me to go throw the switch so off I went in front of him and 144 to get the switch. After I threw the switch Bob yelled "Not that switch, The other switch!" (there were 3 switches, I guessed the wrong one) I really enjoyed the speeches Bob gave about the museum and the way he tricked the passengers at the end of the line to please present their red return stubs. I still to this day have fun with people on my train to present this stub. During one day at the museum my orthodontist rode on 144 with his kids, one of my tricks was to let someone wear my hat while I changed trolley poles. I impressed my Dr. by putting my hat on his son. By doing this deed I don't have to leave the car to pick up my hat when it falls off. On another day I was working with Bob and another young conductor on the IT 415 car. This car had a special brake valve that also opened and closed the doors. During a slow period Bob got out and my friend closed the doors behind him by moving the brake lever, soon he decided to leave car 415 and moved the valve over to the right to let himself out, I moved the lever left to close the door. I didn't want to miss out on anything so I moved the lever all the way to the right to open the doors. When I got into the station Bob said "Did you put the car into emergency?" I sure did because not being trained on this valve and not knowing about all of the notches the handle goes to, I definitely put 415 into emergency. (who knew?)Eventually I learned a lot from Bob and became very good at my position. At the end of each day I throw the switches for my motorman and clean out the car for the next day. I had to give up my conductor job after a year because the museum raised the age limit to 18. Another young member had an accident which caused the decision to prevent under 18's from working. A few years later I was at the controls of 144 learning how to be a motorman.
Cars 144 and 415 were the two cars I was assigned the most. 144 had heavy manual doors with an awkward metal pole that had
to be positioned just right to make the doors close fully. Car 415 had automatic doors operated by the motorman so all I did
was collect tickets and change the trolley poles.
In 1982 I had a chance to operate a four car