Coming from Pete, a sixty-five year old drunk Irish engineer, the sentence “The company is going downhill, don’t be surprised if your laid off..” Didn’t sink in until I saw lots of my co-workers cleaning out their lockers and turning in their time tables. Our veteran signal man was on a bench sulking. His name was Stewart, he had been here before Pete. I went over and asked him what happened. He said, “I had to take a massive pay-cut or get fired.” Pete was right, there were 20-30 workers cleaning up and packing up. So I decided to go about my day, My first task as a fireman was to meet with Drew, my good friend and partner or 5 years. Him and I had been in Primary School together. I’d always dreamed of becoming a musician, when that didn’t work, he told me he was working for the Great West Clare in Ireland. It was a big company that ran between County Cork, Mayo, and Ennis. When I first got there, they had introduced a service to Dublin. My dad’s friend lived in Ennis, it’s a pretty city. When I first got there, I was poor and looking for money. When I got to their recruitment office in Limerick, I took a peak in the yard. There were lots of bellowing steam locomotives pulling out of the yard, going to the station about 30 minutes away in Ennis. I had worked in factories back in London, feeding fires and stoking boilers. I applied for a job as a fireman and requested to work with Drew Barton. They said I could and I was handed my watch and time sheets. I was a fireman for the greatest railway in Southern Ireland. Drew and I went to celebrate at the pub.
Back to the present day, I got home from work and I went to put away some laundry. I got up there and I think my roommate was in the shower. I’ve always liked hearing the sound of the running water, it helps calm me down. So went to put away my laundry until she got out of the shower. As I was putting away the clothes I thought to myself, “How could this trusted company just throw away their veterans, teachers and mentors? I’ve been there for 5 years and I knew the line like the back of my hand, I could do anything they needed me to do, was I just expendable?” I was worried, yet angry, Something had to be done about this.
Going to work the next day was stressful, I walked into the office to retrieve my assignment. Jenny, my long time friend wasn’t there. She had introduced me to mechanics and my boss. She had always been really nice to me. Did she get fired like everyone else? This company is turning into a mess. HELL I even saw them selling one of our best express locomotives. I found Drew and we went about our day. We were going to make a passenger run all the way to Belfast. We were given permission from Irish Rail to run a train up to Belfast 5 times a year. If we can do it more often, it might get us out of our debt. It would be a night trip so we brought multiple crews, it will take a bit for the train to be ready. I came in about 2:00 and we had to start working on it right then. 5:45 rolled around and we rolled into the ennis rail station. The crew members were in a bunk car behind the locomotive. The passengers are loaded, locomotive is ready. The breakman gives the green flag and we set off. I stoke the fire and increase the water intake. The locomotives inches forward, the wheels slip briefly and we are on the way. The train is rolling through the countryside, passing vast fields of hay and livestock. The fresh irish breeze blows through the air as the sun goes down. 12:00 AM we pull into Dublin, where we switch crews. I move to the crew car and get some sleep.
Somehow the return trip seemed longer and harder the going there. When we got back, things were really getting weird. Two young mechanics were in an argument and it was getting worse by the minute. Until they started brawling, soon enough more people started fighting as well. The whole workshop was now a war zone. Projectiles flying and cursing, People were pushed into the maintenance pit. Drew and I managed to get through the brawl with minor injuries. The work day was let out early. On the way out, I was confronted by a higher up in the company. I was scared. “Holloway, come see me in my office” ”What for?” “Just come see me”. I walked up hoping for the best. “Holloway, this company is slowly going downhill. We are losing money by the minute. We are choosing people that are willing to take big pay cuts, possibly work without pay. I will give you a pay raise when this is over, if we go bankrupt, I’ll give you compensation. now , what will it be?” I took a pay-cut for the company simply because of the benefits if we ever get out of this mess.
When I got home, my roommate was cooking something for dinner, I went and took a shower. My roommate works at a bank in Limerick. Somehow he always uses up the hot water and I can’t take a hot shower. This time she didn’t use it up, and I got my shower. I told her about the pay cut and she would need to bring home wheat she could. I would get a second job until this crisis ended. There was a pricey restaurant hiring down the road. I was gonna work there for a bit. I’m not getting paid at the railroad anyway. What will happen if I leave early to go get paid somewhere that cares about their employees? So I put on some nice clothes and walked down to apply for the job. I walked out as a waiter making $50 and hour.
The next day, I got up to go to work. I walked into the yard house to get my time table. I saw a couple people from the bank talking to my boss. The men from the bank were arguing over a lone that needed to be paid off. I walked passed to listen in to the conversation. “This has gone on too long, You need to pay your loan off.” But I can’t afford it, give me a few months guys.” IT’S BEEN A FEW MONTHS, GIVE US THE MONEY BY THE END OF THE YEAR, OR WE ARE TAKING AN ENGINE INSTEAD!!!” When they left, I was in shock. I needed a plan for the fast approaching future. I was taking a freight train down to the southern coast this time. These runs are always the longest, and getting the train together was the worst. Our small shunting locomotive got the long train of hoppers and box cars. While the brakemen, conductor, Drew and I were synchronizing our watches, A fireman was shoveling hot burning coals into a dumpster beside our steam shop. That was a huge fire hazard, but right as I said that, a spark set the trash inside a blaze. There was fire erupting from the and it spread TO THE ENGINE SHOP! The fire brigade was on its way, workers scrambled out of the flaming building. The firemen came and attempted to put out the flames, but they were rising fast. Me, Drew and a couple other brave souls went in to get the locomotives out. There were only two inside, so we got them out and got the flames put out. About 2 hours later, the fire was out and Drew and I were 2 hours behind. We finished making the train and had to make up for lost time. Drew hammered the throttle and we were on our way. I just wanted today to end so I could go home. Then I realized, I still have to work my dinner shift.
When I got home, I immediately changed clothes and walked to the restaurant. I walked in 15 minutes before the service started, and started to help everybody setup. 6:00, people start coming in and the night starts. No more than 45 minutes in I have my first spill. I spilled a bottle wine all over my shirt, pants and one unlucky customer (he had on a white shirt). I went to clean it up, when I started getting heckled by a rather big man smoking a cuban cigar. “Nice one Dumbass, you really painted a nice piece of work on that man’s shirt. Take it to the art museum chap.” “ sir I'll be happy to inform you, there is no smoking inside.” The man stayed and kept talking. Finally, he paid his $500 bill for a 20oz steak with three sides, and OYSTERS!! On his way out, he dropped his cigar in front of me. “ clean that up to chap.” “Fat piece of shit.” I called him under my breath. I had one more spill that night. I was still thinking about earlier and I broke down and tried to fight the tears welling up in my eyes. I cleaned up the spill and went on to finish my shift. Finally I could go home and get out of these wine stained clothes. I got home and took a shower, my roommate walked in as well. “ hey David, how was work?” “ Awful, I was heckled because I spilled some wine. How about You?” “it was ok, we purchased another bank. It was good. Let’s go get some dinner.” I was ready for food. We went and got something to eat, I think I might ask her out.
It’s been weeks since I’ve actually been paid by the railway, I’m beginning to get pissed. I went to my boss to ask when I’d be paid. He wasn’t there when I got there. So I just got my orders from the yard worker, I’ve been getting them from him since our old yard manager was laid off, the yard man’s been swamped and says he just can’t get a break. So again, my orders are to meet up with Drew and take a short freight train to county cork. On the way down, we drove by a group of teenagers smoking and throwing rocks at passing trains.So they threw rocks at us, so I decided I would hit them with a cloud of hot steam. 3, 2, 1, I opened the lever to release some steam, and a cloud of hot steam shot out of the side of the piston. I felt proud, so we went on about our day. On the way back around the same spot, there was a fire on the side of the tracks. Those little shits dropped their lit cigarettes on the side of the tracks, grass already grows thick down in the ditch. The wooden empties that we had could have caught on fire but with only 7 cars to clear and only 500 ft of clearance, we tried to power through the flames. I don’t know but I think one of the empties caught fire. Because smoke came from the back of the train. So we pulled into a small station just outside of Limerick. There was a small fire that we could put out with our coats. But regardless, we went into the station to phone the fire brigade. I was confused, all these events have happened back to back. How? Why? When would the company finally cave in?
Paranoid as every, I went home to change for my shift at the restaurant. I was gonna go through the shift without a spill. I thought I would until an hour into my shift, fat ass came in and sat down. I wasn’t gonna let him intimidate me this time. “Hey you, come here.” Can I help you sir?” “ I think I’ve seen you in the railyard, you work there?” I nodded, anticipating what he would say. “Well let hope you can work a locomotive better that a try of food.” I walked off. Found out I was his waiter, I groaned and went to take his order. When he left, he left a note and a large tip. To bad I probably won’t get this tip. I ended up shoving the tip in my pocket. The man said he worked for the railway. That was a paycheck, not a tip. I was gitty, I was paid for the first time in months by the railway. This would start an upward spiral of events. Things were finally looking up.
A month has passed since I got that note, New employees were coming in in a slow stream. We got a couple diesel locomotives for shunting and a shiny new diesel locomotives for the long trips to Belfast. I the rail ties on the piccadilly line were finally gonna be fixed you literally sagged to the left when you went over them. The main line traffic from Dairy to Kerry would be fixed. We stopped every ten minutes on the way there, with the speed limit, we were constantly late. Despite all the changes, I still wasn’t being paid. So I know it’s getting repetitive, but again I was to meet up with Drew and carry out orders. I was going to go to my locomotive but my boss told me to come to the office. “The office? That’s 29 minutes downtown, you know I'm busy right.” “Yeah, Just come down town.” So, I lent my car to my roommate. So I don't have a car, now how will I get across town, in rush hour, without a car. Once I got there, I was scarfing down a sausage egg and cheese croissant (I didn’t get breakfast this morning). I got on the elevator and went up to his office. “I have good news, you're getting a very big pay raise.” I was at a loss for words.
On the way to Mayo, We tested the new tracks. They raised the speed limit from 40 to 70 kph. I even got to take my favorite A2. We were taking a 20 car freight train. We saw people along the tracks again. The sun was shining, and it was perfect. We pulled into cork 10 minutes early. On the return trip, it was around 5 o’clock, there were big gray clouds in the sky. The rain was coming. Drew opened the regulator a little more, and the speed rose to 65 kilometers. I adjusted the water intake to account for speed. We hit 70 kilometers just as we hit the main line. The rain drops started coming down around 15 kilometers out from Ennis. When we got back it was time to go.
When I left work, I went to the restaurant to tell them I was quitting. Later on that month, I asked the waitress I had meat when I worked with her. She said yes and we will be going out on our first date in a week. My roommate and I sold the apartment and I bought a house in the country. I still work for the railroad, but I have veterain status. I am a manager so I can’t go out on the rails as much. Yeah I miss it, but I am making more than I was at the restaurant. To be exact, is about $65 an hour and I have a $10 bonus for every train I dispatch. I still do go on the rails with Drew, I don’t take it for granted anymore. The past 3 months have felt like years, but I guess I made it through. I guess there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s been about ten Years since the incident happened. I’m 38 now and Have worked my way up the later and now make $90 an hour. I have a kid now, his name is Drew, and he is 4 years old. I got Drew promoted to a yard manager, I feel like he should have been promoted before me but he wasn’t. We bring in young people because they will be around longer, I don’t like that because no one except me or Drew or our verteran mechanic Rodney will help teach them. They don’t run locomotives like vets, most of them are too lazy to do it and that means we have to fix them all the time. Others are very good at it, I wish we had more of them.
I get a lot of shit from higher ups because I fire so many people, most people I fire are lazy or have messed up so much or so bad, that they had to go. It’s not like we are understaffed, we need to cut our losses and get some better employees. Maybe get some better recruiters so we actually find good candidates. Life has been good to me so far, let’s hope it stays that way.