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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Changes in railroad technology

While accidents continued to occur throughout the time Strickland worked at the railroad, he believes that improved technology made his job much safer.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ralph Waldo Strickland, April 18, 1980. Interview H-0180. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LU ANN JONES:
Do you remember way back when you first started working for the railroad. Were there more accidents then when you were first working for the railroad.
RALPH W. STRICKLAND:
I think so. The railroad companies, they changed a lot of their rules. We used to have to—had a stick, big old pick handle we called it—we had to go up top them go on top and tie them cars down, put a hand brake on them. In later years, they won't let a man go up on top of a car now. They arranged that braking system, that hand brake on the end where you won't have to go on top. The work's much safer than it used to be. It's altogether different too. They've got a different method of switching now than it used to have. We used to get a birch stick and had an old oil lantern—didn't have no electric light, we call them "hay burners"—you'd walk up there on that lead, that conductor be standing up there. As soon as you show up, be in sight of him, he'd cut you off four or five jobs. As you you had to go higher and catch them and slow them up with a handbrake, keeping them from going on down there and hitting and cause so much rough handling. You'd walk around up that lead, be up where he could see you, he'd cut them out to you. You had to be a monkey in order to get up there and grab them cars and slow them down. They don't do that now, they switch with air a whole lot now. They use that air brake so the brakeman and switchman don't have to go higher. In fact, a lot of these cars don't even have a walkway on top like they used to have. Their equipment is much larger and better all the way around than it used to be.