Off the Rails
Roanoke, VA - Norfolk Southern Corporation, which just two months ago took control of large sections of the former Conrail railroad system, announced a new plan to ensure the Company meets shareholder's expectations for its first quarter as a new rail giant.
A spokesman explained that the plan involves placing parking meters at strategic locations on the main lines, at all railroad sidings, and on all tracks in yards. Trains stopped at these locations will be obligated to "feed the meters" or risk parking fines.
"The financial return is expected to be immediate," explained Billy Ray Rednek of NS. "Unlike many improvements railroads can make, which must be viewed as having a very long-term payback (perhaps years), we expect to be going to the bank from Day One of this plan."
The quick thinking railroad indicated the plan does not end there. Their survey shows the average train crew will only have $1.75 in change on hand. By making the meters only accept and charging 25 cents per hour, they expect virtually all train crews will get at least one parking fine during each tour of duty. "We are working with several national employment agencies to guarantee an adequate supply of meter maids," said Rednek. "We just don't want to miss the market window on this."
Freight Bar Codes
London, UK - English Welsh and Scottish Rail, the US-owned freight company, announced today that its locomotives will no longer display fleet numbers, but bar codes: "For too long we've relied on human eyesight - and human concentration" said a spokesperson, "Now the technology of the supermarket will give us more reliable information".
A demonstration locomotive was driven past a lineside scanner, and the information showed instatly on a screen at the signalling centre. EWS staff poured the Champagne.
However, the unions were not so keen: "It's all very well taking work from our members and spending a fortune on machines", said an NUR spokesman, "But they've also reduced the cleaning staff to save money; a bit of oil on the barcode and there's no signal"
Rumours have spread that the system has suffered teething troubles. One coal train apparently had to be reversed back past the scanner seven times before the signalman was able to allow it to proceed.
Railfans are also suspicious "They haven't even left a small number
on the side of the loco", said one, "the only way to identify
some vehicles is to photograph them, then get the person on the checkout
run the photo past their scanner. It's a tedious business"
Wisconsin, The freight railways are always looking for ways to cut labour costs. Years ago there used to be five crew members on a train. Then they went to four, then three and now many freight train crews are made up of two people, the engineman and the brakeman.
They finally figured out a way to eliminate one more crewman, many were surprised to find out that they were eliminating the engineman. And they replaced him with a baboon who had been sent to school for only 12 hours.
They outfitted the cab of the engine with two color monitors, one in front of the baboon and one in front of the brakeman.
While in the yard, the brakeman heard the carman on the radio call for the brakes to be set up for the brake test. The screen in front of the baboon flashed the message "SETUP BRAKES" which the baboon did.
Next the carman called for the release of the brakes, the monitor in front of the baboon flashed "RELEASE BRAKES" which the baboon did.
Finally the carman call and gave the "OK brakes, you may proceed". The dispatcher gave the train the clear signal and the monitor in front of the baboon flashed "CLEAR TO PROCEED" and the train departed.
For the next several hours the screen would flash messages and the baboon would do exactly what the screen instructed. As the train pulled into the destination yard the baboon's screen flashed the instruction "APPLY BRAKES, YARD TRAIN" and the train came to a stop right in front of the yard office.
By now, the brakeman was worried; here was the baboon, driving the train and getting all the instruction. He started to wonder why the railway had kept his position.As he reached for his lunchbox and jacket, the screen in front of him emitted a shrill whistle, and started flashing: "FEED THE BABOON"