Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Gandy Dancers, And Other Section Gangs

My brother sent me some photos he took of a train approaching, then going through, a road crossing up his way. Then he put them together in a dissolving slide show, even better.

Sometimes a locomotive will hit a plowed road just right. You know how your driveway looks when a snowplow has gone by and what it’s like for you to back out of it. Imagine a few 130-ton locomotives with a mile-long train behind them hitting the same type of snow ridge at speed. You’ve got quite a bit of weight and a lot of momentum there; it’s not going to skid and stop when it hits a pile of snow.

I’ve seen photos where the snowbank literally exploded when the locomotive’s plow hit it. Trains magazine sometimes publishes these “right moment” pictures and you see white stuff flying everywhere. On one video I have of the Alaska Railroad, a train is off in the distance and it hit a snowdrift on the tracks. The snow flew up and across, twice as high as the train. It was much like a ship hitting a swell just the right (wrong?) way, with water flying.

Before we leave you: Track workers, as I understand it, used tools from the Gandy Manufacturing Company. As they spiked down the tracks, they would work opposite each other in choreographed motions, much like dancers. “Gandy dancers,” as they were called. “Oh, they dance on the ceilin', And they dance on the wall, At the Gandy Dancers' Ball. A Gandy Dancer is a railroad man, And his work is never done. With his pick and his shovel and his willin' hand, He makes the Railroad run.” (1952 song)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gandy Dancers, back when the ends met in Provo, Utah were largely made up of Irish and Chinese Immigrants.

And the phrase ''Gandy Dancers'' brought back a memory while in my sophmore year in high school when the teacher, a certain Mr. Mathews with whom there was no love shared between us, said that during the summer he had worked on the RR. During the day he had made a mistake on something, and owned up to it and I remarked that he would have made a better Gandy Dancer than a teacher.

Gandy Dancers were tough back then and in nothing flat I was up against the lockers in the hallway which might have explained why I got a 'D'' in conduct that semester.

Didn't know about the source of the name...thanx for sharing

CJV

March 11, 2008 7:59 PM  
Anonymous MadDrummer said...

Tom,
Where do you find these songs/lyrics?

They are a treat.

March 12, 2008 8:17 PM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

I knew them. I know a lot of old songs, having been there at the time.

But when I post the lyrics, I always use a search engine to make sure I remember them correctly.

Sometimes I have to check three or four (or more) sites until I know which one is right.

March 13, 2008 1:28 AM  

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