Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Where to Put the Switchmans' Shanties?

Last week, I'd told you about E.O. Smith's collection of engineering drawings that he'd just put online; one of those plans specified the new location for a switchman's shanty off Race Street in the West San Jose cannery district.

Now, it's really nice that the "Friendly" Southern Pacific was willing to place a little building on Race Street so the switchmen would have a place to get warm, use a bathroom, and paper every surface with porn (link suitable for work - it's a quote from one of Linda Niemann's books) in a very 20th century industrial way. Still, I'd sort of thought that the Southern Pacific was... well, cheap. Really cheap. Like, wouldn't spend a dime to make employees suffer less cheap. Race Street's only a half mile from the San Jose Yard, and I couldn't imagine the SP being generous enough to put an extra building down there.

So, of course, I asked E.O.; after all, he'd switched boxcars on the Vasona branch. His response:

Shanties: I'm not clear about union agreements regarding them, but they were placed anywhere that crews did a lot of local switching. The ones I know of in San Jose: Newhall, St., Brokaw Road, North Yard (Mulford Line near Fibreglass), Alameda St. Cahill St., Park Ave., Race Street, Luther Jct., 4th Street north of Valbrick, 8th & Taylor, and an old transfer caboose used as one at Campbell. There also must have been one at the WP Valbrick interchange, but I don't remember it. The outlying shanties were wallpapered with old Playboy centerfolds. I'm sure that I've missed some that were in the outlying zones.

So that's a surprise for me, and also a nice bit of detail I should repeat on my layout: make sure there's a small building around each of the major switching areas so the crews have a handy place to get out of the rain on winter nights. (And no, I don't really want to know how the crews covered the walls back in 1932.) I'm really curious where the transfer caboose was at Campbell; I'm certain it wasn't around in 1932 - there was no sign of any outbuildings around the station except an outhouse and a tollhouse - but I'm curious enough about Campbell that I'm willing to study .

And y'all, if you like your switchmen, ought to do the same. Do you have enough places for them to warm up out of the rain?

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