It was 1968 and my Wife’s brother was home on leave. We had decided to show Joe a little bit of the high desert in the Antelope Valley area and we were headed home in the late afternoon when I noticed a Southern Pacific freight train stopped on the mainline. It seemed odd to see a train stopped at that location for no obvious reason and I, being an avid railfan, had a hunch something out of the ordinary was happening. We parked the car and I, with my trusty Pentax SLR in hand, went to investigate. The train crew members were busy doing something between the locomotives and the first car, so that’s where I headed. As I neared the train, I saw the problem. The train had parted and gone into emergency braking when brakepipe pressure was lost as the train parted. My first thought was a broken coupler, but when I got a closer view, I saw the chain. The chain appeared to be taut between the locomotive and the first car as if an attempt were being made to move the first car. I realized I was in harm’s way if the chain were to break, so I walked around the front locomotive to a safe position on the sunny side of the train. There I got my first good view of the first car. This was not a “simple” broken and readily replaced coupler! It appeared to me the whole of the car’s draft gear had failed as the car’s end sill was fractured and bent forward. The crew was faced with the task of moving the crippled car to the nearest siding where it would “set-out” and be clear of the mainline. Until this was done, the mainline would be closed to other traffic.That chain looked flimsy to me and I wondered if it were capable of moving that car. I will never know the answer as I left soon after to re-join my family, who, I was sure, by now, would be pissed-off at Dad for staying to watch the drama un-fold. Besides, the sun was going down and I was about out of film. And yes, I was right about my family being pissed-off.
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