Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A New Frog

When we were barely into the morning, Ben Kutowski (Duncan's friend) and I heard a lot of noise on the railroad tracks. Actually, I seemed to hear the noise all night, but when I was working around the house in the morning it was so loud and so constant that I grabbed him, the only person under 14 who was awake, and said, “Come on. An adventure awaits us outside. We are going to see where that noise is coming from.”

... chasing across the beach to find the RR noise ...
We slipped down the stairs at the lakeside of the house and peered over the embankment and through the trees.

Men working and a machine, but too many trees and branches.

We couldn’t see clearly what was happening.

We went to the other side of the track, via the crossing, the Healing Circle, Pilling’s Beach, through the gate, and there where Annis Bay Estates meets LaRue was the track crew working, the one who had been on duty since 1 am. They were changing the ties and the nails at the crossing, which is marked by a round red lollipop sign, a crew person told us. “Twenty feet on either side. We take up the ties, put new ones in and then nail them down. We are leaving in twenty minutes, since our shift is over then. We call the switch a frog.”

This is the part of the operation that Ben and I watched: the final nailing of the ties; a machine like a giant nail gun, the spikes coming down a tube, the hammer striking them into the wood and the ground, then a new nail falling into place. Over and over. Everyone wearing a hard hat. Everyone with ear plugs in place. The nailing machine signaled it was about to move 4 yards down the track by sounding a long note from the horn. Ben and I about jumped backward into the lake with the noise. “I am sure the CPR crew could have heard a smaller toot,” I thought to myself. “Or else, the ear plugs those men are wearing are pretty powerful and they can’t hear without a noise that loud.” I guess I am going with the latter idea.

Further down the track one man was laying down on the coarse gravel bed that the ties lay on, taking a sight line down the rail. A few others were working in pairs, one putting the handle of his pick-axe on a nail and the other using the head of the pick axe as the place where he hammered something down. Now that doesn’t make sense to me when I think about it, but that is what I saw.

Ben and I watched until we could feel the heat of the sun. Then we completed the loop from our house, walking along the CPR right of way west, then over the crossing that had been fixed that morning and returning to our house along the canopied cover of the trail that would lead into our house. Ben, not really knowing the lay of the land yet was surprised. “Look, a house,” and then with pleasant surprise in his voice, “Our house.”


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