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(erielack) Tutti Frutti Oh Rudy, Erie Style



Rich Penissi’s recent mention of NY Division Assistant Chief Train 
Dispatcher Rudy Appeld brought back a memory, so I thought I’d share it.  It 
was autumn, 1973 and I was back at NJIT in Newark, after my third summer 
working as a tower operator on the EL. It was junior year, and I was taking 
a required course in probability and statistics.  The instructor wanted us 
to do a class project based on some real-world data, comparing two different 
ways of doing things as to seek out a statistical trend (or not).  This was 
a year or so after the EL started moving its high priority freights into and 
out of Croxton over to the Scranton side.  The UPS trains, especially Second 
NY-100, were flip-flopping between Scranton and Port Jervis at the time, and 
seemed to me like a good subject for a statistical comparison study.   I 
thought about approaching EL management to get access to a random sample of 
Second 100’s running times between BD Interlocking in Binghampton and either 
HX Tower (if via PO) or DB Draw (if via SC).  Unfortunately, Bob Downing had 
just left the NY Division Superintendent’s position for higher post out in 
Cleveland, and was replaced by Charlie Wogan.  I didn’t know Downing, had 
only met him once briefly while working SF Tower, but he had a reputation as 
an open-minded, relatively progressive manager.  Wogan, by contrast, was 
said to be more of a traditionalist; I ran the idea by some EL guys, and 
they didn’t think that Wogan would cooperate.

So I decided to try to get the data myself.  While visiting a friend at one 
of the towers, I made a call over the EL PBX to BD, and explained my 
situation to the operator.  He was sympathetic, but said that BD was too 
small to store blocksheets; they sent everything over to the QD office.  
Well, I knew that QD was patrolled by all sorts of yardmasters and 
trainmasters, and I didn’t anticipate much luck there.  The idea seemed dead 
in the water, but one day, while riding a Suffern local,  I got to talking 
with a fellow (forget his name now) who worked as the third trick clerk in 
the Hoboken Dispatchers Office.  So I asked him: were there records of 
Second 100’s times at BD stored somewhere down in the “JY” office?  Sure, he 
said; they kept copies of the white flimsy reports on progress of major 
trains.  Come on down one night and I’ll get them out for you.

So, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I drove down to Hoboken one 
cold night, and met up with my contact around 10:45 PM or so, just after he 
went on duty.  He sat me down in the vacant M&E dispatcher’s chair, as the 
third trick on the electrified lines and the Cut-Off was handled by the East 
End man.  Then he got out a couple of folders full of flimsy report 
regarding system train progress.  Have fun.  Well, I got out a pad and pen 
and started sifting thru my raw data, noting down dates, times, engine 
numbers, tonnages, whatever I could get regarding Second 100’s status from 
Binghampton east.  In the background I could hear the East End and West End 
dispatchers dealing with a variety of thru frieghts, including the ND-91, 
NY-99, SC-8, PO-98, etc.  It was quite a cozy and pleasant arrangement.  
What a wonderful way to do an otherwise boring class project.

Unfortunately, it only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes.  The second trick 
chief, Rudy Appeld, was still on duty, and my clerk friend had neglected to 
inform him of my presence.  I don’t remember precisely what Mr. Appeld 
looked like, except that the name “Rudy” fit him well.   So he introduced 
himself to me with the question: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  I explained my 
situation and my previous affiliation with the company, hoping for the best. 
  WHO SAID YOU COULD DO THIS?  (Again, I forget the clerk’s name after all 
these years).  GIVE ME THE PAPER THAT YOU WERE WRITING ON AND GET OUT OF 
HERE.

Dang!  Tossed from Railfan Paradise.  Couldn’t even keep the info about the 
four or five trains I had picked out from the sheets.  I went down to the 
waiting room, figuring that Rudy was going off duty in a few minutes and 
maybe my guy could then get me back in.  So after a half hour or so I went 
back upstairs and saw him (my clerk friend) walking thru the upper ferry 
waiting area.  He came over and apologized, but said that Rudy had told Fred 
Spratt about me (the third trick Assistant Chief, as Rich had mentioned) and 
so I was banished for good.  So I drove on home, with a quick detour up 
County Road in Secaucus for a quick look at Croxton Yard at midnight.  While 
there, I came up with a plan B, doing a study comparing fast freight times 
between Ridgewood and Suffern via track 1 versus track 3.  And I did manage 
to do that study, and to get an A for it.  I only recall that one track did 
show a statistical advantage over the other, even when you properly 
accounted for the time lost accelerating after the crossover move to track 3 
at Ridgewood.

Well, to be fair to Mr. Appeld – he didn’t call the police on me, or turn it 
into an industrial espionage investigation.  I never heard anything more 
about my little transgression.  In June of 1974 I managed to get one final 
summer in with the EL; obviously I wasn’t blacklisted.  I took out my copy 
of NY Division Timetable 4, which I used in 1974, and I notice that I had 
crossed out “R.C. Appeld” under the list of Assistant Trainmasters, and 
added A.J. Erdman.  So, Rudy must have retired not too long after our brief 
acquaintance, and Artie Erdman must have taken his place.  Too bad that I 
was finished with Statistics and had to move on to other classes and school 
projects.  I still wonder what that study would have shown.

One final thought about dispatchers: from my brief experience on the NY 
Division, I will say that most of the former DL&W dispatchers (including the 
DL guys who became dispatchers after the merger) were a bit more 
professional and even tempered than the Erie guys.  From my own experiences 
and from what I’d heard from others, George Beckwith, Herman Wilm, Bob 
Byrnes and Harold Oakley were pretty good to work with.  Some of the former 
Erie guys expected you to be mindreaders.  But some were good.  Hey, looking 
back after 30 years . . . ah well, it was all good.  Even the tutti frutti, 
Erie style. A wop bop-a-lu-ah, a wop bam boo . . . .

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