I have done a lot of things in my working life, but my 17 plus years at Pullman-Standard was my first job other than a summer job cooking Kentucky Fried Chicken. Pullman-Standard was a railcar building company with its own diesel engines and rail system to move cars around. A lot of the raw material came in by rail and of course the just built finished railroad cars were shipped out by rail, so there was a need for their own railroad. Although I spent most of my time there working in the engineering department as a design draftsman, designing the dies, tools, jigs, and fixtures needed to make those cars, my first couple of years was spent in the labor gang and that meant I got to do a lot of different things. You could say that one of my duties was working as a "Gandy Dancer" and then later as a brakeman on their railroad. Today's post is about Gandy Dancers, well more so about their tools. Here is a picture of a team of Gandy Dancers doing their jobs:
Before the large machines, which can lay track and ties all at one time, it had to be done by hand, and when I did it way back in the early 60's, we did it by hand, too. So I know first hand how to do it.
Most important for any job is the tools, and so it was during my Gandy Dancer days. The first thing that needed to be done was get the rails and the ties into position. There were tongs that were designed to carry rails and others for ties. In the picture below, the big tongs on the left were for ties and the other for rails. Two men, one on each handle, were needed to handle those heavy items:
The most important item was the spike which held the rails to the ties. A team of Gandy Dancers would drive these into the ties with the lip of the spike over the bottom flange on the rail:
And of course we needed something to drive them in with, and we had specially designed hammers that could drive the spikes very close to the rails:
So, I bet you never guessed that I was once a Gandy Dancer, did you? Now tell us, what was oddest jobs that you or someone you know, had? Yes, it is fun to reminisce, but I don't think. . no, I know for sure that I don't ever want to be Gandy Dancer again. Now, you all dance a jig and have a great day, you hear?