In my early days of driving, I spent many afternoons in tow trucks with no air conditioning, sweating profusely.  I worked swing shift most of my career, so the summer evenings were typically beautiful working weather, but on occasion I worked the day shift.  One particularly hot day I covered a day shift for a driver on vacation and was sent out to recover a stolen vehicle for the County Sheriff in the Forest Park west of Portland.

I arrived to find that the vehicle was inside a railroad tunnel.  Some yahoo had stolen this old Nissan, drove it down the tracks, and wedged it against the tunnel wall inside the tunnel.  In doing so, they had broken the front suspension on the vehicle.  There was no access to the front of the vehicle.

I first had to back the tow truck down the railroad tracks about 1000 yards into the tunnel.  It was dark in there.  I asked the Sheriff when the next train was expected, and he just smiled and said he didn't think there were any trains scheduled for that day.  I don't know if you've done a lot of driving on railroad tracks, but it's not fun.  I had to position the passenger-side dualies between the rails and the driver-side dualies on the outside of one of the rails, but the loose gravel on the outside of the tracks meant I had to keep the truck as close to centered over the rails as possible.

The tunnel was a little bit cooler than the sunlight, but winching the car away from the wall to get it hooked up to the truck without being able to position the truck where I wanted it was a real pain.  Also, did I mention it's really dark in railroad tunnels?  They don't put lights in there.  The truck's worklights helped, but I kept wondering what might be creeping around in there in the dark.  This tunnel was curved, so you couldn't see either end from middle, which is where I was.

After wrestling around underground for awhile, I got the Nissan hooked up to the truck.  Now I faced the task of driving out on railroad tracks with no control over the broken front suspension of the car.  There wasn't much to do but drive forward and let it go where it wanted to go.  Thankfully, the front wheels splayed out, so that the car just skidded behind, a little off to the side of the tracks.  To be honest, I didn’t really look back – I didn’t want to know what was happening back there.  It was going fairly smoothly until about halfway out to the road when I got too far away from the rails and the rear differential of the tow truck hopped up over the left rail and I got stuck in the loose gravel.  I had to get the differential back up over the rail.  Using my trusty floorjack, I was able to get the driver-side dualies up onto some timbers and get re-centered over the rails, where I happily bumped my way to pavement, drenched in sweat.

Primary lesson learned: don't work the day shift.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper

4/12/2013 03:51:26 am

Great story. I say safety is # 1. That's my comment!


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