Trials and Tribulations of Railway Inspections

Carrying out a railway inspection can be very worthwhile and a lot can be learned.  However, in some cases it is the unexpected that can give cause for concern.  I made an inspection trip over the railway line between Yacuiba and Santa Cruz in southern Bolivia. It was going to be a long day and I was told that there were no places where we could get lunch. I suggested sandwiches but the railway had other ideas.

Passenger train entering the station with the inspection car in the siding, Yacuiba line, Bolivia, 1998.

We set out and made good progress with just one passenger train to pass.  Around lunch time we stopped at an isolated section shack.  It seems that little work had been done that morning as the entire gang was milling around in a walled in patio where they were barbequing a goat they had slaughtered that morning.  The proceedings were presided over by a very fierce swarthy bow-legged man brandishing a machete.  All he needed was bandoliers and a couple of pistols and he would have passed for Pancho Villa, the Mexican bandit.  There was a goat wandering around the tables bleating.

“What’s the matter with that goat?"
“You’re eating his brother."

The goat was delicious and I was given a lesson in the finer points of goat anatomy.  I approached Pancho Villa and realized that he looked fierce because he was cross-eyed.  I told him how much I enjoyed his cooking and his face broke into a wonderful great grin.

We left in good spirits which were soon dashed.  As we left a bridge there two great explosions and the inspection car jumped several inches in the air.  It seems that the locals were not very happy with the railway because it had just started blowing the whistle (rule 14(l)) at crossings and a malcontent had put a spike sticking a couple of inches up in a rail joint gap.  Luckily we stayed on the rails and were glad that it was not a train that was involved.

It was a hot day and as we approached Santa Cruz the effects of the water and soft drinks we had had at lunch began to have an effect on our bladders.  This area was completely flat and with no trees or bushes in sight.  We had to stop.  The five of us got out and formed a circle looking outwards to provide a minimum of privacy.

One great advantage of railroading in Ontario – there are normally plenty of bushes!

Ottawa Valley Associated Railroaders, The Interchange December 2008.

Home   Articles