Saturday, December 30, 2006

An apology to my loyal readers (who just happen to be women)

I wasn't going to write this or post it at all but since I started this blog as my own way of therapy in getting over my divorce and discovering the new Ranger Tom I think it's appropriate. Through this outlet I've found a wonderful way of letting my feelings out and letting the bitterness slowly fade. I've been able to be the real me for once in my life, not putting up any walls or defenses, not listening to anyone's unsolicited advice, or putting up a facade.
You got to see the real me, warts and all...
And it was liberating.
And with this new found liberation I was able to really go forward with my dream of becoming a railroad engineer. Without you all I most probably have "settled" over a year and a half ago and taken the job as town cop in Athens, WV like everyone there was begging me to do... And spiraled down into my old miserable self that I had grown to loathe.
So for this, my dear readers I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me that kick-start of confidence I had been missing all those years, and finally did something about my dream.
Here's where my apology to you ladies comes in.
Over the last several weeks I've been getting emails from my readers. I'm not going to mention any names, but several are from people who have been with me from almost the very beginning and have almost grown to know me like family. I've been told I was their cup of coffee in the morning.
These emails have been asking me where I've been, that sort of thing, they miss me... That was the nice part... They also went on to tell me I've somehow changed, I'm not the same RT they've grown to know... Somehow I've been holding back.
And I have.
Ironic how people who don't even know me see right through me sometimes.
"Hey RT, how come you don't post on my blog anymore? I miss your comments!!!"
Well, because that even though the majority of my readers are women, I didn't plan it out to be that way. I didn't care if anyone ever read any of my shit. Even though most of you are women, I've never once hit on any one of you... Sent you suggestive emails or anything of that nature. Beyond the flirty or racy comments here and there, they were all harmless. Most of you are married or in long-term relationships and I've said a thousand times I don't hit on women who are already taken... And you all knew that.
Every one of you can attest to that.
Recently I've become stifled to the point of stagnation because the woman I'm seeing can't or won't see it that way.
When the person reads my reader's comments they then must go onto their blog in turn to read what I've written I'd get:
"What did you mean by what you said on such and such's blog?" or "Why did you say that on whosiface's blog...?"
What the ever loving FUCK!
So for the last several weeks I've just not been posting a lot and not even commenting on your blogs and for this I'm sorry.
I'm not going to watch what I say anymore, nor will I stifle my own dreams or let me be drawn into someone else's dreams or ideas of what my happiness should be, and how could I not be happy if I don't fit into her little idea of utopia with it's time-lines and rigid geographical boundaries.
I could go on but I won't. I'm physically and emotionally drained at this point, but again, my dear readers who just happen to have ovaries, please accept my deepest apologies for my absence.
The old new Ranger Tom is back!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, December 29, 2006

Things I've learned

Some things I've learned in the past few months:
1) You can actually do your job while sound asleep. Coupling and uncoupling a cut of rail cars and shoving them into a cane-loading elevator siding can be a challenge when totally asleep, but it can be done. So is getting on and off moving locomotives. Do it enough times and you just go through the motions like an automaton.
2) Working seven day's a week with no breaks for months on end does fabulous things to one's attitude, demeanor and awareness for one's surroundings...
3) When one has been working seven day's a week with no breaks and finally does take a day off, it is very possible for that person to actually sleep for twenty-four hours straight.
4) Money isn't everything.
5) Sleep is everything.
I have quite a few decisions to make in the next few months... I have several options open to me at this stage of the game. Important decisions. Ones that I shan't take lightly. Ones that involve Texas, Washington, Idaho, Louisiana and Alaska... And even here in Florida. All have to do with the railroad.
I'm at a crossroads of a sort and with everything else going on I'm finding it more and more difficult to decide just what is it I should do. I know, whatever decision I make I'm going to upset or hurt someone along the way, but I know in my heart of hearts this can't be helped. I'm leaning strongly right now in one or two areas and I'll elaborate more when it becomes clearer in my mind.
I do know this, it will relate to the railroad. That is my one and ultimate goal... I was born for this job and no matter how much money I can make at another job, if I'm not happy with what I'm doing, I'll be no good at anything and be miserable.
I'll relate this story I heard a few years ago. It involved this high-powered Wall Street broker. Made buckets of money... Had the huge house, nice cars... He had everything. One day he chucked it all and went to Africa to work in the Peace Corps. His friends and family were horrified... His reply to them? "What's making two million a year, living where you really don't want to be and being miserable and making a dollar a day and being truly happy?"
I can really identify.
I opt for happiness.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I'm a felon

Yet again I'm having shit happen to me that can only happen to me.
Over the weekend I lost my work ID card somewhere. Normally this wouldn't bother me but it's not only used to get in the rail yard, it's also my time card. If I don't have it I can't punch in or out of work... So it was a priority to get it replaced.
Yesterday I decided to get a whole bunch of chores done and this was one of them. I also was in dire need of a haircut, I had been without for almost three months and I was starting to get this whole Albert Einstein thing going on with my Cobb...
So I leave work yesterday morning and head home. HR doesn't open until 9 so I had some time to kill. I get home and grab the garbage to take out. I toss the bag in the bed of my truck, drive over to the complex's dumpster and toss it in. Standing not far from it is an older woman, I'd put her in her mid 60's watching me. I say good morning to her, get back in my truck and head out. I stop at the barber shop to get my ears lowered and by this time HR is open so I head over there to get my new ID. I get that and head home.
I'm only about five or six blocks away from my place when I noticed the blue lights in my rearview mirror... I pull over wondering what the fuck I could have done this time besides driving a piece of shit truck.
Making a very long story shorter... Apparently that old bitch I saw in my condo complex earlier call the FUCKING POLICE on me and reported that I had been DUMPING ILLEGALLY!
I began thinking I was right smack~dab in the middle of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant"...
"There I was sitting on the Group 'W' bench with all the Father-rapers and mother rapers... 'Kid' Sez one, what are you here for? 'Well sez I, I was picked up for litterin' And they all moved away from me..."
To make matters worse the cop wasn't buying that I actually lived where I said I did... I have an Arizona driver's license and my truck is still registered in West Virginia... So after about 30 minutes talking to this pinhead I convinced him to drive me over there and I'll let him into MY fucking condo with MY fucking key to fucking PROVE I fucking live there.
I was never that much of a fucking asshole when I was a cop, I can assure you all of that. And I never was that much of a nosy, narrow-minded busybody like that fucking bitch I have for a neighbor.
I'm soooo fucking sorry I worked all night and came home with soiled work clothes on instead of dockers, loafers and a golf shirt and parked my slightly soiled 88' Ford Ranger pickup next to your Lexus and cramped your style.
Fucking (insert that four-letter word starting with the letter "C" here)!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, December 18, 2006

Children's books... RT style!

Sorry for my lack of posts lately... I've just been terribly busy with work and have been dead tired when I've gotten home the last few weeks.

I'll try to post more often!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Toopid turtle! Twacks are for twains!

Florida has what has to be the dumbest turtles in the world. I had written about them before, but here's proof.
The turtles can figure out how to get over one rail of the tracks, but cant figure out how to get over the second rail and eventually die between the rails. If you click on the photo above you'll see the obviously old (and very dead) ex~turtle. There's literally hundreds I see every day like this.
Just another in a long list of crazy things I see every day!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, December 01, 2006

What a long, strange trip it's been...

...In the words of the immortal Gerry Garcia.
Anyway, first off I've got to apologize to my loyal readers for my lack of posts. I've been working 70 to 80 hours a week and quite frankly, really have been much to tired to form any kind of coherent thought to write for you all.
(And Kev, AJ is right, you don't have any room to talk!)
Now to what this coherent thought for the day is. It has been a long strange trip... Over the last few days, seeing my 41st birthday rapidly moving in on me, I took a few moments to ponder my past and realized how truly lucky I've been. It's been a long road to get to where I'm at in my life, a place where I'm truly happy with myself and who I am.
This is what I mean. Not many little boys get to grow up to become what they've dreamed of being. From around the time I was about 4 I wanted to be like Neil Armstrong and be an astronaut... Then at about 6 I realized that in order to do that I'd need to be a shitload better at math that I'd ever be... So around that time Emergency! was my favorite TV show and I wanted to become a fireman... Then at around 10 or 11 I saw my brother in his nice blue police uniform and the pistol on his hip and wanted to be a police officer... At around 16 I saw John Wayne in "The Green Berets" And aspired to be a soldier...
So, with the exception of the astronaut... I've done all of those things, I've been a soldier, cop, firefighter and EMT.
Pretty lucky, I must say.
But there was also one other thing I wanted to do. What I think I was meant to do.
My dad was a workaholic and being so we never really went on family vacations when I was growing up. Not until after her retired from the Frankford Arsenal in 1980 did we start going to Maine every summer, and then shortly after that started I enlisted in the Army.
He was a workaholic and we didn't take vacations, but he did spend time with myself and my siblings. Between Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, Little League and Civil Air Patrol he was always active in my childhood.
The one thing we'd do together seems really small and insignificant to most when I tell it, but was very important in my career now and how I formed the desire to work on the railroad.
About once or twice a month my dad and I, just the two of us, would hop into the family car and drive over to the old Pennsylvania Railroad passenger station at Torresdale, which is still a SEPTA commuter stop. Amtrak ceased using it as a passenger station years ago. We'd just sit in the car, listening to 56 WFIL AM and watch the trains go by. My dad loved trains and although he never told me, I knew he had the same dream that I had.
One summer day my dad and I were sitting on the hood and a Chessie System freight train came through slow enough for me to get a good look at the engineer in the cab of the locomotive. As the engine went by our vantage point, he looked right at me, smiled a big toothy grin and waved...
It was right then and there I wanted to do that. Sit in the cab of a massive diesel~electric locomotive and rumble across the country... I knew at the time it was only a pipe dream... Something that only other guys get to do...
Until now. Ironically it took my Ranger training to get me to where I am now... MY first adult job and the perserverance it taught me got me to where I am.
Soldier? Been there...
Cop? Done that...
Firefighter? Got the T-shirt...
Railroad Conductor/Engineer? Doing it now, loving every tiring, dirty and physically and emotionally draining moment of it.
And you know something? It's the only job I really wish my dad could see me doing. He's been gone quite a while now but I know he'd be proud of me.

Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit-de-corps of the Rangers.

Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.

Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong, and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.

Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress, and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.

Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.

Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission, though I be the lone survivor.
That creed has kept me going throughout everything... And because of that I am where I am today, where I really need to be.
And thanks Dad, for taking me to the train station.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm feeling much better...

Thank you all for the warm wishes and get well notes. I am feeling almost human again and it is so damn wonderful to be actually able to breath through my nose for the first time in two weeks. I'm also not sounding like George Burns in a TB ward anymore either... Which sucked at work because my engineer couldn't understand me half the time on the radio.
Anyway, I'm better.
I'm also going to be rather busy the next few days this week... Between work and a very special visitor coming for a few days I won't have much time for blogging. I'll be back later next week, refreshed, relaxed and, well... Better!
Happy Thanksgiving all!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Denis Leary was right again, as usual

On Tuesday I had alluded that I wasn't feeling very good. That was sort of an understatement. For the past week and a half I've been sort of "Holy shit I haven't been this fucking sick in fifteen fucking years please shoot me and put me out of my misery" sick. I'm not going to go into the details of my symptoms, but if any of you have ever read Stephen King's "The Stand" will identify with how I felt. I had been trying to persevere with it and just keep on soldiering on but last night when I got to the yard office I couldn't go on anymore. The other night one switchman called out, and the last two nights my engineer was out with what we're now calling the "Clewiston Cruds". I got the yardmaster to mark me off for the night and proceeded to the local Wal Mart to get the Elixer of the Gods... Nyquil.

Capitol "N", little "y" Big fucking "Q"...

The "Q" had been calling me to succumb to the Green Death flavor...

I got back home and was already opening the bottle before my front door was closed. Down a HUGE shot of it and Bang! Right into the Nyquil coma.

Bliss for eight hours of un-interrupted sleep.

I'm still not feeling 100% but that NyQuil Coma was just what I needed. That and a solid night's sleep. Hopefully I'll be feeling better in a few days... I hope so. I really hate feeling like this. The crop isn't even half over yet and I've got a lot more work to do.

Is it April yet?

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Go figure

Because I'm feeling rather shitty... I've been sick for about the past week and not getting any better, and of course my Work Ethic won't let me call out sick... I'm not feeling all that creative right now so I pinched this survey off of Ecblade:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Midland
The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Go figure...

Yo Vinnie! I wunner how it figgered that wun out? Wanna go downna two street an getta chizsteak?

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A different perspective

Since I started working here, I've been on the 11 PM to 7 AM shift so all I get to see is what you see above while I'm working. Needless to say it's not really conducive for great photos to post. Starting this past week though I've been working several hours overtime, over and above the regular 56 hours weekly. I've been putting in a few 4-hour extra shifts added on to help cover another guy's shift while he's out injured. (NOT job related!) This being the case, I've had a few opportunities to get some pictures while I'm actually working and you can actually see what it is that I'm doing and a little scenery thrown in.
Tooling down the main line heading out to one of the sugar cane loading elevators, as seen from my window of the locomotive...
Arriving at "Flaghole #4" loading elevator, slowing down to "spot" empty cane cars and pick up loaded ones...
The "Agro" Department, loading cane cars with fresh cut raw sugar cane...
Leaving Flaghole #4 with a load of sugar cane to take to the mill... (Actually not leaving, I had my engineer stop the train so I could get this shot...)
traveling along the mail line again, through large cane fields. Again, the "Agro" department busy burning the fields... This need to be done just prior to harvesting so the cane will be processed correctly and a new crop can grow next season.
A view looking out my window at my train... I look this way often, especially on curves, like this one coming into Flaghole Junction. I look back often to inspect my train for any defects and hot boxes...
Finally, Train 405 arrives at Clewiston railyard with it's load of 100 cars of fresh sugar cane for the mill, seen in the background.
Another day in the life of Ranger Tom, Railroader.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, November 10, 2006

I thin I need to do a little splainin'

Like Ricky Ricardo used to say...

It seems my Wednesday post had several (but not all!) of my loyal readers quite baffled. A few got the joke. As I was driving home Wednesday morning, I was stuck behind a car with one of those annoying "WWJD" bumperstickers... He was driving really slow, like 15 in a 35 MPH zone... And I thought:
"Jesus would run you off the road, asshole!"
I'll always respect someone's faith, whether it be for Jesus, Budda, Allah... Or the Cosmic Muffin. But don't throw it in my fucking face! Especially the far Right-Wing Christians with all the hypocrisy...
Can anyone say Ted Haggard?
So I got to thinking, all these little smarmy catch-phrases that every religion has... And how each is just as annoying in their own way. So I decided to come up with my own little catch-phrase...
And just what would I do? He he he... What do you think I'd do in any situation?
I've decided to add that to my T-Shirt line... Click on this link to see my whole line of quality RT shirts:

So click away and get you very own WWRTD? T-Shirt today!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


What Would Ranger Tom Do?
Depends on my mood and who I really want to piss off that particular day.
So keep checking back daily to find out what I'd really do. I can tell you one thing, you'll never be bored...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What's in RT's grip?

As I promised yesterday... A peek into Ranger Tom's grip. A "Grip" is a small bag or case that every railroader carries with them at work. It holds everything a conductor might need on the train. Click on the image to get the full-size photo.
From left to right...
1) Railroad operation and safety rule book
2) Work gloves
3) Extra batteries for my lantern
4) Insect repellent
5) Crossword puzzle
6) The grip itself
7) Railroad fusees (flares)
8) Extra pack of smokes
9) Ibuprofin & Naproxin
10) "Wheel Report" book (What I keep track of my train's cars with)
11) Pens
12) Railroad Conductor's Lantern
13) Reflective safety vest (Where I keep a spare switch key, knife, pen, and extra gaskets for glad hands)
Not seen is my lunch, munchies and a few bottles of Gatorade I bring along every night.
I hope this give you all a little more insight into my job!
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some slang

Since venturing off into my new career, From soldier to cop to court security, to volunteer firefighter and babysitter to vast piles of West Virginia bituminous... Now onto my dream career as railroader full time... I've led a very checkered past and path to where I am now. While every job I've had has had some colorful slang, the railroad is no different. Since I'll be writing a lot about my trials, tribulations and (mis)adventures riding the "High Iron" I thought I'd give you all, my loyal and dear readers a glossary of sorts of my new profession's own terms for things...

hogger, hoghead, driver

Engineer trainee

Ram-rod, conducer, The Brains, skipper


brakie, pinner, pinhead, baby lifter

Yard Master
yard goat, dinger

Yard crew
yard rats, hostler

Car inspector
car knocker, wheel knocker, car toad, car tonk

Fucking dispatcher, dipsnatcher

Track worker
Gandy Dancer, snipe

peeps (short for "people")

iron bender

Railroad detective
bull, cinder dick, pussyfoot (in plain clothes)

hogs, lokies, power, motors

hack, crummie, brain box

Switcher engine

main, iron, high iron, high rail


string of cars

Train order

little terrorists, munchkins

Had enough? Didn't think so...

"On the high iron, let the big dogs walk" means the caboose is over the switch and on the mainline so open the throttle all the way on the locomotives

"All black, well stacked, goin' down the track clickity clack" means the train looked good on the visual roll-by inspection.

"Pull the pin" or "let's pull the pin and roll" means "uncouple so we can get out of here"

"Highball it out of here." Proceed at maximum permissible speed

"Double the hill" means the train is split in half to get up a grade

"We are on the ground!" means the train has derailed

"Mosey Speed" means when you approach the limit of your track warrant and have not received a new warrant, you mosey up to the limit prepared to stop.

"Grip" Trainman's suitcase

"Dead Head" A railroad employee traveling as a passenger

"Drag" Describes the movement of a heavy train, such as a coal drag

"Dump the air" Emergency application of the air brakes causing a train to stop abruptly

"Dog chasing" A crew change out.
And my personal favorite:
"Train 405, permission to enter the yard limits and place our engine into the roundhouse and deliver our load..."
"...Train 405, you have permission to enter the yard limits unrestricted, the switches are lined for your movement of your engine and load, you have permission to place your engine into the roundhouse."
Tomorrow... What's in Ranger Tom's "Grip"...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Nuff Said?

Went to work in a shitty mood. Spent my shift in a shitty mood, came home in a shitty mood.

Friday, November 03, 2006

WARNING: Do Not Read If Easily Offended

I'm keeping with my motto and having absolutely no Sacred Cows... Anything and everything is open and I will find humor in anything, so here it goes.
Last night while I was getting ready for work I was scanning over the news headlines on Yahoo to see if anything had happened while I was off in the Land of Nod and one headline caught my eye and I immediately broke out in fits of laughter because of what crossed my mind as I read it.
The headline you ask?
"300 letters to God found floating in the Atlantic Ocean"
And now what though crossed my mind that made me laugh hysterically?
I pictured Jesus... Taking a leisurely stroll one morning last week, say, taking a shortcut from Hoboken, NJ to the Azores... Going through his morning mail, sipping a nice espresso. All at once he had one moment of doubt about his own faith...
"Can I really walk on water?" He thinks...
And Sploosh!
All that is left is a soggy Starbuck's cup and his mail floating along the Gulf Stream as the only reminder...
Another rare glimpse into the warped and demented mind of Ranger Tom...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ain't nuthin' funny about it

I think I've broken something in my arm.
About a week ago I was getting back on my locomotive and I felt a little pain in my left arm as I was climbing the ladder. The locomotive was moving at the time and I may have overextended the arm a bit...
A sharp pain. Not a dull, achey pain like a sprained muscle.
It runs from my elbow all the way down my humerus to my wrist... And hasn't gotten any better and I'm almost out of Aleve. I've been eating them like M&M's...
I've just been soldiering on with it for the last week hoping it was just a sprain but apparently it isn't. And of course my medical doesn't kick in until the end of November.
Anyone got any Naproxin they can spare?
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Ok, so it's Halloween again.
Maybe it's because I'm working seven day's a week and I'm too fucking tired to come up with anything right now or I'm just lazy.
Here's a funny Halloween story I posted last year:
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, October 30, 2006

Intellectual Dildo Award

It's been a while since I've handed out one of my prestigious awards, so here it goes.
Once again, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has turned down Sylvester Stallone's donation of the 8 1/2 foot statue of Rocky Balboa and have it placed permanently in at the top of the stairs in front of the museum.
Those of you who remember the original movie "Rocky" will remember that the film immortalizes the museum and especially those stairs. I can't tell you how many times in all my years living in the City Of Brotherly Love when I've seen tourists in ones and twos, and even whole groups running up those stairs in imitation of Rocky...
And how many of those tourists have gone on to pay admission and tour your museum, Mr. Philadelphia Art commission?
"It's not art, it's a prop!" Insists commission member Moe Brooker.
Of course it isn't art in what in your narrow minded view of the word is... But it is an attraction and a Philadelphia icon that's brought your stuffy and anal retentive bunch of sniveling, superior snobs there lots of coinage over the last two decades you dickhead.
And "Moe" Wasn't an affectionado of art, he was a stoodge.
And because of this decision, I bestow my Ranger Tom's Intellectual Dildo Award to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Couldn't have said it better myself

This was forwarded to me by a good friend the today. I'm going to re-post it here, but won't reveal the author until later this week because many of my readers, once learning of the author's identity, would dismiss this as propaganda.
Which it isn't.
But I couldn't have said it better myself.
"I think the vast differences in compensation between victims of the September 11 casualty and those who die serving our country in Uniform are profound. No one is really talking about it either, because you just don't criticize anything having to do with September 11. Well, I can't let the numbers pass by because it says something really disturbing about the entitlement mentality of this country. If you lost a family member in the September 11 attack, you're going to get an average of $1,185,000. The range is a minimum guarantee of $250,000, all the way up to $4.7 million.
If you are a surviving family member of an American soldier killed in action, the first check you get is a $6,000 direct death benefit, half of which is taxable.
Next, you get $1,750 for burial costs. If you are the surviving spouse, you get $833 a month until you remarry. And there's a payment of $211 per month for each child under 18. When the child hits 18, those payments come to a screeching halt.
Keep in mind that some of the people who are getting an average of $1.185 million up to $4.7 million are complaining that it's not enough. Their deaths were tragic, but for most, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soldiers put themselves in harms way FOR ALL OF US, and they and their families know the dangers.
We also learned over the weekend that some of the victims from the Oklahoma City bombing have started an organization asking for the same deal that the September 11 families are getting. In addition to that, some of the families of those bombed in the embassies are now asking for compensation as well.
You see where this is going, don't you? Folks, this is part and parcel of over 50 years of entitlement politics in this country. It's just really sad. Every time a pay raise comes up for the military, they usually receive next to nothing of a raise. Now the green machine is in combat in the Middle East while their families have to survive on food stamps and live in low-rent housing. Make sense?
However, our own U.S. Congress voted themselves a raise. Many of you don't know that they only have to be in Congress one time to receive a pension that is more than $15,000 per month.
And most are now equal to being millionaires plus. They do not receive Social Security on retirement because they didn't have to pay into the system. If some of the military people stay in for 20 years and get out as an E-7, they may receive a pension of $1,000 per month, and the very people who placed them in harm's way receives a pension of $15,000 per month.
I would like to see our elected officials pick up a weapon and join ranks before they start cutting out benefits and lowering pay for our sons and daughters who are now fighting.
When do we finally do something about this?"
Nuff said?
These are my brothers and sisters in the sandbox. Let's take care of them and their families.
I'll let you know who said this later this week.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The hazards of being a railroader in Florida

So railroading can be a very dangerous profession as I was telling you the other day... Getting coupled together between rail cars and being hit or run over by a train being a few. Also add hungry alligators hanging around the switchstands and panthers in the cane fields...
Add to that list mosquitoes.
To say the avian insects here in the Everglades are endemic is an understatement. The official cologne of the US Sugar Railroad is Cutter's with 44% Deet.
So every night before I start my shift I liberally douse myself with what we lovingly called Bug Fuck in the Army. But I can't get it everywhere and most nights I'll have to re-apply it halfway through the shift because of me sweating it off.
But again, I reiterate... I can't get it everywhere.
Several days ago I got off my locomotive at a switchstand to make a backwards shove with a cut of twenty five cars into a cane loading elevator. It was very dark and the coffee I had just finished was going right through me. So me being a guy, I did what any guy would do in my position.
I unzipped and began to void...
And one of the little fuckers landed right on my Johnson and did his dirty work...
I've had insect bites just about everywhere before, but I've never, ever had one on my dick.
Not fun.
So, railroading in Florida is dangerous to one's joint.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Ranger Tom Cooks, Redux

I know I posted this recipe a while ago, but now with the modern miracle of digital photography and my spiffy new kitchen with the stove and range top you almost need an advanced degree in electrical engineering to master, I decided to repost it...
Original post:
Not only am I going to break the mold, I'm going to completely shatter it right now. I'm a single (divorced) white male in my late thirties who actually can cook and is not a homosexual. Not only can I cook, I actually enjoy cooking. Here's one of my favorites. Not only is it easy, it's very tasty... It brings me back to my old neighborhood in Philadelphia when the aroma of my cooking it wafts through my apartment.
RT's Hot Italian Sausage Melt
5 hot or mild Italian sausages (If you cant get fresh made, Johnsonville makes a good substitute)2 Small cans of tomato sauce (8 oz, 227g)
Sliced Provalone cheese
Crushed red pepper
Brown sausages in a large skillet over a medium flame to taste & brownness. (see top photo)

In a separate small saucepan, put the tomato sauce and season to taste (I like it hot, so I use a lot of red pepper) with the above seasonings and simmer over a low flame till hot.

Place cooked sausage on an oven & microwave-safe dish. Pour the hot seasoned sauce over the sausages completely covering them.

Cover the whole thing with one layer of sliced provalone cheese. Place the dish on the highest shelf in a oven pre-heated to 300 F (or 30 to 40 seconds in a microwave)

Just long enough to melt the cheese.

This should serve two bulimia-free adults with a normal appetite. Another suggestion is try it as a hot sandwich on an Italian hoagie roll. If you are in the Philadelphia/South New Jersey area this should be no problem as Amoroso's brand rolls (the best in the world) are readily available. If you are in the Northeast Philly area, look up and see if DePalma's bakery is still open. They used to make the rolls fresh every morning in coal-fired ovens. They were just off Frankford Avenue in the Mayfair section on the city. If anything else, a decent 8" French roll will do. Again, I hope you try this tasty little treat. I'll post other recipes from time to time if you like this one!

Copyright 2005 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A shitty end

To a shitty week.
This past Sunday night the crop started... I won't have a day off now until April. But that's not what I'm really in a pissy mood about.
You see, for years upon uncounted years, the railroad I work for wasn't considered a railroad at all by the company, just another department. And in being such, it was treated just like any other department in a big agro-manufacturing plant. Unlike every railroad I've worked on so far, CSX, Norfolk~Southern, West Virginia Central uses big, thick safety rule books that everyone has to follow. So this non-railroad didn't have one and last year there was a fatality on the very job I'm working on... The same shift, the same yard and the same job. In essence the guy I replaced was killed. He was coupled together between two cars.
So at the end of the last crop they hired a new Railroad Operations Manager... One that came from a "real" railroad and he came in an implemented a whole new slew of rules, too many to list here, but what I was used to working under...
I like being safe.
Safe = Good
Coupled together between two freight cars = Ungood
so now we have all these rules that everyone is supposed to work under and live by... But the "Old Heads", the guys who have been here since before I was born ( I shit you not, one guy I work with started a month before I was born) are fighting it tooth and nail... Only after a week I already wish I had a nickel for ever time I've heard; "We've never done it this way before... This isn't going to work..."
So not only do I have to keep watching over my shoulder I have a shift Yardmaster who most definitely has a major case of the ass for me... Apparently since the computer system we have on the train to inventory our loads inbound and outbound I can figure out... It does have some glitches, but it's not all that hard to figure out... He is having major problems with it and so every time he fucks it up it's somehow my fault.
I'm a man and I can take the blame for my own fuckups of which I have plenty... But I'm not going to put up with his bullshit for too much longer.
It's going to be a long crop.

My engineer... 40-year Illinois Central Railroad and Amtrak engineer... Good guy, but another one of those who keep repeating that tired old mantra...

"This ain't going to work..."

Loading raw sugar cane into one of the hundreds of railcars I move every night... At a loading elevator about 20 miles from the yard and alligator and mosquito central.

It's got to get better... Because it can't get much worse.

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Important message... Please read

Due to several things including an almost unbearable amount of spam and "lost in wv" outliving it's name I'm changing my email address and going private all together which means I won't have an email published here on my profile.
Several of my readers comment to me in emails only, and that's great... But after this week you'll need my new one.
If any of you still wish to correspond with me via email, send me an email to my current address:
So I can add you to my address list and send you my new email.
RT out.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

High weirdness at my condo

I wrote about the petrified frog I found in my kitchen last month and now this morning when I got home from work I'm sitting in my living room watching TV and I notice something on the floor next to my TV...
I saw it was a gecko, like the thousands I see every day, but on closer inspection I notice something really strange about this lizard. It wasn't moving at all. I got closer and found that this little fucker was completely mummified. This was really strange considering I was sitting in the same spot the night before watching TV before work and I'm sure this little guy wasn't there.
It's almost as if it appeared all by it self over night while I was at work, like my condo is some sacred place where reptiles got to die... Like the fabled elephant graveyard of yore...
On to other strangeness... Last night at work I'm hauling about 60 loaded cane cars along the tracks and we're tooling along the main line at speed. I'm sitting in the conductor's seat in the cab of the locomotive looking out ahead of my train and I notice an alligator on the tracks. I mention it to my engineer and he laughed... "We get them on the tracks all the time... See ya, gator!"
Crunch one gator.
Later on in the evening I got a little surprise. I was standing at a switch stand giving the engineer signals to back up because we were spotting several empty cane cars onto a siding and I hear a loud hiss... I shine my lantern out in the direction of the sound and see a six foot gator looking back at me about ten yards away... I just did what I remembered from Panama with the caymans... Don't fuck with them and they won't fuck with you. I made the move with my train and from now on I'll be a tad bit more aware of my surroundings when getting off my locomotive in the middle of the night.
I kind of like my position on the food chain... The top.
Last item of note. As I said before I'm new here in Florida and am still learning about the wildlife here... I've noticed in the past few weeks several turtle shells inside the tracks while I was working... Meaning dead turtles. Large ones, some about a foot and a half in diameter. I brought this up in conversation at work and discovered that this also happens all the time. I'm not sure if it's funny or sad... Maybe funny in an ironic sort of way. Seems the turtles, when crossing the tracks, figure out how to get over one rail, but when they get between the tracks can't figure out how to get over the second rail and die there. Hence all the turtle shells on the tracks. So Florida is not only filled with mummified reptiles, it's full of stupid turtles.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A little surprise...

So, as I said yesterday, I had spent several wonderful days in Alaska last week... Someplace I'm definitely going back to soon. Beautiful scenery, even more beautiful tourguide... I really didn't want to leave, but it's always those little pesky things in life that get in the way of fun like food, shelter and other things like that.
So after a wonderful time I had an extremely long flight back to Florida and by the time I got back to town after spending over twelve hours in aircraft and airport terminals across the entire North American continent all I wanted to do was take a long hot shower and crawl into bed but I had a little surprise waiting for me upon my arrival home...

This is what my condo should look like outside. A really nice screened-in patio that keeps the mosquitoes at bay... nice roof to keep the afternoon rains out, a really nice place where I can drink my morning coffee and have a smoke before work... A place where I can BBQ without fear of being eaten alive by massive swarms of carnivorous mossies... But as I parked my truck in the carport and walked around the corner of my building I had a little present waiting for me.
Lovely, isn't it? Apparently, the condo association decided that since one of the screens in another unit in my building were destroyed by hurricane Wilma last year, they were having all of the units' screens and roofs replaced to bring it up to Florida code... Without any notice at all. What pisses me off more than the no notice is that the workmen who apparently did the demolition on my unit left a total mess and didn't even bother cleaning any of their shit up.
Not only did they leave their shit laying around, apparently they didn't bring all the materials they'll need to complete the job so will be back to finish later next week... After I start work on the midnight shift... So they'll be banging and drilling away when I'll be in bed.

Ranger Tom is not happy about this clusterfuck one little bit.

Can you say "What the fuck?"

Anyway, to see more pictures of my trip to Alaska scroll down to yesterday's post. I'll be posting more later on in the week. Seems the pictures of the moose I took down the street from my beautiful tourguide's house are too dark... They came out on her camera though and she's going to be emailing them to me later this week so I'll post them then.

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Where did he go?

After all was said and done and my training was done, I had a few days to myself before work actually started so I took a small trip slightly north west of Clewiston, Florida... I had a week off and had a fabulous tourguide to show me around Alaska so I hopped a flight to go someplace I've never been...
The weather wasn't completely cooperative, but I made do...
Maybe someday I'll be operating this locomotive...
My lovely and attentive tourguide took me to the Kenai peninsula and we spent the night in Seward, Alaska where the weather was slightly damp and moist... Here, pictured above is a slightly rainy day in Portage, Alaska... Fortunately we left early enough Sunday morning to escape the deluge... Go here for that story:
The view from my hotel in Anchorage... Just a slight bit cooler than Clewiston. Amazing view in the mornings!
Speaking of my hotel room, they had 1 liter bottles of water provided... But the marketing could use a little fine tuning... What this shows, at least to me is: "Here, drink this special water where carabou have pissed and shit into..."

Last but not least, seen on the University of Alaska, Anchorage library parking lot, where my beautiful tourguide works and goes to school...

I've got to get me one of those! All I need is the malt vinegar!

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden 2006

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I'm baffled

Ok, if Vodka is made with potatoes, and Irish whiskey is made with rye...

Why the fuck didn't the Irish come up with vodka first?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Friday follow-up

As a followup to last Friday's post, pictured above is an GP-38 locomotive owned by US Sugar Corporation's short line railroad, the South Central Florida Express Railroad. They're also centered here in Clewiston, FL and haul our refined product to customers throughout Florida and to other railroads like CSX and Norfolk~Southern for shipment across the country.
As I said, this is a follow-up... So if you can tell me what is it that I find so funny about this photo?
And now a moron report...
Friday JP and I went to a local restaurant for lunch and this is a conversation I overheard from a couple in the booth behind me, discussing an article in the newspaper.
Man: "Says here the Russian troops in Georgia are on higher alert..."
Woman: "Russians? In Georgia? That's a little close to here isn't it? I didn't know there were Russians in Georgia!"
I almost choked on my coffee.
Remind me again how advanced we've come as a civilization, please?
I keep forgetting.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Friday, September 29, 2006

Nuts in Florida...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only sane person left on earth.
This past Wednesday JP and myself report to work at the freight yard at 6 AM to start work. We're both in the crew room getting coffee and discussing our upcoming shift when I notice the headline on the local paper...
"Snow forecast for Clewiston this Christmas"

Ok, I'll bite... So I pick up the paper and start to read... And start to get the giggles which turn in to hysterical laughter. JP asks what was so funny and with tears in my eyes I hand him the article... He begins to read and has the same reaction as me.

JP and I, being from places that get snow regularly, thought this was insanely funny.

It seems that a group of octogenarian philanthropists in town decided it would be a swell idea to truck in ten tons of snow for Christmas...

Apparently, even though it's a really nice idea at the core, this group didn't think out this whole thing all that well...

Number one: Ten tons of snow isn't all that much. About as much as would cover the front lawn of a typical suburban house with 2" of the white stuff...

Number two: By the time it gets here it'll be a ten ton block of ice in the shape of the truck carrying it.

This aught to be interesting.

I can just hear that phone conversation now...

"Hey Phil, you ain't gonna believe this... Someone wants ten tons of snow delivered to Florida..."

I think Florida is going to be giving me a plethora of material in the upcoming months...

On to other things completely unrelated, I've finally got my job assignment for the upcoming crop. I'll be on the 11 PM to 7 AM shift as conductor on a "road job" meaning I won't be in the yard much. I'll be going out on long trips picking up the loaded cane cars at the various elevators along the main line, starting October 11th. That means I have a week off so I'll be taking a small trip out of town. I'm going slightly north and west on the 4th of October and I'll be back on the 9th... Photos will be posted on my return!

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hurricane Wilma, 24 October, 2005

Last October hurricane Wilma tore through Clewiston and this is what it did to the railroad here... Keep in mind, the EMD GP-38 locomotive above weighs 130 tons...
Just a slight breeze...
The object is to keep the cars on the track... But shit happens.
Totally destroyed cane cars. Some of them still in use were built back in the 20's... The oldest builder's plate I found so far was dated 1923.

And last but not least and nothing to do with the hurricane... Isn't he just simply the most stunningly handsome railroader you've ever seen?
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Raising Cane

As of yesterday I'm finally a certified railroad freight conductor so in celebration I stopped out on my way home from work at the Tiki Bar to have one or two ice-cold and frosty adult beverages...
One or two turned into several and when I finally staggered in around 10 PM I was definitely not feeling any pain... A little later I have to walk over to the bar and get my truck who apparently got way more drunk than I and spent the night in the bar's parking lot. Luckily I live within walking distance to it...
Anyway, like I said I'm finally a marked-up freight conductor. Something that I've always wanted to do. I've been working a lot lately causing my lack of posts and starting in the next few weeks I'll be even busier. I haven't said it before but I'm working for a sugar company here in Florida that owns it's own railroad.
Once the harvest starts on the cane in two weeks I'll be working seven days a week and because of my low seniority I'll most probably be working the 11 PM to 7 AM shift, also I'll probably not have a day off until the end of the crop sometime in April. That's ok though because the money I'll be making will offset the long hours and if I handle it right I might make enough to have the entire summer off.
There's a few other options I have, along with the invaluable experience I received with Loram and Amtrac, the railroad experience here will give me enough operational experience to get a job with any railroad in the country. One railroad I'm really eyeing now is the Alaska Railroad, but I'm also eyeing the Union Pacific RR and the BNSF RR out in the Pacific Northwest. So for now I'm still a rolling stone but soon I'll be setting down some roots somewhere... Because everyone needs a place to call home.
My posts may become fewer, but I'll still take the time each week to make a post or two and I'll definitely be checking out all of my blogger-bud's blogs...
My last words on this is I'm happier now than I've ever been in my life and the bittersweet feeling I have now is I could have done this a lot sooner in my life if I had people around me who actually believed in me and would support what I wanted to do and not blow smoke up my ass... I've finally found that now.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A last look back

Now that I'm now living in Florida I thought I give you all one last look back at West Virginia. From May of 2004 I called the Mountaineer State my home, and in that time I've learned a lot about myself, better ways to do things and not only that I've learned to excel in my new career. I also made several new friends who I'll miss, but I think they all understand that this is my time to expand my horizons and be a better Ranger Tom. I'll miss the guys at the Athens Fire Department, some of the best guys I've ever had the pleasure to serve with. I'll miss Kat Woman, a great friend. We had some great morning chats to commiserate over out jobs. But they all know I had to move on because even though West Virginia was perfect for me in the short term, to really get what I needed I had to be flexible enough to be able to move anywhere. That said, my life would be far less without them in it, even for the short time I was there. So now I'm in Florida but there's several options open to me, so I may be on the other side of the country by this time next year. Soon I'll be settling down because I really do need roots, but for now I'm still a rolling stone.
I'll miss scenes like this... A small stream running through the woods on a mountain side...
I'll miss my ballast regulator... Well, sort of.
It was a beast, wasn't it?
A job well done. A perfectly regulated section of track. I was good, wasn't I?
And I'll miss the little critters I'd see at work along the tracks... Here's two little guys I literally had to stop my machine, get off, pick them up and move off the tracks in order not to run over them.
But, with all the good in West Virginia, there was some pains in the ass... There is no strait, flat roads in the Mountaineer State...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden