Last Front Porch Chat features CarlascioOn Aug. 28 Jim Carlascio spoke at the Stutsman County Memorial Museum for the final Front Porch Chat of the 2011 season. He shared some experiences of his 49-year career with the Northern Pacific Railroad.
On Aug. 28 Jim Carlascio spoke at the Stutsman County Memorial Museum for the final Front Porch Chat of the 2011 season. He shared some experiences of his 49-year career with the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Carlascio said that his father had been a boiler washer on the railroad. When Carlascio was released from the Army in 1945, his father encouraged him to also get a job with the railroad. Though he wanted to begin as a fireman, the job available at the time was that of brakeman. He had to make three student trips with a supervising brakeman before he could qualify. His first trip took place in February and required that he sleep in the cold caboose without benefit of any sheets, blankets or pillows. Despite the challenges, Carlascio held the brakeman position at the head of the train for some time.
After 10 years in freight service Carlascio took the required test to become a conductor. He spoke of the many strict rules and regulations involved with the position. It required a special blue uniform, white shirt, black bow tie and black shoes that were subject to inspection by the train master. The conductor also had great responsibility because he was in charge of the crew and safety of operation.
Some of the memorable experiences Carlascio spoke about involved helping troops with better accommodations for their long trips, advising boy scouts what to do when they were riding an overheated train car and assisting a woman and some college students in getting home for Christmas despite their lack of tickets.
Carlascio also touched upon some of the duties and dangers involved with the position of switchman, fireman and flagman. He stated the only two positions on the engine today are that of the engineer and the conductor, who is qualified to run the engine if the engineer became unable to do so. There is no longer a caboose crew since there is no caboose.
Carlascio brought his “train box” to show the audience and demonstrated how the conductor kept track of who should be sitting in which seat on the train. He used a hole punch to make specified holes in a ticket called a “hat check.” A conductor was able to glance at the ticket above each seat and tell by the location of the hole punched whether the passenger should be a woman, man, child, male teen, or female teen.
Some order hoops, switchman’s lanterns (called “hayburners”), and rear marker lanterns from the Railroad Room of the museum were also displayed, and Carlascio explained how each was used.
Carlascio said he retired, at age 67, from a job he loved and that had great benefits.
The museum board of directors expressed its appreciation to this year’s speakers, Gate City Bank ( for the cookies) Charlie Kourajian (for the extra help at the chats) DeLanda and Alden Kollman for preparing the news releases submitted to The Jamestown Sun and the editorial staff at The Sun for its reporting of the presentations.
The Stutsman County Memorial Museum will be open through the end of September.