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Stories From The Old Shop Phone System

By Fred Boland, Machinist 1928-1980
Bayshore Shops, Southern Pacific Railroad

Under The old telephone system, used up through the war years, the car shop had the number 632 and the yard office, by the main line, halfway between Bayshore and Visitation towers, had 623.

One Sunday night, when I had charge of the roundhouse, I had occasion to telephone the backshop over some long forgotten matter. The telephone rang and rang, and I had about decided to walk over and attend to it. Maurice O’Conner, foreman, finally answered it all out of breath, unable to speak immediately. I felt badly to have put him to the trouble of running a long ways, and resolved that I would be more careful about it being important in the future.

A couple of months later I had occasion to be sitting in the backshop office with Maurice, the work going smoothly and not needing our close attention. The phone rang. Maurice, as senior man, was supposed to answer it. I asked him if he was going to. “I will, after a while” he said. Finally, he picked up the phone, panted heavily, and said “Hel…lowww?”

One night during WWII, Frank Bull, night General Foreman, and I were sitting in the backshop office, the sailors and the machinists all having settled down to the night’s work, everything going smoothly. Mr. Bull wanted to telephone Louie, the night Car Shop Foreman, over some mechanical matter. He picked up the phone and dialed. A cheerful voice answered “Digout Clerk”. Mr. Bull took a puff on his pipe, and said “That so? Well, keep on digging” and hung up.