Harrison B. Decker Form 808

ATSF 3817 Littleton CO 12-5-1938 Otto Perry Denver Public Library

The AT&SF 3817 frequently pulled Conductor Decker’s trains, seen here south of Littleton on December 5, 1938.  Whether a Santa Fe or a Colorado & Southern, 2-10-2’s pulled Conductor Decker’s trains.  Otto Perry photo, Denver Public Library Special Collections, OP-1980.

ATSF CS Conductor Car Report 12-11-1936 to 5-25-1937

ATSF CS Condutor Car Report Mark Sellars analysis – Mark Sellars has put together an excellent spreadsheet summarizing the data contained in the book and adding additional information of his own.  Much better than the original!

Harrison B. Decker and the Joint Line

Harrison Benjamin Decker was a Santa Fe conductor working the Colorado Joint Line.   Due to the interesting operational arrangement on the Joint Line, he handled both Santa Fe and Colorado & Southern trains, interchangeably equipped by locomotives and cabooses from either railroad. 

Mark Sellars from the CBQ groups.io group gives an excellent summary of the time:

The form 808 was an AT&SF (Conductors Train Record) standard form and filled in by an individual conductor. Form 808 was a conductor’s log book.  Being the boss of a train, in that book he recorded every significant event or item of trip importance, usually carried in his overall’s hip pocket.

Mr HB Decker was employed as a “Joint Track Train man”; he hired out as a brakeman (seniority date: Nov. 1916) and was promoted to conductor (seniority date: Mar. 1921). By 1936 he had insufficient seniority to bid for passenger trains but could successfully bid to “plum” freights.

The Joint Track was in fact the AT&SF Denver Division’s Denver District (Pueblo to Denver, CO) and commonly known locally as the “Joint Line”. This was operated under successive Joint Operating Agreements (from Aug. 1, 1899) “JOAs” whereby the C&S (from 1907 a subsidiary of the CB&Q) was a tenant of the AT&SF. The unique feature of the JOAs was that the line was operated as single economic entity favouring neither the AT&SF nor the C&S. The advantages to both railroads was so powerful that the JOAs were effective right up to the AT&SF and BN 1995.

Under the JOAs from day one, the AT&SF and the C&S pooled their crews that had been on their books and formed a common call board, ranked by seniority. As men left the service pools there were replaced by fresh hires; Joint Line Enginemen and Joint Track Trainmen.

Each railroad contributed equipment which was used as available; thus AT&SF equipment could be assigned to C&S train, and vice versa.

From at least Nov. 1918 the Joint Line operated both scheduled passenger and freight trains. If there was insufficient traffic the train did not run; if there was significant traffic multiple sections or even unscheduled Extras were run.

In 1937, the scheduled trains were:

AT&SF     passenger           two trains each way
C&S         passenger           two trains each way
AT&SF     freight                 two trains each way (31/36, 41/46)
C&S         freight                 two trains each way (75/76, 73/74)
AT&SF      way freight         one train, one direction each day, daily except Sunday (97/98)

It is likely that with the US economy building after the Great Depression that Mr Decker, along with other railroad crews, was finding more work.

Larry Green provides further details about the crew arrangement between the two roads:

Since the inception of the Joint Operating Agreement between the ATSF and C&S on the Denver District Joint Line the crews were called Joint Line Crews and worked for the Joint Line. I do not have specific documentation on conductors but a Joint Line Engineers pool was created with men from the ATSF and C&S. Each company was assigned slots on the pool based on the amount of traffic between Pueblo and Denver that the respective companies operated in 1900. As such the C&S has a slight advantage in numbers and the roster blended seniority dates. The system was set up so that as men quit, retired or expired the replacements were ATSF hires. The original arrangement was in deference to the C&S employees so that they would not lose their jobs, but the slots would expire by attrition. By 1939 most of the slots on the roster of Engineer had passed to the ATSF, but I believe at least one C&S engineer was still on the roster into the 1940’s. One interesting aspect of the arrangements was the fact that ATSF engineers when confronted with layoffs of the Joint Line could bid on other jobs on the ATSF, the C&S did not allow that to happen, if you chose a Joint Line slot and there was a downturn you were laid off.  In 1939 you were either an Original Quota C&S conductor, an Original Quota ATSF conductor or a new hire Joint Line conductor.

Special thanks to Mark Sellars for his excellent work and to the CBQ groups.io group!


CS 900 Littleton 2-14-1937 Otto Perry Denver Public Library

Colorado & Southern 900 near Littleton on Valentine’s Day, 1937.  Conductor Decker had a few doubleheader trains such as this, and in May would spend several trips behind the 900 on the Santa Fe wayfreight.  Otto Perry photo, Denver Public Library Special Collections, OP-7027.