Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Herb Sauter's B&O Story

My name is Herbert Sauter. I will be 90 years old in May. I worked for the B&O railroad and it's successors for 45 years. I began working for the B&O railroad at age 17 on Friday, September 13th 1946. I started as a messenger in outbound freight on the second floor of the Camden Freight Office located in the corner of Eutaw and Camden streets. It was attached to the warehouse (the present site of Oriole Park at Camden Yards) but is gone now. I made $6.04 a day. I ran errands, did some filing, and got coffee and lunches for the bosses. Then I became a day motor messenger and got a fifty cents a day raise. As a motor messenger I drove all over Baltimore in a B&O personnel car (one was a Ford and one was a Plymouth) delivering mail, running errands and picking up bills of lading and taking them to the freight office to be rated and billed. The bills had to be picked up at Canton, Highlandtown, Bayview yard, Ft. Holabird, B&O Canton Railroad, Locust point, Mt. Claire Freight office, Chevrolet plant, Esso Oil refinery, the stockyard, Curtis Bay coal pier and ore pier and the fruit pier. When the waybill was ready then I had to take them to the yard office to meet the train. One of the first memories I have of being a motor messenger was going to the Mt. Claire Assistant Agent's office. Some days I probably drove 100 miles just around Baltimore.
Watching the bananas being unloaded from the ships on the banana pier at Pratt and Light streets was a favorite of mine. The stevedores would carry big stalks of bananas off of the ship and into rail cars that had to be brought to the fruit pier by floating them on a barge. They were refrigerated by blocks of ice covered in salt placed in the tops of the cars. When they were loaded they floated them down to the railroad yard. The harbor would be full of bananas when they were done. Later on in my career, I worked at the Banana pier on McComas Street, south side Locust Point. After the refrigerated rail cars with bananas were temperature checked and written on the lay bill, I had to put the seal on the car showing that it had been checked. I also watched the B&O Toonerville Trolley #10 engine working at the Fells Street Warehouse. It ran on overhead electric wires and was used as a box car switcher with the car floats. Another favorite was to watch the brand new cars drive out of the Chevrolet plant and right onto the rail cars.
Next I worked the 3 to 11 shift to get my clerk seniority. I filled in for vacations. While working at the Camden Yard freight office we had a softball team. We would play on our lunch hour against the Camden shed workers team. We played right outside of the Camden Yard warehouse on the railroad tracks. The softballs would get all chewed up from hitting the warehouse and the rails. If you hit the ball into the tunnel in the Warehouse you got a homerun. One day I took one of the softballs that had lost its cover and threw it with all of my might over the top of the warehouse which is still standing as a part of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I tell my children, Grandchildren, and Great Grandchildren that story every time we are
at the ballpark. We also used to go up to the top floor of the Camden Warehouse, which was the attic with the little windows, and there were huge bound books containing hand written daily workings of the railroad. Eventually I got a clerk job at Pier 6 Locust Point Marine Terminal.
In March of 1951 I was drafted. I served my country for 2 years as a transportation specialist stationed in Austria. Sometimes I would travel to Trieste on the Mediterranean to watch the unloading of the coal boats that had come from Curtis Bay, Maryland.
When I got out of the Army in 1953 I could not get my old clerk job back so I was once again a B&O motor messenger. Then I got a charge clerk job assessing storage and wharfage charges on freight for the B&O. In 1962 The B&O became Chessie System. In April of 1970 I moved Uptown to be a clerk for Foreign Freight, World Commerce Department, working with import auto shipping. The railroad eliminated the World Commerce division and I moved to customer service, regional sales as a trace clerk. Not long after that the railroad separated regional sales offices from the rest of the railroad and my office moved to Woodlawn. Then once again I moved offices back to Charles Center in Baltimore as a rate clerk for Automobiles. I began working under the New York Dock agreement catching up on all of the backed up work for the railroad. I retired on May 31, 1991. Three days before I retired they made me chief clerk to fill in for someone. The two years of service in the Army counted to my total years working for the railroad. I saw a lot of changes to the railroad industry during my wonderful 45 year career with the railroad.

My wife, Betty Sauter, also worked for the B&O Railroad for several years until our first daughter was born. However, we never worked together in the same office. She was a stenographer in several offices. She was at the storekeepers offices at Mt. Claire, the Agents office at the Camden freight office, the Superintendent's office at Camden Station second floor, and the Real Estate office at the B&O Central building uptown. We both met many fascinating people and made and kept lifelong friendships with many. Sadly, most have passed on.
The railroad also had many parties and events for employees. They would have parties in the B&O Roundhouse and they would put oak boards on the turntable so they could put tables and have dancing on the turntable. When people got to dancing the turntable would bounce up and down. It was great fun. There were also weekend excursions on a train from Baltimore to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. There were learning trips for employees. One memorable one was riding the train to the Wilmington, Delaware auto plant. They took the whole train into the factory. I was thrilled to get to ride in the inspection car. My family took a trip to Miami, Florida on the Silver Meteor. It was exciting for my two young daughters. My wife and I visited the fabulous Greenbrier resort which the C&O owned. There were many great memories made.
I have witnessed a lot of change in the railroad industry in 45 years. From the way the tracks are laid to the use of computers instead of hand writing everything. I am proud to have played a small part in the history of the Great B&O Railroad.

1 comment:

Mike Shaffer said...

Wow. It's been many years since the days on the railroad, but I remember Herb from my days in the Central Building's "GO" Telegraph Office and from the Rate Quotation desk in the Charles Center, learning to quote rates from Dick Lorenz, before moving to Camden Warehouse and eventually to Halethorpe before retiring in Jacksonville after they relocated us to the First Coast.