A Day on the Rails

You’re just a Flagger!”, shouts a less than happy co-worker. A phrase commonly used around the yard. A “backhanded” compliment or comment (if you wish), easily reverted to by the weak minded who believe that they are better than me. For the unknowing, A Flagger is an individual who protect the work crews on the railways. Metro Transit Systems, Amtrak, road workers, city workers and construction crews have them. No matter who we work for our goal is a collective one-safety. Flaggers are everywhere. We are vital to the safety and protection of our work crews. Without a Flagger, work can be life threatening-if not, life ending. Granted the money is not great, however, it does manage to pay my bills.

A Flagger’s uniform is relatively simple (and accessories are optional at your expense). A company issued reflective vest, a used long and short sleeved shirt is all one gets here. Comfortable work boots, a hat for protection, a reliable pant (preferably cargo), a pair of gloves, sunscreen, and lip balm is up to you to purchase on your own.

A Flagger issued work kit consists of; green and yellow metal reflector disks (placed at each end of the work site-yellow representing slowing and green representing go!), bungee cords, (to hold discs in place on the centenary poles) a yellow and red flag (yellow for slowing-red for stopping), a air horn (to warn from a distance if the crew is spread apart), a whistle and a flashlight (essential for night work). All of which, are housed in a canvas leather bottom bag (the type of bag similar to that of a Carpetbagger). Each day we report to the Assignment Desk where we pick up our clearances (TWC sheets) and the latest gossip.

When we hit the tracks, it is show time. Personally, I tend to equate the process to that of a preparation for a Broadway show. “Dressing the stage” includes displaying our disks in an appropriate fashion to be seen by all train operators. Briefings are conducted and advisories are called into Central Control. Most days we wish that the controllers are in a good mood. Otherwise, life on the tracks can be just short of “hell-ish” if they’re not.

Our preferred mode of transportation when meeting up with our crew is by trolley. If a Flagger is assigned to a Track crew, chances are that you will be able to hitch a ride with them (given that they like you). If a Flagger is assigned to a MOW (Man On Wire) crew, most likely, you will have to shadow them. Chasing the MOW crew can be tricky and tiresome at times. In my opinion, they are usually the best crew to work with. The two person team allows for more social interaction. Thus, allowing you to get to know your fellow co-worker.

Recently, our Metro Transit System (MTS) was voted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as the most outstanding transit system of the year for all agencies in North America.
No doubt, Flaggers were a huge part of this honor. The Company, as whole, deserves this recognition. We all work very hard to be the best. When my day is done and we are clear of the tracks I can’t help but hum the “Trolley Song” from the 1944 movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Corny, I know. But, to me, it’s the end of another accident free day.

“Clang, clang, clang went the trolley.
Ding, ding, ding, with the bell.
Zing, zing, zing went my heart strings.
As we started for Hunting Dell.” *

*Music and lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.

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~ by adhna on August 25, 2009.

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