7:00 p.m. - Friday, Mar. 23, 2007
Whoever it was in the driveway, they were going to have to manage without my help.
It's always something stupid and trivial that throws my back out — leaning on the windowsill, or getting up from the couch at the wrong angle, or pushing a snow shovel down the driveway. I never throw my back out hoisting the chain saw, or flinging the heavy brush mower around, or carrying 44-pound sacks of dog food.
They finally got that train moving. It stopped around 10 p.m. last night. It was blocking the street when I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I saw that they had uncoupled it in the middle and moved the front half forward so that the road wasn't blocked. Late in the afternoon, some train-crew guys showed up in a van. One stood in the middle of the crossing wearing a bright yellow safety vest. He started motioning to all the cars to turn east and come down my street. Then I saw the front half of the train start backing up, very, very slowly. The yellow-vest guy hopped onto the last car of the front half of the train and rode it back until it met up with the back half.
And then they messed around with it for about an hour, maybe longer, before they finally got it moving.
The train's sitting there all day gave me a chance to take a picture of Smokin' Joe's 16,870th graffito (click for full size):
I went on Google to find more info about Smokin' Joe and found a photo of Smokin' Joe's 18,135th graffito taken by someone named William J. Manon, Jr., who appears to be a photographer and a railroad fan.
That got me thinking. It's easy enough to Google a recurring chalk train graffito if it's got a name. But what about one of those nameless recurring graffiti, e.g., that guy in a sombrero sleeping under a palm tree? So I Googled "railroad graffiti guy sleeping palm tree" and, amazingly enough, found out who was behind it, after wondering for all these years:
Even Jack Burke, spokesman for Canadian National Railway, which owns Wisconsin Central, speaks in reverent terms of some of this traditional chalk writing remembered from his days working on the trains.Source
Then I tried googling "railroad graffiti guy with pipe in mouth" — another one I remember seeing a lot when I used to live in Hammond — but that yielded nothing pertinent.
I did happen upon a book about train graffiti once when I was browsing in Barnes & Noble, but I didn't buy it because it cost $29.95 and why should I pay $29.95 for a book about train graffiti when I can go out in my backyard and see train graffiti for free, but on the other hand my back yard doesn't have any information about the people behind those various recurring chalk graffiti that I find so charming.