Baloo's Bugle

August 2007 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 14, Issue 1
September 2007 Theme

Theme: Cub Scout Express
Webelos: Citizen & Communicator
Tiger Cub


Labor Day (First Monday in September)

Baltimore Area Council

On September 5,1882 the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City. Twenty thousand workers marched in parade up Broadway. They carried banners that read “LABOR CREATES ALL WEALTH”, and “EIGHT HOURS FOR WORK; EIGHT HOURS FOR REST; EIGHT HOURS FOR RECREATION!” After the parade, there were picnics all around the city. Workers and celebrants ate Irish stew, homemade bread and apple pie. At night, fireworks were set off.

Within the next few years, the idea spread from coast to coast, and all states celebrated Labor Day. In 1894, Congress voted it a national holiday.

Today we celebrate Labor Day with a little less fanfare on the First Monday of September. Some cities have parades and community picnics. Many politicians “kick off” their political campaigns by holding rallies on the holiday. Most Americans consider Labor Day the end of the summer, and the beaches and other popular resort areas are packed with people enjoying one last three-day weekend.

Railroad Vocabulary: 

Alice, Golden Empire Council

You could use this list to make up a quiz for boys and parents to guess meanings.  (Ex:  Do you think trains ever go walking?)

Trains Walking – When a track defect, such as a broken rail, has been determined by the Engineering Department to be passable at "walking speed."

Building Trains – Assembling sorted cars in proper sequence for outbound departure.

Hump Yard – Hump yards are where railcars are pushed up a hill (hump), uncoupled, and then rolled downhill into remotely controlled sorting tracks. These are the railroad's most efficient sorting operations

Humpers – Trains destined to a "hump" yard.

Hot Shot – Train with very high priority compared to other trains

Angle Bars – Short pieces of steel used to join track sections to other sections or track structures. An angle bar is placed on each side of the sections being joined. Two holes are drilled into each end of the angle bar and also through both track sections. Four bolts with locking washers are fastened through the holes to join the sections. Angle bars also are used to make temporary repairs to a broken section of rail until it can be replaced

CTC Outage – When track signals (Centralized Traffic Control) are disabled and do not allow signals to be displayed for trains

Curfew – A time period scheduled in advance when no trains operate, allowing maintenance employees to work on track or signals

Cross-Overs – Track that joins two main tracks. When a train moves from one main track to another it "crosses over."

Diamond – Track intersection where one track can be used at a time.

Frogs – Heavy metal flangeways that connect track to switches, diamonds, cross-overs and other track structures. Frogs guide wheels from one track structure to another.

Pull Apart – When two sections of rail separate (pull apart) at a point where they are joined. Rail shrinks in extremely cold weather. When the shrinkage pressure gets too severe, rail will pull apart at its weakest point, usually at a joint.

Shoofly – Temporary track used to avoid an obstacle that blocks movement on the normal track section. Shooflies are often constructed to allow temporary passage around mudslides while they are removed.

Spur – Short, usually dead-end section of track used to access a facility or loading/unloading ramp. It can also be used to temporarily store equipment.

Washout  – When a flood or a flash flood washes away ballast and roadway under track.

Windows – Same as curfew, but also can mean holding trains for things other than Maintenance of Way curfews, such as operating passenger trains.

Broncos in the Canyon – Motor vehicles, equipped with Hy-Rail attachments enabling them to ride on rails, operated by Engineering employees patrolling track in the Feather River Canyon during rain or snow. They look for slides, washouts and any unsafe track condition. Broncos operate just one mile ahead of trains under special rules and do not use track and time.

Crews Are Tight – Enough crews are available, but rest issues may cause delays to calls.

Crews Are Short – Not enough crews are available

Deadhead – Movement of a crew from one point to another or to a train by vehicle transportation or by  train

To Go "In the Hole" – At the meeting point of opposing trains, one train "holds the main," the other "takes the hole" in a siding.

Hot Wheels – Overheating of a railcar's wheels due to sticking brakes and brake shoes rubbing against the wheel tread. They can result in thermal cracking if severe.

Hot Box – Overheating of the axle hub due to bearing failure. Metal-on-metal friction generates heat and eventually will melt a 6-inch-diameter steel axle.

Slug – an engine that just pulls cars around the yard

Railroad horns and what they mean:

Alice, Golden Empire Council

Horns are sounded for safety reasons – to warn of approaching trains.  The following list "translates" some of the horn signals you might hear.

The "o" indicates short sounds

The "=" is for longer sounds.



Succession of short sounds

The whistle is sounded to attract attention to the train. Used when people or livestock are on the track.


When train is stopped. The air brakes are applied and pressure is equalized.

= =

Train releases brakes and proceeds.

o o

Acknowledgment of any signal.

o o o

When train is backing up

o o o o

A request for a signal to be given or repeated if not understood.

= o o o

Instruction for flagman to protect rear of train.

= = = =

The flagman may return from west or south.

= = = = =

The flagman may return from east or north.

= = o =

Train is approaching public crossings. Signal starts 15-20 seconds before reaching the crossing and is repeated till the engine is in the crossing.  Used when approaching private crossings if pedestrians or motor vehicles are at or near the crossing. 

o =

Inspect the brake system for leaks or sticking brakes.

= o

Train is approaching men or equipment on or near the track, regardless of any whistle prohibitions.  After this initial warning, "o o" sounds intermittently until the head end of train has passed the men or equipment.

Railroad Safety

Alice, Golden Empire Council

Railroad tracks are on private property owned by the railroad company. This means that you may not play, walk, in-line skate, ride a bike or a snowmobile on railroad property. In addition to it being illegal to trespass on railroad property, it is also unsafe.

There are places where the railroad tracks cross roads or streets. Many of these railroad crossings are marked with one of the signs or signals in the table below.

Railroad Crossing Warning Sign

This sign means you are coming to a railroad crossing. Always look both ways and listen carefully to be sure a train is not coming from either direction before crossing the tracks.

Railroad Crossing Gate - Animated

Many railroad crossings have a gate with flashing lights that close when a train is coming.

·         NEVER go around a closed railroad gate.

·         NEVER try to get across the track before the train gets there.

Railroad Crossing Light - Flashing

Some crossings which don't have gates may have this sign. When the lights are flashing, a train is coming. You should wait until the train or trains have passed before trying to cross the tracks.

Use Caution When Crossing Railroad Tracks

  • Railroad tracks are uneven. You should not try to bicycle, in-line skate or run when crossing tracks.
  • Trains are very large and heavy, and take a long time to stop.
  • Sometimes when a train has just passed from one direction, another train may be coming from the opposite direction. You might not notice the second train because of the noise from the first train.

The table below lists some rules that are the same for all buses.

School Bus     Public Bus

ü  If you are waiting for a public bus or a school bus, wait at the bus stop, and stand well back from the curb

ü  When you get off the public bus or the school bus, you need to take five giant steps straight out of the bus door

ü  There are danger zones near public buses and school buses where the driver cannot see you

Below is a picture of the area around a bus where the driver can't see you.  

This area is the same for all buses and large trucks.

Large Vehicle Danger Zone

The next table lists some rules that are different for public buses and school buses.

School Bus
School Buses

ü  When a school bus stops with its red flashing lights on, drivers on both sides of the road must stop.

ü  School buses wait for children getting off the bus to cross the street in front of them before leaving the bus stop

Public Bus
Public Buses

ü  Drivers of vehicles traveling on a street with a city bus do not have to stop when city buses stop to pick up and drop off school children.

ü  Public buses move away from the bus stop as soon as passengers have gotten on or off

NOTE:  Most public bus stops are at intersections. As soon as you get off the bus, you need to be alert.  You should never cross the street in front of a public bus.   Wait for the bus to pull away so you have a clear view of the street. Cross at the cross walk or street corner, and wait for the light to turn green or for the WALK crossing signal. Please see the Kids Safe Walking Page for the signs, signals and roadway markings which help you cross the street safely.

If you take the subway...


If you take the subway, you may need to take an escalator to the subway platform.

ü  Strollers and carriages should never be used on an escalator.

ü  Very small children should be carried on the escalator with the person carrying the child holding on to the handrail.

ü  Young children should have an adult or older child hold their hand.

ü  The young children should not hold the handrail, because they are not tall enough to reach it safely.

Never play on the subway platform. It would be easy to fall off the platform onto the subway tracks.

ü  When the subway stops in the station, there is a space between the platform and the subway.

ü  It is important to watch your step when getting on or off the subway so you don't fall onto the tracks.

ü  Young children will need help getting on and off the subway.

When you walk to and from the bus stop or subway station:

Skippy the traffic safety owl says, always look to the left, right and left again.

ü  You should cross the street at a crosswalk or a street corner, and wait for the light to turn green or for the WALK crossing signal.

ü  It is important to look carefully to the left, right and left again before you cross the street.

ü  If you must walk through parked traffic, stop and look carefully before stepping out from between vehicles.

ü  Don't run across the street or through a parking lot. When you are walking in these areas, you need to give your full attention to traffic.

Fun Facts about the Transcontinental Railroad

Alice, Golden Empire Council

1.       There were really four Golden Spikes:  the “real” one was commissioned by Leland Stanford’s brother-in-law, David Hewes, made of 14.3 ounces of gold, worth about $350 at that time. It was returned to him after the ceremony.  He donated it to the Stanford University Art Museum in 1892.  A Nevada politician ordered a second spike, made of 10-1/2 ounces of silver – it was eventually given to Stanford and is also at Stanford University.  Arizona presented an ordinary spike plated with gold on the head and silver on the spike – it is now owned by the Museum of the City of New York.  A fourth gold spike ordered by the San Francisco Newsletter newspaper company was made of about $200 worth of gold, and has disappeared – it may have been destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.  All four spikes were driven into a special tie.  Both the spikes and the tie were replaced with ordinary ones after the ceremony.

2.       The Golden Spike wasn’t driven at Promontory Point – the real site is 35 miles south, called Promontory Summit.  Reporters and railroad officials gave the wrong information in 1869, and people still refer to Promontory Point today.

3.       The town of Promontory was the junction point for Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads.  Promontory was known to be a wild town with gambling, looting and "sporting women".  When the junction moved to Ogden in 1870 Promontory became primarily a helper station, housing mostly railroad workers and their families. It was only a town in 1869-70.  While the railroad was being built, white workers often lived in “moving” towns – railroad cars that moved along as the tracks were being built.  Chinese workers lived in tents along the tracks.

4.       The Union Pacific and Central Pacific didn’t really meet at Promontory Summit. There was a fierce competition between the two railroad companies. For each mile of track laid the government paid twenty square miles of land and issued subsidy bonds worth many thousands of dollars.  There are 250 miles of parallel grades (not completed in all areas) from Echo, Utah to Wells, Nevada.  No parallel track was laid. The government finally insisted that the two companies agree on an official meeting of the rails location, and they agreed on the half-way point, 125 miles in from where the parallel grades began – Promontory Summit.

5.       On the Union Pacific, starting in Omaha, labor was not much of a problem. The end of the Civil War meant lots of men, both Union and Southerners, black and white, were out of work.  Freed slaves, immigrants from Europe, especially from Ireland and even Indians helped build the rails across the plains.  Many of the Irish worked as “Iron Men” due to their husky build.

6.       The Central Pacific wanted 5,000 workers, and only 800 white men signed on – most of them deserted as soon as they got to the silver mines of Nevada.  Leland Stanford decided to hire Chinese workers, even advertising in Canton.  By the end, 9 of 10 of the workers on the Central Pacific were Chinese.  When the railroad was completed on May 10, 1869, an eight man Chinese crew was selected to place the last section of rail-a symbol to honor the dedication and hard work of these laborers.

7.       When the railroad neared Salt Lake, both UP and CP contracted with Brigham Young to hire 3,000 Mormon men to do the grading in Weber Canyon.

8.       The Weber River alone was crossed 35 times, requiring a trestle or bridge to be built each time!

9.       The Union Pacific was constantly being harassed by hostile Plains Indians so much that sometimes one half of the crew would guard while the other half worked. Many U.S. Regular Army troops were used as escorts, and several forts were established along the route.

10.    The Union Pacific was constantly being harassed by hostile Plains Indians, so half of the crew would guard while the other half worked. Many U.S. Regular Army troops were used as escorts, and several forts were established along the route.

11.     White workers were paid $2-$3 a day, iron men or skilled craftsmen even more.  Board and keep was provided in addition.  Chinese workers were paid $35 a month, and paid for their own keep out of their wages. 

12.     The railroads provided water for regular breaks – but because the Chinese workers drank only tea and boiled their water, they were healthier than the white workers.  The Chinese “Celestials” also hired their own cooks and imported their own “exotic” ingredients like “dried oysters, cuttlefish and bamboo sprouts, Chinese bacon, sweet rice crackers, salted cabbage, vermicelli, and dried abalone” for food they were used to eating.

13.    The men of the UP had their diet supplemented with game. Many men were hired by the railroads to hunt buffalo, elk, deer, antelope and fowl.

14.    At Cape Horn in the Sierra's workers hung suspended in baskets up to 2,000 feet above the American River. From this precarious position the Chinese workers drilled and blasted a roadbed for the railroad without losing a single life.

Golden Spike Time Line:

Alice, Golden Empire Council

1862 – Congress authorizes the building of the first transcontinental railroad.

April 9, 1869: Representatives of both the Union and Central Pacific Railroads are forced by the government into a meeting to determine the meeting point, or terminus, of the two lines. Promontory Summit, half way between the two companies' end of track, was decided.

April 28, 1869: The Central Pacific completes 10 miles of track in one day - a record that remains unbroken to this day!

May 10, 1869: The "Wedding of the Rails!" Driving of the Golden Spike and 3 others.

1903: The Union Pacific locomotive "119" is sold to scrappers for $1,000.

1904: The line from Ogden north of the Great Salt Lake through Promontory and west to Lucin becomes a secondary line as the "Lucin Cut Off", a combination trestle and rock fill causeway across the lake, becomes the main line. This new route shortens the line by 45 miles, avoids the climb through the Promontory Pass, and saves the company $60,000 a month in operational costs.

1909: The original Central Pacific locomotive "Jupiter" is sold to scrappers, also for $1,000.

May 10, 1919: The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony. The town of Promontory was ready to host a grand celebration, yet not a soul appeared. Local newspaper had planned a great excursion and celebration. However, once they discovered the "Wedding of the Rails" had not taken place at Promontory Point, but instead Promontory Summit, "a desert without water or shade," the celebration was held in Ogden instead.

September 8, 1942: An "Undriving of the Last Spike" ceremony is held, as 90 miles of rail from Corinne to Lucin are pulled up to use in WWII.

May 10, 1952: The Golden Spike Association holds its first annual re-enactment of the Golden Spike Ceremony.

1957: The last spike site is designated a National Historic Site in non-federal ownership.

July 30, 1965: Finally, Golden Spike National Historic Site is designated, and 2,735 acres are placed under the stewardship of the National Park Service.

May 10, 1969: The Centennial celebration of the Golden Spike Ceremony draws 28,000 spectators, including John Wayne, who arrived by helicopter.

May 10, 1979: Dedication of working replica locomotives, "Jupiter" and "119".

May 10, 1994: 125th Anniversary celebration to commemorate the completion of the Nation's first Transcontinental Railroad is held. For the first time since May 10, 1869, the original silver plated spike maul used in the ceremony and the Gold, Silver, and combination Gold and Silver Arizona spikes are all reunited at Promontory for the celebration. 14,000 visitors attended.

July 30, 1995: 30th Anniversary of the Golden Spike National Historic Site.


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