Boston: Tunnel Wise

by kfrego

One of the crew members in Boston was a young Puerto Rican named Raul. He had a very cocky attitude. We were just finishing the graveyard shift one morning when Raul tested my patience and paid the price for it. Their is always competition between crews on a tunnel project. Most projects also get a lot of competition within the members of the crews. Boston was different. The majority of the workers in Boston could care less what was accomplished during a shifts work. They worked enough to hold their jobs, but really had no interest in the work. Many of them were what we called “tunnel wise”. They knew enough about the work to avoid most of it. Raul was tunnel wise.

When standing steel sets in a tunnel the crew who sets the steel on line and grade with the crown bolts tightened receives credit for the steel set on their shift. We used a laser beam projected from behind us for line and grade of the tunnel. The steel ring had to be centered and installed at proper height. Several of us were finishing up a steel set and the oncoming crew was coming up the tunnel. We could see the light of the locomotive. When I placed my tape measure to check the steel set Raul was standing at the back of the jumbo. He stuck his hand in front of the laser beam to block it. The second time he blocked it I walked back and told Raul he would get thrown off the jumbo if he messed with me again. I put my tape up, Raul blocked the laser. I walked calmly back to him. Picked him up by his collar and his belt, then threw him off the back of the jumbo onto a empty flat bed rail car. We finished setting the steel set before the other shift arrived. At the start of our next shift Raul apologized for messing with me. He was just messing around. He didn’t think anybody took their work that serious.

Several weeks later Raul was chuck tending on my drill. When we raised the hydraulic wing to extend the work deck, one of the drill hydraulic lines got pinched in it. Raul stood on the wing while I went to the controls on the ground. The other drills were drilling and it was too noisy for verbal communication. Raul signaled with his flashlight as I dipped the wing down. When the hose was free Raul signaled to raise the wing back up. The whole operation was done in about a minute. I raised the wing and climbed to the top deck. Raul wasn’t visible from the back of the jumbo. As I approached my drill Raul was laying down thrashing around on the wing. His foot was between the wing and the top deck when he signaled me up with the wing. I got another miners attention as I jumped over the side to dip the wing. Raul’s foot at the arch was crushed to less than an inch thick between the two steel plates. He told us it was his own fault as we loaded his stretcher on the locomotive.

Raul deserved to get thrown off the jumbo…………….but there is never justification for a disabling injury.