Log Books -The Work of an Engineer

Photo above : 2-8-2 EJ&E 727, sister to 724.  Bill Gustason collection on EJE Archive

My Grandfather started with the EJ&E in 1917 as a yard clerk and became a fireman in 1919.  After 20 years, he was promoted to engineer in 1939 and retired in 1961.  Every day since he became an engineer he kept a log book, recording the date, time on and off duty, train number, what engine he was operating, what station he went on and off duty at, and the crew that was working with him in the cab.  It has been interesting to look through these records, gaining a view of his work and the life of an engine man on the EJ&E through two decades more than half a century ago.  I have also used this information to build a roster for my model railroad, using a sampling of locomotives he had operated.

A bit of EJ&E geography is useful here to get a perspective on where the trains were going.   These are the major points on the railroad although there were several branch lines, especially in the early years.   The business of the EJ&E was moving finished steel out and raw materials into the multiple steel mills near Gary, IN, moving coal and freight to online industries, and to a great part interchanging cars between railroads entering Chicago.  Based on the 1954 EJ&E Employee Time Table #11, in the 73 miles from Joliet to Waukegan there were interchanges with twelve railroads, plus an additional five interchanges in Joliet itself.   By having the EJ&E route cars around Chicago, the other railroads could save time and deliver goods more quickly.

EJ&E Station#         Location                      Miles from East Joliet and direction

1                                   Waukegan, IL             73   West – geographic North

30                                East Joliet Yard          0

41                                Porter, IN                     56   East

143                               Kirk Yard, Gary, IN   46  East

For a map of the EJ&E today see the “Main EJ&E Archive Map” at :


Let’s take a look at a page from one of the log books from the first two weeks of September 1948.   There are several interesting things to note.   The EJ&E was about to complete the transition from steam to diesel locomotives in 1949, and in fact there is only one entry in this two week period for a steam locomotive.  September 9, 1948 was to be my grandfather’s last day to operate steam.  Engine #724, recorded under the Engine No. column, was to be his last trip on a coal burner.  See the picture of sister engine #727 at the top of this post – a magnificent machine – photo from Bill Gustason collection – EJ&E Archives.   He made no mention of the significance of it that day, nor in any of his following time logs.  The #106, 119, 118, and 116 locomotives are the big Baldwin DT-6-6-2000 center-cabs which were delivered just a few months earlier in 1948.  The image on the home page of this blog is one of the Baldwins.  The engines 410 and 411 were NW2 diesel switchers.


Although the EJ&E had regularly scheduled trains, all of the road trips during this two week period were extras as indicated in the Class of Service column.  And they were all back and forth between Joliet (Station 30) and Kirk Yard in Gary, IN (Station 143).  Then there were the two trips in a day on September 11.  One starting at 4am and another train the same direction at 10:30pm.  There is a comment about “back lap Matteson to Park Forest” that I do not understand fully.

In the far right column is the name of the crew, which I assume to be the fireman.  In the “it’s a small world category” one of the members of our model railroad club mentioned to me, after I wrote a piece about the EJ&E in the club newsletter, that his grandfather worked for the EJ&E in the 30’s and 40’s.  Sure enough, I found several log book entries where his grandfather and mine had shared the cab.

Wanting to get a profile of his work I did a survey of the log books, selecting the first six months of 1943 and the same period for 1953.  Entering the records into a spreadsheet I was able to tally the number of trips on specific engines and to specific locations.  Transition to diesel power from steam on the EJ&E was completed in 1949 so the first period was predominantly steam and the second period was all diesel.  As expected in 1943, the Mikados were not switching in the yards, and the 0-8-0 did not run the through freights.  Likewise in 1953, the big Baldwin center-cabs generally were assigned to the road freights.  However, there were several instances of NW2 switcher consists running road trains between Joliet and Waukegan.

Here is a second view of a log book, this one from May of 1944.  Traffic was very high due to the war and there was usually just one day off per week.   The engines noted in the log book were all steam in this two week period, although diesels were common in the yards by 1944.  The 300 and 500 series were 0-8-0 switchers, and the 700 were 2-8-2 Mikados.  The last entry #114 was an old 0-6-0 Alco-Cooke due to be scrapped in 1945.  EJELog1944May

I build my modeled locomotive roster from these logbook entries, to represent what my grandfather would have operated, bringing back a bit of history and some conversations with him I was never to have.  He passed away when I was ten years old, so I am grateful that these memories in the form of time logs, have been passed down to me.

Log books are from my collection.  Information on locomotives, and photographs were obtained from the EJ&E Archives web page, a great resource for information on the EJ&E.      http://www.ejearchive.com/index.html





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