A Saw-by at Millwood

A complex saw-by is described in detail on pages 163 and 164 in the book The Rio Grande Southern Railroad by Jessie Moore Crum, published by San Juan History in 1961:

A Saw-by

A long Rio Grande Southern freight train of five engines, sixty-four cars and two cabooses was headed south. It had orders to meet two north-bound trains, a freight with two engines, forty cars and a caboose and the regular passendger with one engine and three coaches. The meet was to take place at Millwood, where the siding, only thirty-six cars long, was already occupied by twenty-five empties. How was it done?

Hint-As Conductor John Crum knew, when he was making up his train at Dolores, that he would be in charge of this particular saw-by, he arranged his cuts in three sections, first: two engines and thirty cars; second: two engines and twenty-eight cars; third, one engine, six cars and two cabooses. His object was to release the passenger as soon as possible and his own train away next, as he was sure to be short on time. None of the crews knew about the empties on the siding until they arrived. The northbound freight was headed into the siding and the passenger was just behind when the southbound train arrived. This operation, which required one hour and fifteen minutes to complete, was performed on a very dark night and on a very crooked piece of track where signals could not be seen.

The solution-

1. Southbound placed his first section on the main line between switches, leaving the rest of his train far up the track to the north.

2. Northbound pushed the empties through the north switch and pulled his train far enough up to let the passenger in on the siding behind him.

3. The first section of the southbound train pulled far down the track to the south.

4. The passenger backed outd of the siding and pulled up on the main line.

5. Northbound moved his train back through the siding and pulled the empties far enough down to make room for the passenger to back into the siding from the north.

6. The passenger pulled up on the main line and backed into the siding.

7. Northbound backed far down the line, leaving the empties on the siding.

8. Southbound pulled his second and third section down the main line far enough to clear the upper switch.

9. The passenger pulled out of the siding and departed. [to Dolores]

10. Southbound backed up, leaving the second section of two engines and twenty-eight cars on the main line between switches. He moved his third section far up, north, on the main line.

11. Northbound went into the siding, pushing the empties as before and pulled his train up far enough to clear the lower switch.

12. Southbound second section went down the main line to join the first section.

13. Northbound backed his train onto the main line and pulled the empties back onto the siding once more.

14. Southbound put his third section on the main line between the switches.

15. Northbound shoved the empties through the siding and pulled his train far enough up to clear the lower switch.

16. Southbound's third section went to join the other two and they were off to Durango.

17. Northbound backed out, leaving the empties on the siding and proceeded north on the main line to Dolores.



This saw-by was reenacted on June 16, 2013. Because the siding used for this reenactment has a capacity of six cars (instead of the 36 of Millwood), the train lengths had to be adjusted to fit. Conductor Crum arranged his three sections so each would fit on the Millwood siding. So in this reenactment, the first two sections were limited to six cars each. The number of empties also had to be scaled to fit, so three empties were used instead of the 25 at Millwood. One engine was used for the first two sections of the southbound freight and the northbound freight, instead of two.

Each numbered step as described by Crum (above) is noted in the video titles.

One gains renewed appreciation for the knowledge and skill of the Rio Grande Southern train crews in attempting this reenactment. The reenactment took over three hours to organize and execute while shooting video in daylight under near-perfect conditions. The Millwood saw-by was done on a dark night, on curved track so signals were not visible, and was completed in an amazing 75 minutes.

And there are many other interesting stories in Crum's fine book.