A Tribute To Angelo J. Caselli (1951-1981)
Contributed by Son, John Caselli
Angelo J. Caselli was hired by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (D, L&W RR) in September 1951. He was initially assigned to work at the Keyser Valley Shops as a car mechanic until those shops closed in or around the 1960 timeframe. As his Son (John), I recall stories of his job exploits as a member on the “riveting gang” in assembling freight cars there. Wherein, the hot rivets were passed to him from the first team member and he had to hold them in-place (with a rivet holding tool), while another team member hit the other end with a sledge hammer, thus securing the rivet against the car body in rapid succession. He told me about on occasions if he could not keep up with the flow of things, he ended up getting burned! Before the Keyser Valley Shops closed and the subsequent merger of the D, L&W RR with the Erie RR into the Erie Lackawanna RR (EL RR), my Father bid on a car mechanic’s job in the MU Shed, Hoboken, NJ. My Father moved the entire family [including: my Mother, older Sister, Grandmother (My Mother’s Mother), and me] from our hometown in Scranton, PA to Dover, NJ to his new job assignment with the EL RR. My Father was able to use his EL RR Company Pass on his commute to/fm work (Dover – Hoboken, NJ/Hoboken – Dover, NJ) on a daily basis. He favored the Morris & Essex Division (M&E) most probably because his job facilitated working on those cars. I fondly recall going with my Mother to the Dover, NJ train station, as a young boy, too young to stay home by myself at the time, to wait for my Dad to arrive via his nightly train. The engineers were always so very friendly and never hesitated to give me a hand wave as the train pulled into the station. His initial job at the MU Shed was to maintain/replace the brake shoes on both the motor and or trailer car trucks of the MU’s. It was a laborious job but he got immense satisfaction when the engineers would always come up from the Hoboken Train Station to specifically see my Dad in the MU Shed. They would personally thank him and shake his hand because they were always able to properly stop at the various stations along the line when they made brake application and did not have to worry about over-shooting the station as a direct result of his job superb job performance. This made my Dad very proud and he took immense pride in his daily work. My Dad then learned the field of welding and applied that knowledge in various assignments in the MU Shed for the remainder of his assignment there. I recall stories of he telling me that some of his foreman thought a crumpled cow-catcher, or one of the stair wells of the MU cars were too badly banged up to repair. But not to my Dad, he was always up for a challenge and was willing to give it a try to fix something and make it look like it was brand new again. I also recall him telling me of when he worked down by the Hoboken Train Shed on what was called the “Cripple Track” doing the same kind of work. He did not like that job during the especially during the cold/ brutal winter months where he said the wind would whip right off of the Hudson River and make him even colder! I also recall us riding The Phoebe Snow/The Lake Cities every summer (1960’s timeframe) to go and visit my Father’s side of the family in Chicago every summer. I further recall the delicious food in the diner and standing in the rear vestibule door of the famous Tavern Lounge Cars watching the railroad right-of-way go by. In my high school years, I used to enjoy going to visit my Dad at the MU Shed during school days off and at various times during summer vacation. My Dad would coordinate my said visits with his foreman and it was ok for me to visit. I would usually join-up with my Dad right around his morning coffee break time. I would either take the M&E Division (MU Electrics) or the Boonton Line (Diesel Push-Pull) on the way from Dover – Hoboken, NJ. I would rotate the taking of these two train lines just so I could keep an eye on what had changed or what was new during my respective visits. I was always welcomed by the very friendly MU Shed employees when I would arrive, it was like one big family there, in my-then young opinion! My Father would always bring me by his Foreman’s office where I would say “hello” and thank him for allowing me to visit the MU Shed. It was so interesting to see the MU cars in their various stages of repair on the three-tracks in the MU Shed. The coffee was delicious as was the cookies for the coffee break. Somehow, they tasted better in that environment, just like a hot dog does at a baseball park versus eating it at home! I would visit with the various men performing their jobs in the MU Shed while my Dad worked his job. I was always very cautious as not to interfere with the workers, for fear of being asked to leave the MU Shed! When it became lunch time, I ate lunch (I brought my own brown bag lunch with me) with my Dad in the same area he did. What a thrill for a son of a railroad employee to enjoy. Not to overdo my stay in the MU Shed, I would then spend the rest of the afternoon down at the Hoboken Train Station area until my Father’s work day ended. I explored the huge cavernous waiting room area, traverse the beautiful staircase and go as far as I could upstairs, venture out to the old ferry slips behind the station where I remember as an even younger boy taking the ferry trips across the Hudson River before ferry service was discontinued, and lastly, venture down to and around the Track 17 area where the old long distance passenger equipment, as well as the road’s business cars were still being kept. When it was time to for my Father to end the work day, we would meet up down at the previously agreed to track at the Hoboken Train Station and board the MU’s back to Dover, NJ. I would always get a treat and be able to ride with the engineer because my Dad knew pretty much all of the engineers. I recall being on my best behavior and did not disturb the engineer unless spoken to. I would position myself exactly in the center of the doorway to the left of the engineer. This position allowed me to enjoy the approaching right-of-way and take in the absolute beauty of the ride back home. Too bad video recorders of today were not around back then as the footage would be something to behold and cherish today. At Dover, NJ, my Mother would be waiting for my Father and I at the train station and take us home to an enjoyable hot cooked dinner that was waiting. My Father always spoke of possible layoffs at the family dinner table I recall as I was growing up. He survived the merger of the D, L&W RR with the Erie RR into the EL RR where his job was not impacted at all as was the case when the EL RR ceased to exist and was incorporated into CONRAIL from which he ultimately retired in September 1981 after 30-years service between the three (3) railroads. The last job my Father had with CONRAIL was in the Brake Shop located in or around the Hoboken Train Station complex. Because of his then age, it was not a stressful and or physically demanding job considering he had just successfully completed hip-replacement surgery.
Fred Stratton/Diamond Graphics.