Perry Brown arrives at Bellevue Yard before sunrise with one main task: To safely move as many rail cars as he can “over the hill.”
“That’s what they pay me to do, and I want to keep them happy,” said Brown, a first-shift conductor foreman.
Brown works atop the yard’s 31-foot high earthen hump and is on the front lines of Bellevue’s expansion. Using a remote control device strapped over his chest, Brown pulls blocks of cars out of the receiving yard, shoves them up the hump, and “cuts” them loose at the crest, letting gravity carry them down into a sprawling network of classification tracks to be assembled into outbound trains.
On an early December day, Brown warded off westerly winds of 15-20 mph and a wind chill in the 20s wearing a hooded pullover, cap, gloves, jeans, and steel-toed boots.
“I’m still trying to get used to the new bowl,” Brown said, referring to the yard’s 38 new “class” tracks, which resemble an elongated bowl. Employees refer to the new class tracks as the south bowl and the yard’s original 42 tracks as the north bowl. When humping a single train, he can cut cars for both bowls.