The Pull Apart

When I got out of High School I knocked around a little. Working several jobs in a few months until I finally landed a job working on the railroad. Railroad work is difficult and heavy, physical work. I worked on a “Section Gang” which was a group of men that took care of a section of track stretching for about 100 miles. We did everything from sweeping snow off of switches to replacing ties and maintaining track.

It was the time when the railroads were taking out the old forty foot lengths of track and replacing them with a quarter mile long rail. The old track had a joints that linked rails together every forty feet. The new track had a joint every quarter mile.

This move was a good one for the most part because it reduced maintenance costs. We had to check every joint in our section, making sure it was straight and the bolts were tight. It took many man hours. Not only would the bolts come loose but the track tended to sink where the joints were and we had to level the track at every joint.

When the new track was laid, all that changed. But, there was a new phenomenon that took place in the winter time. The rail would get cold and shrink creating what we called a “pull-apart”. The rail would actually tear from top to bottom making it unsafe for trains to cross. Everything slowed down with a pull-apart. The trains could cross them but they had to slow to five miles an hour not only slowing that particular train but also slowing the whole train schedule. Everything was effected.

We would get a call in the middle of the night telling us that there was a pull-apart at such-in-such mile marker. We would all have to get there and fix it. The foreman would get the railroad truck that held all our equipment and drive it to the sight.

We took big chunks of rope that were soaked in diesel fuel and lay it along the rail on each side of the split in the rail and light it on fire. It would heat the rail and you could see the rail start to move together. The cold caused it to contract, but the heat caused it’s expansion. It would grow together where the air temperature was way below freezing but the rail temperature was above boiling.

Once the rail had grown together, we would drill holes in either side of the pull-apart large enough to receive the bolts that held the joint together. It made the rail much stronger than before. It left a scar but it was strong.

The ability to choose the way we respond to our circumstances is perhaps the greatest power we have. Our ability to choose regardless of our surroundings is what makes us like God. We are made in His image. When the darkness was thick in Genesis chapter one, God didn’t say, “Wow, it’s dark out here, I guess I can’t do anything about it.” He said, “Let there be light!”

When your life tears from top to bottom, God will apply heat many times to draw it back together. When that happens, your choices will make you or break you. You can play the victim card or feel sorry for yourself but all that does is render you powerless. You have to take responsibility for your life. Going to neutral will not change your circumstances. You have to take action.

Every life has unique elements to it. There are things we can’t control but that is only about ten percent of our lives. Ninety percent of our lives are created by the decisions we make. I would rather make a wrong decision and live with it or back up and start again than be a victim.

We fixed every pull-apart that happened. It slowed things down at times and made life harder because we had to get up in the middle of the night sometimes in sub-zero weather. It was uncomfortable, but necessary.

Don’t sit and look at the pull-apart in your life with no action. Receive the heat that will fix it. It won’t be hot forever.

Tim Tracy

Cabin Fever Coffee Shop, 312 Clinton Street, Defiance, OH, 43512