Posts Tagged ‘Railroads’

The Machines of Today

August 11, 2012




I see a sleek gasoline engine
Careering along to a blaze;
It’s efficient, no doubt,
But no steam does it spout
As it speeds on its glorious ways.
It lacks the old bright shining boiler
And the smoke that shoots out of the stack,
And it doesn’t careen
Like the good old machine
That was here half a dozen years back.

Ah! That was the grand age of fires;
The whistle would sputter and scream,
While the folks of that day
Fled madly away
From the fountains of cinders and steam.
The galloping clang of the horses,
The beat of their feet as they sped,
And the volume of sound
That was broadcast around
Might almost awaken the dead.

The machine of today may be faster,
Their deafening sirens ring shrill,
It’s a joy to the eye
To observe them go by.
Their perilous task to fulfill,
But my pet was the raring old steamer
With its smoke and its clamor and roar,
And I’m sad in my heart
That it won’t play a part
In the life of the town any more.

Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, New York) Jul 21, 1934

Hard to Believe

May 30, 2012

Image from Appin of Yesteryear

Hard to Believe.

A station master requested an increase of salary and threatened to leave if he didn’t get it.

The superintendent replied to his request by relating a story.

“When I was a young man,” said he, “I once did as you are doing — I told the superintendent of the line I was then working on what you have told me. He refused my demand and I left, and would you believe it — that railway line is running yet?”

— London Tit-Bits.

Chillicothe Morning Constitution (Chillicothe, Missouri) Mar 2, 1892

Third Rail

March 21, 2012

Image from the Einhorn Press

“You rail at me?”

“Two times.”

“Why not three?”

“Because the third rail is dangerous.”

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) May 2, 1907

Pedigree Was Fine, But….

November 2, 2011

Pedigree Was Fine, But —,

Though nepotism has been known to get good railroad jobs for young men, there is one passenger official in Kansas City with whom family connections do not go very far.

A few days ago the official in question was in quest of an additional man for his office.

A friend, learning of his desire, took occasion to write a letter indorsing a young man of his acquaintance.

The letter contained some glowing testimonials of some of the things accomplished by the young man’s ancestors and relatives. But it didn’t get very far with the passenger official, when sent the following laconic reply to the young man’s indorser:

“Judging from your letter, the young man you recommend must have a good pedigree. However, I merely desire a clerk now, but if I conclude to start a stock farm later, I will let you know and will be glad to give the young man a chance.”

— Kansas City Journal.

The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jun 17, 1912

I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

October 8, 2011

Archaic Regulations and Crushing Taxes

Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, New Mexico) Jun 14, 1958

Look Out for the Engine

October 7, 2011


With lungs of fire, and ribs of steel,
With sighing valve, and groaning wheel,
With startling scream and giant stroke,
With showers of sparks and clouds of smoke,
The iron steel the train is bringing;
So look out while the bell is ringing!

The gazing, gaping crowd stands back —
Will ye be crushed, or clear the track?
Now, all aboard and off again!
The drones behind can’t reach the train;
They stumble where the switch is swinging —
So look out while the bell is ringing!

Just so the engine of reform
Rolls on, through sunshine and through storm,
O’er kings and sceptres, crowns and thrones,
Through sleepy crowds of idle drones;
‘Tis freedom’s song the mass are singing —
So look out while the bell is ringing!

The slave will doff his yoke and chain,
The drunkard will not drink again,
The soldier throw his sword away,
We see the dawn of that bright day;
Glad news the harnessed lightning bringing —
So look out while the bell is ringing!

Star and Banner (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jan 19, 1849

Railroads Bringing Us to the Present Time

October 7, 2011

1850-1870: HURRAH for the RAILROADS

Build Up the West!

1890-1910: DOWN with the RAILROADS

Outrageous Rates! — Protect the People!


Protect the Public’s Investments! — S.O.S. Help the Railroads!

The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) Apr 27, 1933

The Man in the Cab

September 22, 2011


Safe and snug in the sleeping car
Are father and mother and dreaming child.
The night outside shows never a star,
For the storm is thick and the wind is wild.
The frenzied train in its all-night race
Holds many a soul in its fragile walls,
While up in his cab, with a smoke-stained face,
Is the man in the greasy overalls.

Through the firebox door the heat glows white,
The steam is hissing at all the cocks;
The pistons dance and the drive-wheels smite
The trembling rails till the whole earth rocks.
But never a searching eye could trace —
Though the night is black and the speed appalls —
A line of fear in the smoke-stained face
Of the man in the greasy overalls.

No halting, wavering coward he,
As he lashes his engine around the curve,
But a peace-encompassed Grant or Lee,
With a heart of oak and an iron nerve.
And so I ask that you make a place
In the Temple of Heroes’ sacred halls
Where I may hang the smoke-stained face
Of the man in the greasy overalls.

— Nixon Watterman, in L.A.W. Bulletin.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 25, 1897

A Legal Lyric – The Martyred Mule

August 11, 2011



The 139th volume of the Pennsylvania State Reports, recently published, contains as an appendix the following interesting verses.




A dissenting opinion, by permission from “The Green Bag,” III., 27. Audi alteram parlem!

Where a mule, on his way home from work, unattended, is on a railway track at a highway crossing, the railroad company is under no obligation to sound the whistle, to warn him of an approaching train: Fisher v. Penna. R. Co., 126 Pa. 293.

In Texas, where the potent twelve
Pronounce the penalty of crime,
I find, when in the books I delve,
That rather more than half the time
The jury, with a disregard
Of custom, by some novel rule,
Pronounce the sentence, somewhat hard,
That man is worth much less than a mule;
But then, in Pennsylvania,
This stupid quadruped of late,
By some judicial mania,
Is much less favored in estate;

From off a dusty, hot highway,
Entranced as in a pleasing dream,
A tired mule doth careless stray
Where coaches are propelled by steam, —
A sober and industrious beast,
Released at close of day from load,
Perchance the sight of grassy feast,
Where lands of railway cross his road,
Upon the tracks attracted him
Away from customary beat;
Perchance an expectation dim
Some donkey-engine there to meet.
And there he crops the juicy herb,
Oblivious of the deadly car,
While spasms of delight disturb
Appendages auricular;
The while assiduous tail doth twitch
To fend mosquitoes from his back; —
Alas! it had no power to switch
Approaching train from off the track!

Poor silly wretch! he strays along
Unthinking, heedless, void of fear;
And though his ears are very long,
Alas! he has no engineer.
And so a locomotive rude,
Upon that deadly iron rail,
Doth very wantonly intrude
‘Twixt ample ears and meager tail.

Now, when to suit the matter grew,
The engineman had naught to say,
Save that though he no whistle blew,
He thought the mule would step away.
He knew the measure of his care
Toward men appearing on the road;
To mules he never was aware
A similar vigilance was owed.
‘Twas strange if sorry quadruped
Could stay the progress of the mails,
Because from rightful precincts led
To loiter on forbidden rails.
His ears were thrice as long as men’s,
So should his sense of hearing be;
He’d twice as many legs, and hence
The abler accidents to flee.
He had no claim to bell nor whistle;
He had no right that men respect!
If too intent on meal of thistle,
He met the fate he might expect.

This heartless but ingenious plea
Seduced that hasty magistrate,
And this illogical decree
Sustained the corporation’s prate:
“If engineers were held to sound
The whistle or to ring the bell,
The mule conclusively was bound
To listen, stop, and look as well.”
This judgment was pronounced Per Cur.;
No wonder that his Honor should
Anonymity prefer
Where justice was misunderstood.

Such was the Court’s idea of wit
And law to animals applied;
Humaner lawyers, hearing it,
Its relevancy have denied.

When men are walking on the track,
The law presumes that they will heed
The present danger, and step back,
And so to stop the train no need.
Mules have not men’s intelligence,
Are not forewarned by human fears;
And so presumptive evidence
Is not proportioned to their ears.
The whistle might arouse a mule,
And scare him out of danger’s way,
As well as any two-legged fool
Who should in such dilemma stray.
As well might engineer neglect
A man of danger to apprise,
By signals which he might suspect
He was too deaf to recognize.

If mules could read this bitter tale,
They’d wave a sympathetic ear;
With dismal bray the air assail,
And drop a heavy muleteer.

In some horse-heaven, his rest well earned,
This mule with Davies’ donkey *treads;
Their shoes laid off, and collars turned
To glorious halos round their heads.

*The defendent, driving his wagon at a “smartish” pace, negligently drove against and killed the plaintiff’s ass, left fettered by the fore-feet on the highway, and thus unable to get out of the way of the wagon. Held, that, although it was an illegal act on the part of the plaintiff so to fetter the ass on the highway, yet, all the same, the plaintiff was entitled to recover; ABINGER C.B. PARKE, GURNEY and ROLFE, B.B., in Davis vs. Mann, 10 M. & W., 546 (1842).

Wellsboro Agitator (Wellsboro, Pennsylvania) Oct 2, 1891

Boiler Explosion of the Locomotive, Achilles Proves Fatal

December 7, 2010

Above image of the DL&W camelback 4-4-0 #952 (not the train mentioned in the article) is from the Kodtrak Kountry website, where you can find more New York train history.

Terrible Railroad Accident.

SYRACUSE, Nov. 21.

The freight train of the Syracuse and Utica railroad, this morning about 4 o’clock, drawn by two engines, when about three quarters of a mile from the depot, the boiler of the foremost locomotive, Achilles, exploded with disastrous consequences. It exploded in the fire box — The machinery and wood work were demolished, and the locomotive is left and almost worthless wreck. The power of the agent of this mischief may be imagined from the fact, that the entire locomotive was lifted from the tract and carried around so as to lie directly across the second parallel track, and the tender was thrown entirely off the track in an opposite direction.

Israel Morgan, engineer, was blown into the air, and fell in the road about 150 feet distant. He received the full effect of the steam and hot water upon his person as it was forced through the door of the furnace. Most of his clothes were torn from his person, and his body was terribly scalded and burned.

William Canton, the fireman, was in a more fortunate location, and tho’ blown some feet to the side of the road, where he was found in an insensible condition, escaped with some scalding and bruises, which are not considered mortal.

The second locomotive, Thesis, had nearly the entire machinery of one side carried away.

Messrs. Howard and Palmer, the engineer and fireman, narrowly escaped injury.

The probable cause of the explosion, was high steam and low water, preparatory to accomplishing the difficult grade of road as it leaves the city.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Dec 1, 1852

The above article is almost identical to the one below; one a few words appear to be changed.


Syracuse, Sunday, Nov. 21. — 7 1/2 P.M.

The morning freight train on the Syracuse and Utica Railroad, this morning started from the East at 4 o’clock drawn by two locomotives. When about three-quarters of a mile from this depot, the foremost locomotive — the Achilles — exploded with terrible and disastrous consequences. The boiler exploded in the fire box. The machinery and wood work were rent asunder or demolished, and the locomotive left an almost worthless wreck.

The power of the agent of this mischief may be imagined, from the fact, that the entire locomotive was lifted from the track, and carried around so as to lie directly across the second and parallel track, and the tender was thrown entirely clear of the track, in the opposite direction.

ISRAEL MORGAN, the engineer, was blown into the air, and fell in the road, about one hundred and fifty feet distant. He received the full effects of the steam and heated water upon his person, as it was forced through the door of the furnace, and was undoubtedly instantly killed. Most of the clothes were torn from his body, and he was terribly scalded and burned.

The fireman was in a more fortunate location, and although blown some feet to the side of the road, where he was found in an insensible condition, he escaped with a severe scalding and bruising, which are not considered mortal.

The second locomotive — the Thesis — had nearly the entire machinery of one side carried away. MESSRS. HOWARD and PALMER, the engineer and fireman of this engine, narrowly escaped injury.

The probable cause of the explosion was high steam and low water, preparatory to accomplishing the difficult grade of the road as it leaves the city.

MR. MORGAN had been an engineer some seven or eight years, and was considered very careful and competent. He leaves a wife and three children.

The report of the explosion was tremendous, and was heard at a great distance. Fragments of the locomotive were thrown hundreds of feet, and several houses on either side of the street were slightly damaged by the clapboards breaking through, windows smashed, &c. MR. MORGAN’S watch was found in a vacant lot fully two hundred feet from the scene of the disaster. It was still running, and in no way damaged, except that the crystal was cracked.

The loss to the Syracuse and Utica Railroad Company by the accident, is estimated at from twelve to fifteen thousand dollars.

The New York Times – Nov 22, 1852

The New York Times article can be found on the GenDisasters website.