Tall Tale

6304 on Bellefontaine Cory Local

That's me on 6304 on Bellefontaine Cory Local in 1953. Courtesy of Paul Eichmeyer, 400 N. Park Street, Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311

Paul Eichmeyer

Content Tools

400 N. Park Street, Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311

In 1914, I hired out as machinist apprentice and a year later they moved the shop from Bellefontaine to Indianapolis. I still have a steam engine I made in the tool room of the local shop.

In 1916, I hired out as a locomotive fireman and was promoted to engineer in 1923. I fired and ran steam locomotives for 35 years and 6 years the diesel engine; retired January 20, 1960 with the last 5 years as a passenger engineer.

In the course of 42 years, I heard several interesting stories - here is one about the big locomotive. I will picture myself as the engineer or conductor.

Back in 1905, I was an engineer on the Western Pacific R.R. at Cheyenne, Wyoming where they had an extra large locomotive to shove the long freight trains over the mountains. To get some idea of how large - the turntable at Bellefontaine is 110 feet long and turned any locomotive on N.Y.C. but this engine was 220 feet long, had 30 inch cylinders, 5 driving wheels on a side and carried 230 pounds of steam. The engine was so big and powerful and heavy that when we hit a wet rail and the driver spun trying to take hold, the rails curled up like bacon rind in a hot skillet.

The firebox was so large you could put a table in it and seat fifteen people around it. With a firebox that large it would be impossible to fire it by hand, so they, had a small steam shovel mounted on deck and fired it with that understand this was before the stocker was invented.

The tank was also a large affair. It held 60 thousand gallons of water and 80 tons of coal and when the coal got out of reach of the steam shovel, they used a mule skinner and a span of mules to drag scoop and bring the coal within reach. They kept the mules on the back end of the tank with a pipe fence.

It is standard practice before leaving the roundhouse for the fireman to examine the tank and see if it is full and if not, to fill it. This day as we were leaving, he had to fill it and forgot to close the lids to the manhole and it was an extra large manhole.

On leaving the terminal, the mule skinner had nothing to do until the coal got out of reach of the shovel, so he went to sleep and while he slept one of the mules wondering around on back of the tank, fell in the manhole and drowned.

When the skinner woke up, rubbed his eyes and saw only one mule, he climbed down over the coal into the cab and cried over my shoulder about losing a mule. I happened to look over at the water glass and there was the mule floating up and down in the water glass.

Anything I hate is a liar!

If you liked this story, next time I will tell you about the time I was conductor of the elephant train in the Ringling Brothers circus.