Tom Doyle was a good natured, ever grinning Irishman who also
sported a mouthful of gold teeth. Although around 35 years of age,
he had never married and settled down; but was a railroad
‘boomer’ and had traveled all over the United States in his
pursuit of that profession.
One spring, not many years after the turn of the century, he,
having jumped one of his many railroad jobs, came to visit his
sister who was married, had a family and lived a mile or so from
our farm. It was the month of June and threshing time was in the
offing, so my dad was in the shed busy getting his separator ready
for the ran when Tom came by for a little chat and, incidentally,
to see if he could get a job for the summer. He had had
‘oodles’ of experience with steam and ray dad knew that he
would have long since been a locomotive engineer had he been steady
and had just settled down.
My dad had confidence in his ability and needed an engineer so
Tom soon started to work. He proved to be a good and trustworthy
engineer who knew his business; and he worked until the harvest and
threshing season was ebbing to a close. Then Tom said to my dad one
day: ‘I guess you won’t be needing me much longer.’
Then he boasted: ‘I’ve fired or braked on about every
railroad from Maine to California except this G. R. & I. over
here. I guess I’ll go over and give er a try.’
Shortly thereafter, Tom took off and soon was embarked on his
first run on that line, firing for what he later termed a
‘Lazy, fat old Hogger’ who expected Tom to do not only the
firing but his work too.
The engine was a light, ten wheeler with 24 box cars loaded with
wheat behind her stack. Coming in from the north, they approached a
small town in Northern Indiana, stopped on the main rail at the
yard limits, uncoupled the engine and drove ahead to the depot, a
half mile or so down track, to pick up running orders.
As the block was clear, the ‘Fat Old Hogger’ told Tom:
‘ Go back up to the train, pick ‘er up and bring ‘er
down, while I go over to that cafe for a sandwich and a cup of
coffee.’ Tom obeyed, but with rancor in his heart for, having
done all the work, he was hungry too.
It was down grade coming in, and Tom applied the sand freely as
he pulled the throttle wide open. The conductor was riding the
foot-loop of the third car back of the engine, hanging onto the
hand-rail with one hand, while frantically waving Tom to slow down
with the other. But Tom was giving her the works.
When she approached the depot at double speed he shut off the
steam; and he grinned ’till his gold teeth sparkled when he
told it a long time later. ‘I just took that old brass air
lever and ‘oozed’ it clear around the quadrant into the
‘big notch’. Well, sir, when all them wheels on that loaded
train set up tight and bit into those sandy rails, the train
buckled up with a nasty roar. The sudden impact tore that conductor
loose and he made a complete somersault in the air, and then slid
his nose for about ten feet through the cinder ballast along the
tracks. He skinned his hands and tore the knees out of his
Tom said that after that conductor got done chewing up that
‘Old Fat Hogger and Me’, he just fired from there on to the
division headquarters where he signed up for his pay, and that was
his experience on the G. R. & I.