304 Glover Drive, Longview, Texas 75601
You have heard it said that certain individuals were born 'too soon' or 'too late' to get the most out of life. Well, if 'the days of steam power' counts for the most in life, I am in luck. I have lived most of my life of 83 years in the prime years of steam power. I was born and reared in a section of our state traversed by many different railroads, all of which, up till a few years past, used steam powered locomotives to haul their passenger and freight trains. The diesel-electric powered locomotives existed only in the dreams and imaginations of men in those days. Likewise, all the various plants including factories, lumber mills, cotton gins, cotton compresses, cotton oil mills, oil field drilling rigs, tractors, and even the first automobile, known as 'Stanley's Steamer' were steam-powered. There were no 'whining' electric motors to speak of no 'popping Johnnies,' when I came on the scene in 'THE GAY NINETIES!'
On the day when the diesel-electric locomotives took the place of the old steam locomotives 'the rail was taken out of railroading.' The railroads became 'truck roads,' at least in my eyes. When the fog horns of the diesels called for the crossings and railroad stations in the land instead of the clear, crisp, sharp tones of the steam whistles atop the boilers of the steam locomotives, something was lost to the listening ears of the people. The fascination of the steam locomotives with their steam and smoke shooting high into the air, the struggling exhaust sounds piercing the air, their whirling drivers and flashing side rods, all this was lost to the eyes of the people. The diesel-electrics, while more economical and efficient in operation than the old steamers, have not 'stolen the show' by attracting the attention of the people, and especially attracting attention on the part of the 'men of steam power.'
I grew up on a farm deep in east Texas. The old I.&G.N. (International and Great Northern) railroad ran through that farm, and it was here that I got my first introduction to steam power. I had a certain spot on a high hill overlooking the curved tracks from which I could see the trains as they would come into sight. With smoke and steam shooting high into the air and the chime whistle calling for the crossing just down the way, the show was on for me. As my 'astronaut,' the man at the throttle, noticed my hand waving, he would wave back with a gloved hand and big smile. Upon seeing that I was all 'wrapped up' at what I was seeing and hearing, he would give the whistle cord a quick jerk and I would almost lose my pants! With me, those fellows were men of steam and smoke and steel. They seemed to hold the whole world of railroading in their hands.
In our area, there were many different plants, as already mentioned, powered by steam engines, each of which had different type and tone whistles. Each one could be identified by its own peculiar whistle sound. At times, particularly at the noon hour, when all of the whistles would turn loose at the same time, we had both 'cords' and 'discords,' but it was all music to my young ears. With me the world was alive and steam power reigned supreme!
This picture shows a complete duplication of the first steam locomotive operated by the Texas & Pacific Railroad in 1870. It is 42' in length, cab 13' high complete with brass bell and whistle, blown by compressed air. It was powered by a completely conceiled tractor mounted beneath the boiler. It took first award over more than 200 floats in our centennial parade in May 1970. We had a lot of fun in building and operating it. Of course, I was the 'hoghead' on it.
Texas & Pacific Railroad shop whistle used at Marshall, Texas, shop at Marshall, Texas, over half century. Made of red brass, weight 180 lbs.3' valve inlet. This whistle was relied upon as a time piece. By it they went to work, quit work, set their clocks and watches by it and perhaps many of them would have 'sworn' by its accuracy. The T.&P. owned two of this type whistles at their shops at Ft. Worth and Marshall, Texas. Only 'fog horns', electrically operated, are heard in those shops today.
When I was a boy of fourteen years of age, my brother, just older than I got a job firing a steam boiler at a sawmill with green slabs cut fresh from the logs as they went to the saw. It was such a tough job until he asked me to help him. I gladly accepted his offer and both of us together after 'learning the trick' managed to keep steam pressure sufficient to power the mill's engine. Here I learned that firing a steam boiler with green slabs, unless he has plenty of drift in the firebox and some 'rich pine pieces' to cast into the inferno occasionally, is more than a boy's job. On this boiler an old weight 'pop valve' was used; and once, in order to have a big head of steam to start the day off with, I pushed the 50 lb. weight up to 180 PSI. It was formerly set at 135 PSI. When she popped, the noise attracted the attention of the mill owner, and he came to investigate the cause of the noise. When he discovered the registered pressure on the 'old can' he exclaimed, 'Sonny, it's a wonder she hasn't taken off through space.' So you see that as a young fireman, I had plenty of steam but little knowledge of the danger of too much of it on a weak boiler.
Upon seeing the decline of the use of steam power, particularly with the coming of the diesel-electric locomotives, many years ago, I decided that I would make an effort to preserve some if its effects. In this effort I have been rather successful: Over 20 steam locomotive brass bells have been preserved; more than 275 steam whistles, of most every type and size, were rescued.' Scores of railroad lights, including lanterns, switch lights, marker lights, headlights, inspector's lights, engineer's torch lights; engineer's long spout oilers; tallow pots, all kinds of railroad locks and keys, telegraph instruments and books and pictures of most all kinds. Some of my collections are now in the Red Caboose Museum, at Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The remaining part is now housed at my residence, pending acceptation by the Moody Foundation Museum at Galveston,
Texas. It has been a 'work of love' to preserve these things for future generations to see and enjoy, as well as by the 'old men of steam.'
Finally, I should add this note, lest some may get the wrong idea about this scribe. I have never been a railroad man, but always a railroad fan. Have 'felt the throttle' of only one steam locomotive in my life the thrill was great she responded to my touch and the regular 'hog head,' before being told that I am not a railroad man, did a little bragging on me. Do you ask what has been my life's calling? I have been a preacher of the gospel of Christ a member of the Church of Christ for the past 65 years. I have helped the Lord to run the gospel train. This only proves that young boys are like the weather subject to change.