My Memoirs


| July/August 1963



I stood a moment, wondering where I would be most out of the way, when the fireman said, 'You will have to take my seat box over here.' I said, 'I don't want to be in your way. Where will you sit?' He said, 'I never sit while we are out on the road.' He made me comfortable on his seat box, the engineer gave 2 short blasts on his whistle and hooked out his reverse and opened his throttle and we were off. I can still see the brown-black smoke roll out of that ponderous stack and hear the soft exhaust that only a balloon stack gave.

What fun! The old engine rolled along smoothly except when a wheel hit a depression at a rail joint or swayed a little at a low place on the track. But I had not seen it all yet. The engineer kept widening on his throttle at intervals and soon that old engine was rolling and pitching and doing about every step known to the dancing profession, and some besides. Even the twist, one of the newest steps, I believe; because the front end kept forever twisting from one side to the other. It was not exactly what I had expected; but it was exciting and I would have given half my life to have been the man with his hand on that throttle. But how that fireman got the coal into that fire box without hitting the door frame and scattering it all over the floor was a mystery. He never missed once on that swaying, rocking, jumping engine. At the next stop, I got down and returned to my car, after thanking the engine crew for a real ride.

Years later I rode a heavy freight locomotive a few miles on heavy well ballasted rail at about the same speed. While some of the characteristics of the old Atlantic were there, it was a quite different ride.

In the winter of 1896-97, I guess my parents decided if they were to keep me on the farm, they were going to have to begin working on it. Father was a died in the wool farmer, and believed that the farmer was the salt of the earth; the independent man of all men. His own boss. He came from a long line of farming men. How I ever got side tracked to love a locomotive and wanted to run one, he never could understand. He pointed out the long hours, the taking orders from other men, the nights away from home, the constant danger of sudden violent death, etc. Revolving wheels held no poetry for him He got his poetry from the beauties of nature.

So in the winter of 1896-97, a subtle start was made that kept me on the farm although it was years before I learned from a friend that the. purpose was just that. No quarrels, no scolding. Father started wondering, that winter, of grinding the grain for some of his livestock (he was a livestock-grain farmer, raising stock cattle, hogs and sheep) would not be profitable.

I was not interested I visualized one of those conical feed grinders, you saw sitting out in barn yards, with a box at the base to catch the ground feed, and a sweep on top, to hitch a horse to, that walked round and round to power it. It did not appeal to me.