Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

As I sit pondering my thoughts before the lighted Yuletide tree,
shining so resplendant in the telegrapher’s bay-window of my
simulated flag-stop depot, I suddenly become aware that Christmas
is upon us and the Old Year will soon bow out to make room for the

I wait here in the silence, peering out into the December
night’s darkness, as if expecting any minute the old sounder
will begin to clatter, announcing the next train’s arrival from
the dispatcher’s office many miles down the line. Yet the
sounder remains silent an ominous reminder that no train will be
passing this way. And I remain alone with my memories of the great
days when steam ruled the high iron that knit every city, village
and town into one mighty network of rail transportation. Instead of
the multicolored semiphor lights that once beckoned their safety
signals to the onrushing steam locomotives, there is but this tiny
Christmas tree with its red and green, amber and blue bulbs-the
very same colors that meant stop, or go, or proceed with caution to
each wheel that ever turned on an American railroad and still

There was that New Year’s Eve, when I was returning from my
brother’s in Richmond, Indiana, and the New York Central tracks
paralleled the highway between Winchester and Union City.

‘There goes Steve and the midnight eastbound passenger,’
I said to myself, as I pushed the accelerator down on my old
’36 Chevy to try and keep pace (which I couldn’t). ‘If
I can only make it to Union City before he pulls out, I’ll run
up and wish him a Happy New Year.’

Sure enough, Steve had beat me to the hometown depot where the
mail and baggage had already been set off and loaded as well as the
arriving and departing passengers exchanged seats before the
lighted windows of the big, standard steel coaches.

Parking my old Chevy as fast as I could, without respect to its
location, I ran up to the locomotive cab and yelled, ‘Happy New
Year, Steve!’

To which, replied Steve from his right-hand cab window,
‘Come up here in the cab.’

Scrambling up into the steaming cab of the big, hissing New York
Central Standard Pacific, I heard Steve shout over pounding
air-pumps, the deafening roar of pop-off valve and banging of
firebox door, ‘Are you going to ride with us to the end of the

‘Are you kidding? It’s against the law,’ I shouted

‘Not if you duck whenever we pass by a depot,’ yelled

‘But I parked my car right in front of that lumberyard
door,’ shouted I in reply.

‘Tomorrow’s New Years they won’t be using that
lumberyard door’ answered Steve.

Suddenly I thought of two pounds of expensive smoked Salmon
which I also had in my old car. But a second thought hit
me’What’s two pounds of smoked Salmon compared to my only
chance of getting to ride in the cab of a steam

‘Okay I’ll ride along,’ said I.

‘Sit over there by the fireman,’ shouted Steve, just as
he whistled for the high-ball and yanked on the throttle.

For the first time in my life I heard the heavy banging of the
firebox draft as the mighty, six-foot drivers bit into the rail and
the train began moving. Fireman Ebert drew a tincup of cool water
from a faucet that protruded out of the tender tank, which he
offered me as if to quench my thirst and calm my nerves on my new
venture. Heretofore I had always thought of railroaders as being
‘bottle-fed’ when it came to liquids. But this night of
nights and it being New Years besides the only ‘spirits’
that passed human lips in the cab of this mighty steam-belching
locomotive, racing to its destiny from out the Old Year and into
the New, was two-parts of Hydrogen to one part of Oxygen the same
refreshing aqueous humor, straight from the tender tank that wet
the high-stepping old girl’s whistle and kept her big drivers
straight on the rails. And I, being a teetotaller, was mighty glad
riding the Old Year out and the New Year in, swaying in that
roaring cab with the non-alcoholic Steve at the throttle. (Thanks
to ‘Rule-G’).

Past the sleeping little elevator village of Elroy we roared,
the Depot at Versailles, Ohio, was merely a flash as we clattered
by Steve shouting to me to ‘duck low’ as we did in case the
‘night op’ might happen to be looking out his
telegrapher’s bay-window, though no human eye could have
focused fast enough to have seen this stranger with the white shirt
and necktie in the cab.

Every few minutes, fireman Ebert yanked on the air, opening the
firebox door to examine the fuel combustion between its gaping
jaws, then slammed it shut, rendering us blinded for a few seconds
in the enveloping darkness that followed.

‘We’ll put you up in the railroad ‘Y’, said
Elbert, ‘after we get some-thing to eat.’

‘What I’ll they say with me being dressed in a white
shirt and tie?’ asked I.

‘We’ll tell ’em you’re a student brakeman,’
replied he, thinking that one up in a hurry. ‘Going out on your
first trip to learn the road.’

‘Come over here,’ shouted Steve from the right hand side
of the swaying cab, motioning for me to grab onto something solid
before I ventured to take a step on the rocking, vibrating deck
that at any instant could throw me in either direction out across
the ballast and into the night of nowhere.

Taking my seat directly behind the engineer, I could see the
telegraph poles and signals coming toward our cab window and
passing us like staves in a picket fence. The hand on the
locomotive speedometer crept up to eighty, then eighty-five and on
to ninety. We were passing over roadbed once called ‘the
racetrack’ by old-time engineers who often ‘let ’em
out’ to test their speed, prior to the speed recorders.

‘Want a blow the whistle?’ asked Steve, moving up enough
for me to grab the cord.

Like a little boy, I yanked on the cord and blew the only steam
locomotive whistle that I ever tooted as we raced through that dark
night and into the New Year. Suddenly the big locomotive began
swaying wildly as she headed into a wide curve, lurching this way
and that, then finally settling back onto the rails. Looking out
the right-side window of that lurching cab, I noticed lighted farm
houses far down below us and I pondered how, night after night,
those people had slept safe in their beds, as the big locomotives
swung wide and swayed, then settled back on the rails with only
two-inch flanges keeping hundreds of tons of steel from crashing
down the embankment and into their bedrooms.

There simply has been no other mode of travel as impressive as
riding the cab of a racing steam locomotive. It is an entirely
different dimension than riding in automobiles the smaller details
of highway travel become lost as entire farms are shoved past the
speeding train, entire woods race by, not just a building or a tree
at a time. Something was lost the soul of the railroads when steam
left the rails. They said there would be no dirt along the
railroads, if only steam was replaced by diesel. But not only has
steam been replaced, but so has the railroad passenger
transportation service, and all the glory of watching and hearing
the syncopation of the steam exhaust, the wail of the whistle and
the surge and rush of power that only steam could conjure in the
imagination of man and boy. And, instead of making things cleaner,
the last times I ever visited any large railroad depots, there was
so much oil on the walks and crossings it wasn’t safe to be
about, for slipping. This, and the closing of so many small-town
depots has convinced me that the coming of the diesel locomotive
has meant ‘D Day’or death to the wonderful sights and
sounds that once enthused and enthralled every true-blooded
American at the passing of a steam locomotive.

And now that Christmas Day is just past, I must confess I have
been a little selfish. I bought myself three old crank phonographs
an old Victroia, a large Columbia, and a small Edison which plays
the thick Edison disc records. I had been reading some old
literature and catalogs, claiming the superiority of the Edison
Diamond Disc Phonographs, but I wasn’t sure I believed them.
For they claimed the Edison Phonograph could perform on the stage
and match the live artist, side by side, so perfectly that even
musically critical audiences couldn’t tell the difference.
After I got my little old Edison Disc Phonograph, I realized that
their claims were quite true. I have never heard such pure
naturalness as this little Edison I just bought. It sounds just
like the orchestra or band is right before you, and each and every
instrument can be distinguished as truly as if in real life. It
puts electrical stereo outfits to shame by comparison. And to think
that Thomas Alva Edison did this, without benefit of any electrical
microphones or amplifiers which Victor and other manufacturers had
to employ later to equal his accomplishment in order to compete in
the markets. Victor later called their triumph the Orthophonic
Phonograph and record, but they accomplished it only by electrical
recording, although the phonograph remained purely acoustical in

While I was cranking and playing band and Christmas music on my
old Edison Disc Phonograph, Christmas Eve, my wife said she was
enjoying the Christmas tree lights quite as much as I was my
old-time recorded music. The thought struck me ‘If it
wasn’t for Thomas Alva Edison, I wouldn’t be enjoying the
music from this old phonograph, and you wouldn’t be enjoying
the electric Christmas tree lights, either.’

Thomas Edison is hardly mentioned in the modern classrooms of
today. The one man who brought recorded music into the world and
electric lights, not to mention his many other great inventions,
including moving pictures, from which all modern radio and TV sound
and pictures evolved. And yet hardly a school kid is aware of the
greatness of the one man who made it all so.

Another Man was born into the world, almost two-thousand years
ago, whose birthday we celebrate at this season of the year. He
brought music to the soul and made light shine in a darkened world
where no light had shone before. His life was devoted to teaching
men how to live with each other, thereby establishing the Kingdom
of God in men’s hearts and in the world. His message was
forgiveness of sin for not only the saint, but the hardened sinner
as well. He elevated the humble in spirit, gave comfort to the poor
and lowly, lifted the burdens of the weary, healed the sick, raised
the dead, made the lame walk and the blind to see. Yet He never
made a dime for all He did and in the end was crucified for doing
it. His only enemies were the overly-pious who walked about with
long faces and flowing robes, those who prayed the loudest and
longest in the chief seats of the synagogues the hypocrites, as He
called them, who dropped the biggest, noisiest coins into the
collection plates to make the greatest impression, the very ones
who crucified Him. He loved the widow who gave only a mite, the
outcast men and women who came to Him for help, He made into loyal
and devoted saints. The thief who was crucified on the cross beside
Him, upon calling His name during those last agonizing minutes, was
the only mortal ushered personally into Paradise with the Savior.
‘I say unto you today thou shall e with Me in Paradise.’
What a transformation for a life spent in wickedness to be suddenly
transformed from the torment of the world’s most dreadful hour
to a wonderful paradise where all men hope to someday be.
‘Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, shall be
saved.’ But men don’t have to wait for some ‘pie in the
sky’ heaven. For Jesus said, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is
right among you and within you.’ It’s how we live among our
fellow men and love our neighbor that makes the difference. The
sooner the better and the longer it will last.

But, along with that better life among our fellowmen, we must
also be vigilant about our bodies’ health. For it also is the
temple of God. I would ike to point out again the benefits of
taking Wheat Germ (Vitamin-E) which strengthens and rebuilds
weakened hearts. This can be bought at many drugstores now. Take a
couple of capsules, as outlined on the container, each day. The
Wheat Germ has been found to prevent clots that result in heart
damage. It has a startling power to actually strengthen and rebuild
a weakened heart.

Also, the using of Lecithin (pronounced Less-i-thin) each day a
couple spoons at each meal will clear cholesterol from the blood
vessels, restore a more normal blood pressure, even help clear the
mind of those who’ve suffered strokes. It is a miracle food.
You will like ts downright ‘grainy’ taste, if you buy the
granular form of it. It melts in the mouth, is delicious on many
foods, or eaten alone (as I like to do). Wonderful on cereal, or on
sandwiches, Tuna Fish, or in gravies. It emulsifies fats,
preventing them clogging the circulatory system which is so
damaging to the heart, the blood pressure and even the thinking

If you can’t buy any of these, or the Sea Salt, at your drug
or health store, write to: HOCHSTETLER’S, 251 E. Franklin St.,
New Holland, PA 17557. (See their ad in Mar.-Apr. GEM.)

Although we appreciate the many inquiries to these columns,
neither I nor the staff at the Enola, Pa., office are equipped to
take care of any natural food orders. All I do is tell you about
them, while the office prints the magazine so you can read about

So we are thankful that the HOCH-STETLER’S are going to sell
the Sea Salt, and we hope other Natural Foods, from their 251 E.
Franklin St., New Holland, Pa. address, zip code, 17557. Everyone
take note of their new ad which will be appearing in the
March-April issue of GAS ENGINE MAGAZINE.

Happy, Healthy New Year To All, (Despite Taxes).

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment