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CHAPTER IX—VISIT TO WESTINGHOUSE AIR-BRAKE-SHOPS. ATLANTA AND ST. PAUL

THE next year (1890) I was elected delegate to Pittsburg, Penn., the conventions still being held annually. We went via Montgomery, Nashville, Bowling Green, and Cincinnati, after which a twelve-hour run carried us to our destination. There was one peculiarity about Pittsburg; it was nearly always raining, not hard rain usually, but a sufficient sprinkle to make it safest always to carry an umbrella on going out. Perhaps the dampness intensified the smoky haze which hung continually over the city. At all events, the dense, murky atmosphere at once proclaimed it a manufacturing place of much importance.

An interesting feature was the burning of natural gas for heating purposes, the grates being filled with round lumps of clay, which looked beautiful when the gas was turned on. A fire of this kind can very easily be kept at an even temperature.

Early on the morning of October 22d, we started on an excursion to Altoona. On the way we passed Johnstown, where so many lives were lost by the breaking of the reservoir dam. It is a place of some size, extending for quite a distance along the track, and though it had been rebuilt, traces of the wreck could be seen in many places.

It was barely noon when we arrived at Altoona, but we didn't get our dinner until two o'clock. Our party was estimated at a thousand, and a hundred of us dined at the Central Hotel, after which we started out to see the sights. We first walked to the top of Gospel Hill, where we had a fine view of the town. Some of our party were attracted towards a brewery near by, and seemed to enjoy the beer immensely, judging from the way they made it disappear. We next visited the Pennsylvania Railroad shops, where we saw a huge engine lifted by a crane and swung from one track to another. We also visited the old Westinghouse Air-Brake Manufactory operated by steam, and one of the most interesting sights I had seen up to that date. There were thirty-six air-pumps running at one time in the room where they were tested. These pumps are all built by piece work, and several men are employed, who do nothing but experiment for the air-brake system. The company had just completed their new building run by electricity, but had not transferred their materials. We returned to Pittsburg well pleased with our visit to Altoona. The convention closed October 31st, and we began our homeward trip over the Pan Handle Route, where we were forcibly reminded of travel in the Rockies, as the track faced every point of the compass as it forged its way through the Alleghany Mountains.

The Grand International Division next convened in Atlanta, Georgia, May, 1892. The change of seasons had been made because October was considered too cold in the majority of the cities where the conventions were apt to be held.

We were proud of our Southland on this occasion, for Atlanta entertained us royally. The convention hall and committee room were in the State Capitol, and accommodations were simply grand! By the way, we were complimented by the janitor on being such a sober body of men. There were two excursions offered us at one time; one to Chattanooga, Tenn., and the other to Brunswick, Ga. We decided in favor of the latter, but as the trip was made at night, and there was such a crowd on the excursion train and no berths could be secured for sleeping, we got transportation on the regular train, which left between seven and eight o'clock P.M. We travelled in a Mann boudoir car, and were quite comfortable. Upon reaching Brunswick, we went to a hotel, then made our way to the boats bound for Cumberland Island, a distance of twenty-two miles. The officers in charge reported every boat loaded, and declared it would be unsafe to take any more passengers, so we accommodated ourselves to circumstances, and took a twelve-mile trip to St. Simon's Island. The ride was very pleasant and we enjoyed the walk to the Beach Hotel after landing. Arriving there, we were delighted with the view from the wide piazza. "Old Ocean" could be seen in all his majesty, and while eating dinner we watched the high waves beating and breaking on the shore. The salt breeze had given us an appetite, so no wonder that we thought it the finest meal we had ever eaten. Later, we watched the bathers for a while, and enjoyed the fun. At four o'clock when we started back to the dock to be ready for the boats, we found the beach covered by the incoming tide, and had to circle around and take another route. We again travelled all night on our way back to Atlanta, but arrived in shipshape, and feeling that nobody had a better time than we.

A few days later a nice little trip was given us to Stone Mountain, a distance of eighteen miles. We went in coal cars, which added to the enjoyment, and lovely views were afforded us from our homely carriages, as we rounded the mountain. Then came the climb which was tiresome but jolly, and every one who reached the top felt fully repaid in the lovely scenery spread out before us. Ice-cream and lemonade were served to the thirsty crowd at the Blue Ridge Hotel. The day was pleasantly spent on the mountain, and we arrived in Atlanta at 8:30, ready for a late supper.

Another interesting feature of the convention was an entertainment tendered the Brotherhood by the Southern Express Company, which consisted of addresses, dancing, and the most elaborate collation ever offered our Grand International Division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, when I have had the pleasure of serving as delegate. The decorations were beautiful and appropriate; in fact, the praises of that delightful affair have been sung at many conventions since, when old friends would get together and compare notes on the past.

The two leading newspaper forces of Atlanta, those of the Constitution and the Journal, also gave us a barbecue. The food was served in wooden trays, and there was a bountiful supply of several varieties of meats, with bread and pickles.

It has always been the custom at the conventions for the whole body to attend church services on Sunday whenever possible, and we went several times while in Atlanta. Our youngest daughter was with us, and she and her mother usually attended prayer-meeting besides.

The city held many pleasant memories for me, as I had been there in the early years of my railroad career, when the place was only a village. I saw several of the old landmarks, although there had been such an enormous increase in size and population since then.

Two years later (1894) came the St. Paul Convention. This city is very near the head of navigation of the Mississippi River, and its twin city, Minneapolis, is right at the head. I threw myself into convention work, and was at the Hall whenever business was going on, but when work was laid aside, I enjoyed the recreation as much as any one.

We found the aspect of the country entirely new. The timber is small and different from any I have ever seen, being of a very close fibre. Foremost of all, I enjoyed seeing the fine stock farms. That whole region is fertile, and I was struck by a peculiarity of the soil. It is rich for eight or ten feet, but below that depth is perfectly white sand, which gave me an idea that all of that country at one time must have been under water. This theory is evidently supported by the vast number of small lakes in the vicinity.

We were given a trip to Lake Minnetonka, which is navigable for three hundred miles, and on the way saw multitudinous lakes of different sizes. In walking around there, before we were out of sight of one body of water we would see another. We were informed that there were eight thousand surveyed lakes in that locality, and could well believe it.

We visited Minneapolis, and went through a mill that was said to turn out a greater number of barrels of flour than any other mill in the world.

We also saw the famous Minnehaha Falls, and it was a magnificent sight.

On our route, we took in the Soldiers' Home, which was a model of its kind. The old soldiers seemed to have every earthly comfort and appeared to enjoy company.

The convention was given a barbecue at Lake Harriet, a beautiful body of water, a short ride from St. Paul. As the time drew near for serving dinner, the delightful odor of the cooking meat attracted more and more the interested spectators; but soon, an unfortunate accident occurred. A large, juicy animal over the pit was just nearing the finishing stage when the saplings broke, and dropped the nicely browned meat into the fire and ashes. As that made a considerable difference in the allowance for dinner, it set things back for a while. This gave us additional appetite, and what was lacking in meat was fully made up in other edibles, and the fun we had over the mishap.

We next had an excursion to Duluth on Lake Superior which was very enjoyable.

Leaving St. Paul on Saturday night, we arrived there early the next morning in time for breakfast. The weather was cold, although it was May, and the ladies wore their heaviest wraps. There were several things of interest in the city, one of which was a building containing various and wonderful curios. We also noticed the many fine schools. Visiting the shipyard, we saw them building steel-clad vessels. The Columbus, which was exhibited at the World's Fair, was built there. We took a ride on the lake which delighted all, except those who were seasick. We went quite a distance, and on the way out, had a race between two of the boats. I was much gratified that the one we were in won, as it was the smaller vessel of the two. There was no sandy beach there, and no shells. Wherever we had been previously, on the ocean and lakes, we had found shells in plenty. Instead, we saw rocks in almost endless variety and shape. They had been rolled over and over by the rough water of the lake until they were perfectly smooth. My wife collected quite a lot, and took them home to use as paper weights.

We were charmed with the long twilight, discovering that we could easily see to read at nine o'clock at night. Our train left Duluth at ten o'clock, and reached St. Paul the next morning in time for breakfast, after which work was resumed in the Convention Hall.

An excursion to Yellowstone Park was offered, but was not accepted, one reason being that the majority of our members had spent almost all their money. Nevertheless we realized that we had turned our backs on a fine chance, and that nowhere else would be able to see such wonderful sights. Frances wanted me to get passes and go any way, but our two girls were awaiting our return home to take a trip to the Mid-Winter Fair in San Francisco, so we gave up the idea.


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