Home  

CHAPTER XIX—RETIREMENT; TRIBUTE TO BROTHER ENGINEERS

JUST two weeks before the celebration of our golden wedding, on October 3d, I made my last run, though not conscious of the fact at the time. On that trip I got a cinder in one of my eyes which caused me a great deal of trouble, and finally made me decide to give up my life work, as I was unwilling to endanger the lives of the travelling public through a defective eyesight. All my life I have enjoyed excellent health, but time is relentless, and I was not so well able to cope with the "iron horse" as in days gone by, so that it was just as well that so small a thing as a cinder brought about my retirement, which could not have been long postponed. We "railroad boys" love our engines, our life of movement and responsibility, and it comes hard to give it all up.

I feel that I have been successful as an engineer. Duty has been my watchword, and if I have fallen short in any respect, it was not for lack of giving my best effort to accomplish what was required of me. I was called to the Superintendent's office once for running a railroad crossing, but explained it satisfactorily. On the other hand, I have received commendation from railroad officials upon different occasions, one of which I will mention.

In the days of the E. T. V. & G. R. R., as I was at the rear of the train examining the brakes before leaving Selma one evening, the General Superintendent of the road approached and asked if I was not going out that night. Upon my reply in the affirmative, he said, "Then your place is on the engine. We have our inspectors to attend to the brakes." "But," said I, "they don't always do it, and I make it a point to see for myself if they are in condition to handle the train." So, as usual I did not go forward until I saw the brakes applied and properly adjusted, though the Superintendent kept on insisting that he only held me responsible for taking care of the engine.

A few months later the General Manager of the E. T. V. & G. and the Q. & C. railroads took a trip of inspection over the entire system, starting from Knoxville, Tenn. Between that point and Selma, via Atlanta and Macon, six engines were disabled, and the special delayed. After leaving Rome, they wired Selma to have an engine ready. Our Master Mechanic sent for me, and said he wanted the 159 with me on it, to start for Meridian with the special upon its arrival. It reached here at four o'clock, and a few minutes later, we were off. From Meridian we went over the Mobile & Ohio to Corinth, Miss., thence over the Memphis & Charleston to Memphis, arriving at seven P.m. My engine was giving satisfaction.

The Superintendent had made a schedule for this special from Memphis to Tuscumbia, a distance of 140 miles at 48 miles per hour. The Engineer who was to make the trip said that no train had ever been run over that road at such a rate of speed, and it couldn't be done. I told him that better time could be made with the 159, as all he had to do was to hold her open, adding that my first run was done on that piece of track, and I knew I could make the schedule time. "Well," he replied, "being much better acquainted with the road, I can do it too." He did; pulling into Tuscumbia on time, after being delayed ten minutes at one point. He told me that my engine "was the fastest thing he was ever on." The Tuscumbia paper contained an article the next morning about engine 159 on the M. & C., making the best time by thirty minutes that had been done since the road was built. I told the editor that the engine belonged to the E. T. V. & G. Railroad and that I wanted his statement corrected.

We went to Sheffield and back, then to Chattanooga and Cleveland. The same Superintendent who got after me about overseeing the adjusting of the brakes on the coaches was aboard the whole trip, and at Cleveland he came to me and said " Mr. Thomas, I want to congratulate you. We had six engines coupled to this train before getting yours, and all failed. You've handled this special over seven hundred miles, having no delay of any kind. This is very gratifying to me, and I want to say that I have learned that a man who will examine the air-brakes on the coaches he pulls will look after his engine. Accept my compliments. I am perfectly satisfied that should I ever call on you to make the run from Selma, Ala., to New York City, we would arrive without a delay."

Just such little precautions have saved not only valuable time but human lives, and prevented the loss of thousands of dollars' worth of the railroad company's property.

My rule of action has always been to treat others as I would be treated. Doing this saves us from having trouble in our business or elsewhere.

With my retirement, the family has lost a long-standing occupation, that of waving good-bye as my train started on each run. From Frances down to our eleven-year-old shepherd dog, Jack—who at an early age took up the custom (he being a highly educated canine)—they have been on hand at the side door and waved until the houses at North Selma hid me from sight. At one time my youngest daughter even had a pet gander which she trained to take part in the group, while Frances has defaced her own property and cut down other people's trees in order to have the coast clear.

In December of 1910 I spent two weeks at Healing Springs, accompanied by one of my daughters, and we were both greatly benefited. I would have liked to have remained longer, but we all had rather be at home during the blessed Christmas time. Healing Springs is in Washington County of this State, and is a restful and health-giving resort. It was while I was there that a communication was received to the effect that the brothers of Division 223 had sent a petition to the Manager of the Southern Railway requesting a pension for me. The reply was sent, and this was the first intimation I had of the matter. The sum decided upon was not a great one, but it was altogether unexpected, and highly appreciated by me. During all the years I have been in the service of the Southern Railway, I have been treated fairly and have been the recipient of many courtesies. I do not know of any railroad system that is more considerate of its employees. In the Division a number of the members wanted me to fill my offices until their legitimate expiration, almost a year later, but I declined, though I attend the meetings regularly, and am as interested as ever in all business of the Brotherhood.

At the time of my retirement, there was not a man occupying a position on the road in any capacity who was here when I began running out of Selma. For forty years, I headed the seniority list of engineers on the Mobile Division, and but one of our older men remains in active service. One by one they have entered the Terminal of life's journey.

Mike Fitzgerald was the first to go, early in the seventies. He was a member of Division No. 26, and leaving the railroad on account of his health, ere long died of consumption. Jack Sitton followed, stricken by the same dreaded disease ten years later. Burr Warner lost his hearing, and worked in the shop seven or eight years before his death. Jack Howdon, who had run a passenger for many years, and represented Division 223 at the San Francisco Convention, died of pneumonia in 1897. Bailey Green, after fifteen years' service, passed away with consumption. Charlie Vining was killed in a collision on the A. G. S. R. R., which occurred between York and Meridian. Bony Cisco spent most of his life on this road, giving out at the age of seventy-two after about forty years' service. John Smith entered Meridian on his regular run March 2, 1906, and was killed there in a cyclone that night, being in a boarding-house that was blown down. He had run here close on to twenty-five years. Frank Little was killed the following year over on the Akron Branch, on account of the engine being derailed and turning over. Frank Donnor, who came next to me for ten years, died of paralysis in 1908, after a service of fully forty years. These were all good men who gave of their best to the railroad company, and to their travelling fellowmen.

These days, my Frances and I are living quietly at home the greater portion of the time. The tracks have multiplied with the passing years, and are now on both sides of us. I enjoy seeing the trains pass and watching the switching, though the members of my family sometimes complain of the noise of the engines. We still take little trips occasionally for recreation, having had a delightful outing the past summer at Coden, a popular resort on the Gulf coast, thirty miles from Mobile. This pleasure was given us by our boy, J. J. Thomas, Jr., who is now Superintendent of Motive Power of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. Hotel Joullian is an ideal place for spending the heated term, and one meets with splendid hospitality there.

Lately, we have made a most enjoyable visit to one of my brothers in Durant, Miss., who is also a locomotive engineer, and whom I had not seen for twenty years. Just one other brothe—ra Methodist preacher—and two sisters remain to me out of a family of eleven children, all of whom lived to be grown.

Frances and I must be getting old, but she maintains that she doesn't feel it, and everybody tells me I don't look it. However, our fifty-first anniversary has just passed, and another Christmas season is almost at hand, when I shall be seventy three, and Frances is only six years younger. But, perhaps, we are both good for something yet, and while life and health are given us, we will try to use what energy and talents we possess for the benefit of those around us, and so gliding down life's stream, enter at last the blessed Haven of Rest.


Table of Contents | Next Chapter | Contents Page

Home
Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery