Well, for the first time in four years Central Florida has had a freeze. The temperature was 31 degrees when I got up this morning at 6:00 a.m. and at 12:00 noon, it has climbed up to 51 degrees. Not to worry. It is supposed to be in the 80s by Thursday.
The "Freeze of 1983" was the worst in my lifetime. It killed all the citrus trees and the growers decided it was more profitable to sell their land to developers than to replant orange trees. They not only got the price of the land but also participated in the development profits - all without investing (risking) a dime. Anyway, the days of driving through Orange and Lake Counties and seeing miles and miles of orange groves have been over since 1983 and any citrus that is left is being grown in South Florida.
I live in Sanford, which is north of Orlando on the St.Johns River. It used to be an agricultural center that was famous for vegetables, mostly celery. The farms have long ago been sold to developers. This has resulted in increased traffic and, since the developers never fully pay for their impact, local taxpayers have picked up the tab.
It is not all bad. Sanford is on the shore of Lake Monroe, which is really not a lake at all, but a wide spot in the St. Johns River. It is a large lake and the city has taken care to keep it attractive. I have attached a link to show you what the lakefront looks like.
We live in the "historic district" which has homes built from the 1880s through the 1920s (the "Florida Boom" ended at the end of 1929, like everywhere else.) We did not have to cover our plants to protect them from last night's freeze because our property is shaded by several giant oak trees that are over 100 years old and they provide sufficient frost protection.
There will be no Saturday Report again this week because the President of the Atlantic & Southern Railroad is still recuperating from surgery. The weather here in Central Florida is chilly. It was 41 degrees at dawn this morning and will only go into the high 50s today. But there is lots of sunshine. Sorry about that, New Englanders. While there is no report, there is a story. Your reporter has noted that attention has not been paid to any of the characters who live in and around Tahope recently so this week's story is an update on the adventures of Newt Fisher and his cousin, Donnie "Short Stack" Turner. Readers will recall these two, who regularly have scrapes with the law and have a hard time keeping a job with the railroad. They live in The Bottoms which is a dimly lit area with a large railroad yard on the lower level of the A&S. Newt and Shortstack live in a 1934 Airstream trailer parked next to the river. The river provides them with fish, crabs, bathing opportunity, and cooking water for Mulligan Stew. Their nearest neighbor is Boxcar Betty, who smokes cigars, drinks corn squeezins and has never lost a fight. For those of you who are new to the Saturday Report, there is some information about Newt Fisher and Short Stack interspersed within previous reports. Examples include "Inhabitants of Eaton's Curve (page 8, , Life in the Bottoms (page 10), Code Talkers (p.19), Striking it Rich on a Student Trip (page 22), and The Ride to the Great Divide (page 23). For information about Perkins' Farm see page 13.
The Purloined Breakfast
In late January 1949, Newt Fisher and his cousin, Donnie "Short Stack" Turner managed to convince the new yard boss at Summit to let them hire on as brakemen. For those readers who are not familiar with the weather in Central Florida, let me tell you that there are a few rainy grey days in January when the temperature gets down into the low 30s and the effect can be bone-chilling. It was one of those days when our heroes climbed aboard a Coast Line M3 red caboose for the run from Summit to Tampa. The train was powered by one of the Coast Line's famous P5B Pacifics, specifically designed for dual service duty and at home at the head of a freight drag or a 12-car streak of varnish, like the Southwind. It had been a long time since these characters had parked their carcasses in a red crumb box and the cold weather had whetted their appetites. Newt started a fire in the coal stove and Short Stack checked the crummy' s larder to see what was available for breakfast. He said, "Newt if we had some ham we could have ham and eggs if we had some eggs." The lack of vittles required putting thought to the problem. Quite a few delicacies could be gotten near the tracks if would-be foragers put their minds to it. The Brains was consulted when he climbed aboard and agreed that something had to be done about breakfast. Shortstack discovered the route that day would include a water stop at Piney Woods Station, which was located close by Farmer Perkins' farm. The two brakies convinced the Brains that a purloined breakfast was better than no breakfast at all, so a plan soon developed. The train pulled out of Summit Yard an hour before dawn and was 10 minutes ahead of schedule when it came to a stop at the water tank at Piney Woods. The Brains walked up to the engine to speak with the engineer, Uncle Henry O'Leary, while Newt and Short Stack skedaddled past the orange grove and into Farmer Perkins' chicken coop. They snatched a handful of eggs, grabbed a ham from the nearby smokehouse, and made a run for it back to the train. Farmer Perkins heard the commotion and stepped out onto his porch with his shotgun. He shot into the dark a few times but, since he could not see the thieves, his buckshot went wild. Newt had the presence of mind to snatch a few ripened oranges from one of Farmer Perkins' orange trees on their way back to the crummy. Soon the aroma of fried ham and eggs rose from the crummy' s smokestack and the crew feasted on breakfast washed down with Florida orange juice. Newt, who suffers from a fear of accomplishment, said to Short Stack, "I feel like I can accomplish anything! I've always wanted to say that." "And now you've accomplished it," said Short Stack And the train pulled out of Piney Woods on time.
Attached is a video taken a few years after our story showing the freght train (now diesel powered) passing Perkins' Farm and entering Piney Woods. The train passes the Piney Woods Station and proceeds across the Suwanee River Lagoon (rainstorm) and beyond.
Addendum to the December 31, 2021, Saturday Report.
A couple of weeks ago, I reported on Locomotive Safety and Regulation - particularly boilers and the practice of "trading water for steam." (See p. 80). Here is a website that has several photos of boiler explosions and an interesting video of an explosion in 1948 on the C&O involving a T-1 2-10-4. Keep your water glass full and these accidents won't happen. I suspect one of the members of this forum will recreate a boiler explosion disaster on his/her layout. Hopefully, it will be a staged photograph.
John - The Hooker and Son building is marvelous! I guess you have lots of time to do tedious work like that - being snowed in and all. I would have looked at the roof and said "not for me." It will look great when finally installed on your empire. Keep 'em coming!
There is no Saturday Report today because the Board of Directors meeting of the Atlantic & Southern Railroad was canceled. The CEO is recovering from surgery and both directors must be present (including your reporter, who is the Railroad's Ticket Agent) for there to be a quorum.
The February 1938 edition of Railroad Magazine was selected to get ideas for this week's story, but it was hard to get past the first few pages of advertisements. Here are examples:
"Be a Passenger Traffic Inspector. – Trained Men in Demand – Positions Ready. Men 19 to 50 -trained as railroad and bus passenger traffic inspectors are in constant demand. Our short home-study course qualifies you quickly and, upon completion, will place you at up to $135 per month plus expenses to start or refund tuition. Standard Business Training Institute of Buffalo, N.Y, Div. 5002. (No job description of just what a Passenger Traffic Inspector actually does was included in the ad.)
Start a Potato Chip Business in your home and make money. Buy potatoes for $.02 per lb. and sell "greaseless" chips for $.035 per lb. small investment buys complete equipment needed. No experience is necessary. Offered by Food Display Machine Corp., 3235 West Huron, Dept. D-232. Chicago.
LAW Study at Home – Legally trained men win higher positions and bigger success in business and public life. They command respect Greater opportunities now than ever before. Big corporations are headed by men with legal training. More ability, more prestige, more money! We guide you step by step. You can train at home during spare time. Degree of LL.B. conferred. Successful graduates in every sector of the United States. We furnish text materials, including a fourteen-volume law library. Low cost, easy terms. LASALLE EXTENSION, Dept. 258-L, Chicago.
I'LL TRAIN YOU AT HOME in your spare time for a GOOD RADIO JOB. Many radio experts make $30, $50, $75 a week! National Radio Institute, Washington, D.C.
HERE'S THE WAY TO BECOME AND EXPERT ON DIESEL ENGINES * International Correspondence Schools, P. O. Box 2206, Scranton, Penna.
FISTULA – Anyone suffering from Fistula, Piles, or Non-Malignant rectal trouble is urged to write for our FREE Book describing the McCleary Treatment for those insidious rectal troubles. The McCleary Treatment has been successful in thousands of cases. Let us send you our reference list of former patients living in every state of the Union. The McCleary Clinic, D-207 Elms Blvd., Excelsior Springs, Mo.
In addition to the valuable products advertised, the February 1938 Railroad Magazine had a page of short 'jokes." Here are three of them. Humor in 1938 was a little different, but it is funnier after a cocktail or two. (The jokes have been rewritten to have taken place on the A&S.)
Slight Misunderstanding: On the Atlantic & Southern, at Sanlando, there is one man who fills the position of caller, operator, and dispatcher, besides just about everything else that needs doing. His title is Train Dispatcher. One day a fellow from the General Office called on the phone with a rush message for transmission, asking who had received the message "Dodge," answered the Dispatcher. "Right, Mr. Hodge." "The name is DODGE!" shouted the dispatcher. "What would you do if someone threw a brick at you?" "Duck," he replied. "O. K., Mr. Duck."
BEAR MEAT A certain brakeman on the A&S liked to be known as "hard-boiled." One day he walked into Sweaty Bett's Diner, pounded on the counter and cried in a loud voice, "I want service." The waiter asked for his order. "I want bear meat," said he. "Just what cut of bear meat would you like to have?" "Run the bear out here," was the reply. "I'll tear out what I want."
JUST LIKE OTHER PASSENGERS A lady boarded the Champion at the Summit Station, carrying her dog with her. She asked the conductor, "If I pay my dog's fare will he be treated like any other passenger and be allowed to occupy a seat?" The conductor answered, "Of course, madame. He will be treated the same as any other passenger and can occupy a seat, provided he does not put his feet on it."
Curt - Very neat structure. I like the contrasting materials on the covered outside entrance/fire escape stairway. Of course, we don't have any of those covered stairways here in Florida because the weather is temperate and, although it frequently rains, true Floridians are used to afternoon showers that come and go.
For those who are new to the forum or are just visiting, you can find out all about Tom Langford and the Atlantic & Southern Railroad if you go to Layout Tours and read the numerous editions of the Saturday Report.
Tom is biting at the bit to get back to the shed. Unfortunately, it takes time to recover from surgery. He has a new kit (I think the Babe gave it to him for Christmas) that has several structures in it. He said he read through the 21 pages of instructions to familiarize himself with the kit. I bet he is already figuring out how he will improve it. I think I saw the box the last time I was in the shed and it seems to me it had a triangular-shaped building in it. I would recognize the name if I saw it again. I'll ask next time I speak with Tom.
I spoke with Tom on the phone yesterday. He says his nurse (who visits periodically) is confident that his progress is ahead of schedule. Tom is not one to complain, but he says he has discomfort due to coughing (coughing is good). He found he was able to get some sleep by sitting in a recliner - too early for sitting upright or fully reclining. His spirits are good and he looks forward to getting back to the shed. I will keep you posted on his progress.
Well, its 48 degrees here in beautiful Central Florida at 0630 hours. Rain yesterday as part of the nastiness further north. Today should be bathed in Florida sunshine with a high in the mid-60s. It gets warmer later in the week - low 80s.
I will be doing a little light work today.
Yesterday, I ran through the horn sequences on a new TCS WOW Sound decoder and discovered three new Baldwin horns. TCS upgrades their decoders for a minimal charge if you send the old one back to them. I will probably send the decoders for our Sharks, Centipedes, and an S-12 back to TCS.
Meanwhile, I have been waiting for delivery of Rapido's PAs for nearly two years and I am told they are "in transit." That means they are in a container somewhere off the California coast. As the followers of the adventures of the Atlantic & Southern will remember, we acquired an 11-car passenger train of California Zephyr vintage several years ago and added A-B-A lash-ups of D&RGW F3s and CB&Q F2s. We justified this extravagant purchase to create a leased Gulf Breeze section of the Pensacola Zephyr. I know, it was a stretch, but the cars and the western diesels look good speeding through Sanlando. Anyway, I decided that a set of D&RGW PAs would round out the train so they were ordered. It may be 2023 before they are delivered. Here are a couple of "run-bys" for illustrative purposes.
There will be no formal Saturday Report today due to the A&S CEO being laid up recovering from open-heart surgery. Your reporter spoke with him by telephone yesterday and his recovery is proceeding nicely, thank you.
Your reporter has always been fascinated with railroading back in the link and pin days and he stumbled across an article in the July 1940 Railroad Magizinge this morning that provides the basis for this week's story.
Each month, the publication had a section called "True Tales of the Rails" and it usually contained three or four short stories. The July 1940 issue included a story entitled "50 Years on the High Iron." As you might imagine, it tracked the career of a railroader whose first job was in the 1880s. Two of the tales contained within the article are reviewed this week.
THE WAY THINGS WERE
A. L. Butcher made a fifty-year career of railroading beginning in the 1880s. He lived in Tennessee and spent most of his career on the L&N or subsidiary railroads many of which have long been forgotten, such as the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia. His first job was as a roundhouse flunkey and he was the butt of jokes typical of the era. He was sent to look for a left-handed link or a three-cornered pin. He was ordered by the "car knocker" to walk about a quarter of a mile carrying a drawhead on his back, saying this was very necessary in training to be a switchman. In those days, the yard conductors hired their own brakemen, and Butcher's first run as a brakie was mid-winter in Tennessee. The temperature sat at six below zero and since this was before air brakes, he had to "decorate" the tops of the cars and work the hand brakes in response to whistles from the engineer. As an additional duty in those days, brakemen had to wrestle 250lb bags of salt to the tops of the cars and spread the contents on the wooden running boards to discourage ice from forming. Train crews worked sixteen hours a day. Conductors were paid $75.00 a month, while brakemen made $40.00. Butcher says they could live as well on that as rails can live in 1940 "on twice that amount." Butcher had a friend who had been railroading since the 1870s and he related a trip when Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederacy, rode his train as a passenger. His friend, Ross Smith, hauled freight during the Civil War on the ET&V, first for the Confederates and then for the Yankees, whichever side was holding that stretch of the railroad. The Federal Government gave all conductors the rank of captain under the authority of the army and they were still called captain even in 1940. (Your reporter's grandfather was a conductor on the ACL from 1900 until his death in1936 and he was called "Captain" until the day he died.) Smith was proud to have been the conductor in 1873 on the train on which Jefferson Davis traveled back to his home in Mississippi after he was released from Fort Monroe. Smith recalled the incident as follows: "Jeff Davis got on my train at Bristol. He sat alone in the back of a coach, staring out a window most of the trip. Evidently, he was most dejected. But when we stopped at Jonesboro, the site of a tragic battle, I watched the old Confederate leader get off the train, head erect, shoulders squared, and stride briskly over to the Capt. James Sevier Hotel for lunch. A real man, I thought, a fine Southern gentleman."
I spoke with Tom on the phone yesterday - He called me. He is making progress daily. He is trying to walk four times a day, but it is too early for distances more than a few yards. Fatigue is the problem. And that is normal, especially for those of us who are no longer teenagers. He has cleared the post-op cough and he is glad of that.
He has a therapist visit three times a week. He thinks it will be four to six weeks before he is able to get to work in the shed.
Morale is high!
We are going to talk on the phone several times a week and I will keep you posted.
Word from "The Babe" is that Tom's physicians have decided to keep him hospitalized for another day. All appears to be well. He is very upbeat and morale is excellent. I can't believe someone would be released from the hospital so soon after open-heart surgery. But they move them out quickly nowadays. "The Babe" reports that his in-home recovery will take several (4-6) weeks. I do not know about rehab yet. Howsumever, I expect he will be building HO scale structures before the fourth week is up. I will wait a few days before arranging a visit so he can get used to his situation.