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Nothing Will Take The Place Of Steam

By Charles Cooper

Hello everyone.  Hope you’re having a good week.  

By now I think all of you know how much a hand written letter means to me.  This week, Janie Goodwin–Martin really made my day.  She is the daughter of John Goodwin, long time IC engineer and lives in Huntington Beach, Calif.  

Several years ago she sent me some pictures of the IC shop and depot area and some interesting information about her father. Although I didn’t know her father except to speak to, I remember him as a tall man with an ever present cigar.  

However, I did know her late husband, Harry Martin, as he came back to finish high school after seeing service in WWII. I remember having a couple of classes with him. Janie’s younger sister, Marie, graduated a couple of years before me so I didn’t know her very well.  

I do remember one time Harry and Janie and Marie came out of the Grand Theater and Harry and I spoke. He said “I’m with two good looking blondes tonight, Coop.” I agreed with him.  Janie told me that before Mr. Goodwin would agree for them to get married, he told Harry he had to get his high school diploma. And, that’s what Harry did after being discharged.  

Mr. Goodwin made a metal suitcase to carry on the engine. It caught so many  people’s attention that he made several for other railroad men. Janie said that the case Bruce Gurner had his foot on in the recent column was made by him. Jim Peacock said his dad also had one of his cases.  

Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin were driving up to Iowa to visit Harry and Janie when a truck came over in the wrong lane on old Hwy. 61 near Troy, Mo., and hit them head on. Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin were killed instantly and her older sister seriously injured.  

Janie loves hearing railroad stories and as long as I can come up with one, we’ll include them. Janie, I’ve only found two one-time railroad men who made runs with your dad, Taylor Williamson and Jim Peacock.  She said that she had given Mr. Goodwin’s watch to her oldest son and she knew how important a watch was to a railroad man.  

Janie, at the end of your two page letter you said not bad for an eighty–six year old and I say not bad for any age as letter writing is almost a lost art these days. Please don’t wait so long to write me again as input from all of you have been the backbone  of this column for the nearly ten years I’ve been writing it.  

Time Zones Established

In 1883 when the railroads established the four time zones in the USA a young railroad man saw the potential in watches and bought up all he could afford and sold them to railroad men.  He made a good profit and bought more and eventually was making more money from his side line than his railroad job so he quit and devoted all his time to his new business. His name was Richard Sears and as they say, “the rest is history.”   

A bit of railroad trivia–the Clinch Mountain Railroad in the Appalachians has consistently made a profit every year since its construction over a hundred years ago.  They followed a simple premise, stick with what works for you and for them it was hauling coal from the mines. The IC owned twelve miles of track from the coal mines in Winfield, Ala., to where they would interline with the Frisco.

My Dad and Jim Peacock’s Dad and many other Water Valley railroad men worked that job at one time or another. As a matter of fact, Dad worked that run so long once that he and Mother moved there when I was a baby. I don’t have any figures to back it up, but the IC probably made more money on that twelve miles than they did  from many of the more glamorous runs.

Some more railroad trivia–years ago the ice in the refrigerator cars was harvested in the winter from Lake Michigan. When the cars were unloaded, the railroad would let people come and take blocks of ice home.  That was before the waters of Lake Michigan became polluted. My uncle said that they had a special tool that cut the ice into blocks and loaded it onto a horse drawn wagon which came out on the ice. He said he never heard of the ice breaking  through  as the lake was frozen deep in the winter.   

It would appear that railroads are making a come back with such giants as CSX, BNSF, UP and Canadian Pacific but it will never  have the emotional  pull that the old trains did even though everything is so much more  efficient.  But, nothing will ever take the place of the old noisy dirty steam locomotive with the fireman and engineer hanging out their respective sides.

Give me some railroad info and I’m off and running so let me hear from you. My email address is cncooper! or write me at P.O. 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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