By J. K. Gurner
Up to now, most of what I have written about are some of the more unusual events that took place in the building and development of the Mississippi Central Railroad and the Mississippi Division after the take over by the Illinois Central Railroad.
Now I am going to tell some of the stories I was told about the men who lived in Water Valley and worked for the railroad. For the most part these stories are true, but no man who worked on the road for any time at all could tell the whole truth about anything. If he did he would probably have been fired.
Take for example the time Ben Barrett was firing for Brassie Waldron going north on train #24 back in the twenties. It was Mardi Gras time and they met three sections of southbound passenger train #3 heading for New Orleans.
For reason only known to him, engineer Waldron had failed to answer any of the whistle signals from the three passenger trains. Superintendent A. D. Caulfield was on the first section, Trainmaster Spang-ler was on the second, and Traveling Engineer Seibert was on the third section. Any one of these men could fire a man for a lot less.
The crew from train #24 was in the lunch counter at Grenada when conductor Henry Carr came in waving a message. “Well Brassy, old boy, we are in for it now,” Bruce Gurner quoted Carr as saying. The message read: “For what reason did you fail to answer signals of first train #3 at Duckhill?” It was signed by Superintendent Caulfield. “Well Henry, that’s no problem, the whistle won’t blow cause the whistle’s gone.” Engineer Waldron was said to have replied.
Northbound train #24 loaded up and left the station at Grenada headed for Water Valley. As they went over the Yalobusha river bridge, Mr. Waldron grabbed a monkey wrench and rushed out on the running board to the whistle dome. He quickly removed the whistle and threw it into the river. Waldron supposedly said to his fireman, “ Now remember Ben, you didn’t see a thing.”
One of the railroad officials had wired ahead, for when the engine of train #24 got to the Water Valley shops, Fred Myers, the roundhouse foreman, climbed up on the engine to check the whistle. Nothing further was ever said.
Not even Superintendent Caulfield would argue that case. But, after such a close call, Waldron followed the rulebook to the letter.