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Railroad Memorabilia Donated To Museum

Curtis Berry (center), curator of the Water Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum, accepts a never before seen photo of the Illinois Central Railroad machine shop from John and Marilyn Nelson of Eugene, Oregon. The couple came to Water Valley during a visit to the area to research John’s relatives.

WATER VALLEY – An Oregon couple with ties to Water Valley has donated a never before seen photograph of the railroad machine shop to the Water Valley Casey Jones Railroad Museum.

John and Marilyn Nelson of Eugene, Oregon visited the area recently seeking additional information about John’s relatives. Along with the photograph, which features John’s great-grandfather  W. H. Baker, they provided additional information about the creation of the machine shop here.

Marilyn Nelson transcribed some handwritten notes that W. H. Baker had kept in his journal that he may have read during his retirement ceremony around 1926. Baker wrote that he had come to Water Valley in 1866 to assist his father, J. W. Baker and George Fulmer place new machinery in the Water Valley shop.

Baker had been working at the Mississippi Central shop at Grenada before that and on December 1, 1866 the machinery from Grenada was moved here. He worked as an apprentice in the machine shop until February, 1867 when he was transferred to the boiler shop because of a shortage of helpers there.

Baker wrote that he did not like the boiler trade and requested a transfer to the machine shop, which was granted. He worked there until April, 1873 when he was suspended because of the great financial panic of that year.

Baker went to the Mobile and Ohio railroad shop at Jackson, Tennessee for four years before returning to Water Valley in June, 1877. He moved once more – this time to Meridian – before finally returning Water Valley in 1891 and finishing his career here.

“These many years of experience have taught me the loyalty of the Illinois Central,” he wrote. “Now in my old age they are my stand-by.”

Baker died in 1937 and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

The photograph is believed to have been taken in the late teens or early 1920s. It will be displayed at the museum and is the only interior photograph of the machine shop in the museum’s collection.

W. H. Baker, a long-time machinist, is pictured during the late teens or early 1920s in the Illinois Central Railroad machine shop at Water Valley. The photograph is the only known interior shot of the machine shop.

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