The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2006

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Wintertime Railroading

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Richard Palmer

Rome Daily Sentinel, Mar. 24, 1885, Pg. 1, Col. 4

The Locomotive in Winter

A locomotive cab, in winter is a dreary place. It is bad in daytime, but on a winter night, when the snow flies fast, the locomotive cab is a good place to keep out of. Even in the day it is impossible to see anything if a snow storm prevails. Nothing can be seen ahead but a jumping-off place. The windows are frozen up or covered with snow, and from innumerable cracks and crevices around the floor where it joins the boiler come draughts that bite and sting. The engine caws like a crow — haugh, haugh, now fast, now slow, according as the drifts covers the track or uncover it for a brief space, and when it strikes a drift it throws the snow in blinding clouds all over itself, just as the spray flies over a vessel shipping a sea. The track is rough, for the frost has disturbed it, and the engine lurches ahead, staggering to and fro like a drunken man.

There are few more impressive spectacles in this world than a powerful locomotive laboring through a heavy snow storm. To the observer beside the track it looms up through the gloom tremendous and awful. The locomotive seems the embodiment of the death angel, moving swiftly and noiselessly. The snow has muffled the whir of the rolling friction of the wheels on the rails, and the train glides by like the insubstantial pageant of a dream. With its black breath, its snorts of fire, its hoarse voice, it is truly Apollyon, the destroying angle, and the man must be un-impressible indeed who does not feel a thrill at its advent. —Mechanical Engineer

Cortland Democrat, Friday, Feb. 15, 1901

(Note: This incident occurred on the Erie & Central New York Railroad, an 18-mile line that eventually became the Cincinnatus branch of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. )

The Boiler Foamed

An Engineer on the Erie & Central N.Y. Alarmed
— The Boiler Loaded With Milk — The Engineer a Very Surprised Man
— Dare Not Leave East Freetown Because His Locomotive Was Foaming Badly
— An Unintentional Joke, But a Rich One.

Since L. N. Frederick became general manager of the Erie & Central New York Railroad many innovations have taken place on the line of the road, and so far as we can learn they have all been of a beneficial nature, except possibly a new departure inaugurated on Monday of this week, for which Mr. Frederick is in no wise responsible.

When one of the trains en route for Cortland reached East Freetown on that day the engineer noticed something wrong about the boiler and upon investigating the matter he learned that the locomotive was "foaming." Now when a locomotive foams, why, she foams, and we believe such a circumstance disarranges the plans of the engineer, who in this situation called the manager's office by phone and informed Mr. Frederick that his locomotive was "foaming," and that he had doubts of his ability to pull his train to Cortland.

The manager didn't scare worth a cent, and he calmly told the engineer to remain at East Freetown until he could send another engine to bring the train to its destination. When engine No. 2 arrived on the scene, the locomotive which had been "foaming" was found on the side track, and the engineer had made the startling discovery that the boiler was full of milk, which of course, when brought to the boiling point very naturally "foamed" to a surprising extent. To say that the engineer was surprised is putting it mildly. He was mystified. He couldn't account for it. Had the day of miracles returned? Had the locomotive the power to convert water into milk? Or had a herd of cows been pasturing around the boiler during the night?

The explanation of this phenomenon is this: The gentleman who has charge of the milk station at Cincinnatus, who is supposed to supply the water tank at that place, had accidentally turned the wrong valve and the result was that the tank became supplied with milk instead of water. On account of the natural greasy qualities in the milk, it became necessary to thoroughly cleanse, not only the locomotive boiler, but the water tank as well, not a very desirable job.

The circumstance brings up a train of thought that may lead to a revolution in railroad [travel], and why may not this comparatively small Cincinnatus road take advantage of the accident to make a name for itself and become world wide famous? Suppose all the locomotives on the passenger trains were to be supplied with milk at the the several stations, and while it made steam as a motive power, suppose pipes were brought into use connecting the boiler with the passenger cars, how easy it would be to furnish the patrons of the road during the winter months with hot drinks of delicious milk. What a popular road it would be for babies! And the scheme could be carried still farther by substituting water in which were several pounds of coffee, and in like manner the passengers could help themselves to this warming beverage at will. These hints come to the writer as he reviews the strange discovery of the frightened engineer whose locomotive "foamed," and they are thrown out for Manager Frederick's consideration, who will, we are sure, appreciate the Democrat's assistance in taking suggestions for the good of the Erie & Central New York Railroad. By all means take advantage of this milk episode.

© 2006, Richard Palmer
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