IT was the second month of the strike,
and not a pound of freight had been
removed. Things did look smoky on
the West End. The General Superintendent happened to be with us when the
news came. "You can't handle it, boys,"
said he nervously. "What you'd better do
is to turn it over to the Columbian Pacific."
Our contracting freight agent on the
Coast at that time was a fellow so erratic
that he was nicknamed "Crazy-horse."
Right in the midst of the strike Crazy-horse
wired that he had secured a big shipment
for New York. We were paralyzed. We
had no engineers, no firemen, and no motive
power to speak of. The strikers were pounding our men, wrecking our trains, and giving us the worst of it generally; that is, when
we couldn't give it to them. Why the fellow displayed his activity at that particular
juncture still remains a mystery. Perhaps
he had a grudge against the road; if so, he
took an artful revenge. Everybody on the
system with ordinary railroad sense knew
that our struggle was to keep clean of
freight business until we got rid of our
strike. Anything valuable or perishable was
especially unwelcome. But the stuff was
docked, and loaded, and consigned in our
care before we knew it. After that, a refusal
to carry it would be like hoisting the white
flag; and that is something which never yet
flew over the West End.
"Turn it over to the Columbian," said
the General Superintendent; but the General
Superintendent was not looked up to on our
division. He hadn't enough sand. Our
head was a fighter, and he gave tone to every
man under him. "No," he thundered, bringing down his fist. "Not in a thousand
years. We'll move it ourselves. Wire
Montgomery [the General Manager] that
we will take care of it. And wire him to
fire Crazy-horse - and to do it right off."
And before the silk was turned over to us
Crazy-horse was looking for another job. It
is the only case on record where a freight
hustler was discharged for getting business.
There were twelve carloads; it was insured for $85,000 a car; you can figure how
far the title is wrong but you never can
estimate the worry the stuff gave us. It
looked as big as twelve million dollars'
worth. In fact, one scrub car-tink, with the
glory of the West End at heart, had a fight
over the amount with a skeptical hostler. He
maintained that the actual money value was
a hundred and twenty millions; but I give
you the figures just as they went over the
wire, and they are right.
What bothered us most was that the
strikers had the tip almost as soon as we
had it. Having friends on every road in the
country, they knew as much about our business as we ourselves. The minute it was
announced that we should move the silk,
they were after us. It was a defiance; a last
one. If we could move freight - for we
were already moving passengers after a
fashion - the strike might be well accounted
Stewart, the leader of the local contingent, together with his followers, got after
me at once. "You don't show much sense,
Reed," said he. "You fellows here are breaking your necks to get things moving, and
when this strike's over, if our boys ask for
your discharge, they'll get it. This road
can't run without our engineers. We're
going to beat you. If you dare try to move
this silk, we'll have your scalp when it's over.
You'll never get your silk to Zanesville, I'll
promise you that. And if you ditch it and
make a million-dollar loss, you'll get let out
anyway, my buck."
"I'm here to obey orders, Stewart," said
I. What was the use of more? I felt uncomfortable; but we had determined to move
the silk; there was no more to be said.
When I went over to the round-house and
told Neighbor the decision, he said never a
word; but he looked a great deal. Neighbor's task was to supply the motive power.
All that we had, uncrippled, was in the passenger service, because passengers should be
taken care of first of all. In order to win
a strike, you must have public opinion on
"Nevertheless, Neighbor," said I, after
we had talked a while, "we must move the
Neighbor studied; then he roared at his
foreman. "Send Bartholomew Mullen here."
He spoke with a decision that made me think
the business was done. I had never happened, it is true, to hear of Bartholomew
Mullen in the department of motive power;
but the impression the name gave me was of
a monstrous fellow, big as Neighbor, or old
man Sankey, or Dad Hamilton. "I'll put
Bartholomew ahead of it," said Neighbor
I saw a boy walk into the office. "Mr.
Garten said you wanted me sir," said he,
addressing the Master Mechanic.
"I do, Bartholomew," responded Neighbor.
The figure in my mind's eye shrunk in a
twinkling. Then it occurred to me that it
must be this boy's father who was wanted.
"You have been begging for a chance to
take out an engine, Bartholomew," began
Neighbor coldly; and I knew it was on.
"You want to get killed, Bartholomew."
Bartholomew smiled as if the idea was not
"How would you like to go pilot to-morrow for McCurdy? You to take the 44 and
run as first Seventy-eight. McCurdy will
run as second Seventy-eight."
"I know I could run an engine all right,"
ventured Bartholomew, as if Neighbor were
the only one taking the chances in giving
him an engine. "I know the track from
here to Zanesville. I helped McNeff fire one
"Then go home, and go to bed; and be
over here at six o'clock to-morrow morning.
And sleep sound, for it may be your last
It was plain that the Master Mechanic
hated to do it; it was simply sheer necessity. "He's a wiper," mused Neighbor as
Bartholomew walked springily away. "I
took him in here sweeping two years ago.
He ought to be firing now, but the union
held him back; that's why he don't like them.
He knows more about an engine now than
half the lodge. They'd better have let him
in," said the Master Mechanic grimly. "He
may be the means of breaking their backs
yet. If I give him an engine and he runs it,
I'll never take him off, union or no union,
strike or no strike."
"How old is that boy," I asked.
"Eighteen; and never a kith or a kin that
I know of. Bartholomew Mullen," mused
Neighbor, as the slight figure moved across
the flat, "big name - small boy. Well, Bartholomew, you'll know something more by
to-morrow night about running an engine,
or a whole lot less: that's as it happens.
If he gets killed, it's your fault, Reed."
He meant that I was calling on him for
men when he couldn't supply them.
"I heard once," he went on, "about a
fellow named Bartholomew being mixed up
in a massacree. But I take it he must have
been an older man than our Bartholomew - nor his other name wasn't Mullen, neither.
I disremember just what it was; but it wasn't
"Well, don't say I want to get the boy
killed, Neighbor," I protested. "I've got
plenty to answer for. I'm here to run trains
- when there are any to run; that's murder
enough for me. You needn't send Bartholomew out on my account."
"Give him a slow schedule, and I'll give
him orders to jump early; that's all we can
do. If the strikers don't ditch him, he'll
get through somehow."
It stuck in my crop - the idea of putting
that boy on a pilot engine to take all the
dangers ahead of that particular train; but
I had a good deal else to think of besides.
From the minute the silk got into the McCloud yards, we posted double guards
around. About twelve o'clock that night we
held a council of war, which ended in our
running the train into the out freight-house.
The result was that by morning we had a
new train made up. It consisted of fourteen
refrigerator cars loaded with oranges which
had come in mysteriously the night before.
It was announced that the silk would be
held for the present and the oranges rushed
through at once. Bright and early the refrigerator train was run down to the ice-houses, and twenty men were put to work
icing the oranges. At seven o'clock, McCurdy
pulled in the local passenger with engine
105. Our plan was to cancel the local and
run him right out with the oranges. When
he got in, he reported that the 105 had
sprung a tire; this threw us out entirely.
There was a hurried conference in the round-house.
"What can you do?" asked the Superintendent in desperation.
"There's only one thing I can do. Put
Bartholomew Mullen on it with the 44, and
put McCurdy to bed for Number Two to-night," responded Neighbor.
We were running first in first out; but we
took care always to have somebody for One
and Two who at least knew an injector from
It was eight o'clock. I looked into the
locomotive stalls. The first - the only - man
in sight was Bartholomew Mullen, He was
very busy polishing the 44. He had good
steam on her, and the old tub was wheezing
away as if she had the asthma. The 44 was
old; she was homely; she was rickety; but
Bartholomew Mullen wiped her battered
nose as deferentially as if she had been a
spick-span, spider-driver, tail-truck mail-racer. She wasn't much - the 44. But in
those days Bartholomew wasn't much: and
the 44 was Bartholomew's.
"How is she steaming, Bartholomew?"
I sang out; he was right in the middle of
her. Looking up, he fingered his waste
modestly and blushed through a dab of
crude petroleum over his eye. "Hundred
and thirty pounds, sir. She's a terrible free
steamer, the old 44. I'm all ready to run
"Who's marked up to fire for you, Bartholomew?"
Bartholomew Mullen looked at me fraternally. "Neighbor couldn't give me anybody
but a wiper, sir," said Bartholomew, in a
sort of a wouldn't-that-kill-you tone.
The unconscious arrogance of the boy
quite knocked me: so soon had honors
changed his point of view. Last night a despised wiper; at daybreak, an engineer; and
his nose in the air at the idea of taking on
a wiper for fireman. And all so innocent.
"Would you object, Bartholomew," I suggested gently, "to a train-master for fireman?"
"I don't - think so, sir."
"Thank you; because I am going down to
Zanesville this morning myself, and I
thought I'd ride with you. Is it all right?"
"Oh, yes, sir - if Neighbor doesn't care."
I smiled: he didn't know whom Neighbor
took orders from; but he thought, evidently,
not from me.
"Then run her down to the oranges, Bartholomew, and couple on, and we'll order
ourselves out. See?"
The 44 looked like a baby-carriage when
we got her in front of the refrigerators.
However, after the necessary preliminaries,
we gave a very sporty toot, and pulled out.
In a few minutes we were sailing down the
For fifty miles we bobbed along with our
cargo of iced silk as easy as old shoes; for
I need hardly explain that we had packed
the silk into the refrigerators to confuse the
strikers. The great risk was that they would
try to ditch us.
I was watching the track as a mouse would
a cat, looking every minute for trouble. We
cleared the gumbo cut west of the Beaver
at a pretty good clip, in order to make the
grade on the other side. The bridge there
is hidden in summer by a grove of blackberries. I had just pulled open to cool her a
bit when I noticed how high the back-water
was on each side of the track. Suddenly I
felt the fill going soft under the drivers; felt
the 44 wobble and slew. Bartholomew shut
off hard, and threw the air as I sprang to
the window. The peaceful little creek ahead
looked as angry as the Platte in April water,
and the bottoms were a lake.
Somewhere up the valley there had been
a cloudburst, for overhead the sun was
bright. The Beaver was roaring over its
banks, and the bridge was out. Bartholomew screamed for brakes; it looked as if we
were against it - and hard. A soft track to
stop on; a torrent of storm-water ahead, and
ten hundred thousand dollars' worth of silk
behind, not to mention equipment.
I yelled at Bartholomew, and motioned for
him to jump; my conscience is clear on that
point. The 44 was stumbling along, trying
like a drunken man to hang to the rotten
"Bartholomew!" I yelled; but he was
head out and looking back at his train while
he jerked frantically at the air-lever. I understood: the air wouldn't work; it never
will on those old tubs when you need it. The
sweat pushed out on me. I was thinking of
how much the silk would bring us after the
bath in the Beaver. Bartholomew stuck to
his levers like a man in a signal-tower, but
every second brought us closer to open water.
Watching him intent only on saving his first
Train - heedless of his life - I was actually
ashamed to jump. While I hesitated he
somehow got the brakes to set; the old 44
bucked like a bronco.
It wasn't too soon. She checked her train
nobly at the last, but I saw nothing could
keep her from the drink. I gave Bartholomew a terrific slap, and again I yelled; then
turning to the gangway, I dropped into the
soft mud on my side: the 44 hung low, and
it was easy lighting.
Bartholomew sprang from his seat a second later; but his blouse caught in the teeth
of the quadrant. He stooped quick as
thought, and peeled the thing over his head.
Then he was caught fast by the wristbands,
and the ponies of the 44 tipped over the
broken abutment. Pull as he would he
couldn't get free. The pilot dipped into the
torrent slowly. But losing her balance, the
44 kicked her heels into the air like lightning,
and shot with a frightened wheeze plump
into the creek, dragging her engineer with
The head car stopped on the brink. Run-
ning across the track, I looked for Bartholomew. He wasn't there; I knew he must
have gone down with his engine. Throwing
off my gloves, I dived, just as I stood, close
to the tender, which hung half submerged. I
am a good bit of a fish under water, but no
self-respecting fish would be caught in that
yellow mud. I realized, too, the instant I
struck the water, that I should have dived on
the upstream side. The current took me
away whirling; when I came up for air, I
was fifty feet below the pier. I scrambled
out, feeling it was all up with Bartholomew;
but to my amazement, as I shook my eyes
open the train crew were running forward,
and there stood Bartholomew on the track
above me, looking at the refrigerators.
When I got to him, he explained how he was
dragged under and had to tear the sleeves
out of his blouse under water to get free.
The surprise is how little fuss men make
about such things when they are busy. It
took only five minutes for the conductor to
hunt up a coil of wire and a sounder for me,
and by the time he got forward with it, Bartholomew was half-way up a telegraph pole
to help me cut in on a live wire. Fast as I
could, I rigged a pony, and began calling the
McCloud despatcher. It was rocky sending,
but after no end of pounding, I got him and
gave orders for the wrecking gang, and for
one more of Neighbor's rapidly decreasing
supply of locomotives.
Bartholomew, sitting on a strip of fence
which still rose above the water, looked forlorn. To lose in the Beaver the first engine
he ever handled was tough, and he was evidently speculating on his chances of ever
getting another. If there weren't tears in his
eyes, there was storm-water certainly. But
after the relief engine had pulled what was
left of us back six miles to a siding, I made
it my first business to explain to Neighbor,
who was nearly beside himself, that Bartholomew not only was not at fault, but that
by his nerve he had actually saved the train.
"I'll tell you, Neighbor," I suggested,
when we got straightened around. "Give
us the 109 to go ahead as pilot, and run her
around the river division with Foley and the
"What'll you do with Number Six?"
growled Neighbor. Six was the local passenger west.
"Annul it west of McCloud," said I instantly. "We've got this silk on our hands
now, and I'd move it if it tied up every passenger train on the division. If we can get
the stuff through, it will practically beat the
strike. If we fail, it will beat the company.
By the time we had backed to Newhall
Junction, Neighbor had made up his mind
my way. Mullen and I climbed into the 109.
and Foley, with the 216, and none too good a
grace, coupled on to the silk, and flying red
signals, we started again for Zanesville over
the river division.
Foley was always full of mischief. He
had a better engine than ours, and he took
great satisfaction the rest of the afternoon
in crowding us. Every mile of the way he
was on our heels. I was throwing the coal,
and have reason to remember. It was after
dark when we reached the Beverly Hill, and
we took it at a lively pace. The strikers
were not on our minds then; it was Foley
When the long parallel steel lines of the
upper yards spread before us, flashing under
the arc lights, we were away above yard
speed. Running a locomotive into one of
those big yards is like shooting a rapid in
a canoe. There is a bewildering maze of
tracks, lighted by red and green lamps,
which must be watched the closest to keep
out of trouble. The hazards are multiplied
the minute you pass the throat, and a yard
wreck is a dreadful tangle; it makes everybody from road-master to flagman furious,
and not even Bartholomew wanted to face
an inquiry on a yard wreck. On the other
hand, he couldn't afford to be caught by
Foley, who was chasing him out of pure
I saw the boy holding the throttle at a
half and fingering the air anxiously as we
jumped over the frogs; but the roughest
riding on track so far beats the ties as a
cushion, that when the '09 suddenly stuck
her paws through an open switch we bounced
against the roof of the cab like foot-balls.
I grabbed a brace with one hand, and with
the other reached instinctively across to Bartholomew's side to seize the throttle. But
as I tried to shut him off, he jerked it wide
open in spite of me, and turned with lightning in his eye. "No!" he cried, and his
voice rang hard. The 109 took the tremendous shove at her back, and leaped like a
frightened horse. Away we went across the
yard, through the cinders, and over the ties;
my teeth have never been the same since.
I don't belong on an engine, anyway, and
since then I have kept off. At the moment,
I was convinced that the strain had been too
much, that Bartholomew was stark crazy.
He sat clinging like a lobster to his levers
and bouncing clear to the roof.
But his strategy was dawning on me; in
fact, he was pounding it into me. Even the
shock and scare of leaving the track and
tearing up the yard had not driven from
Bartholomew's noddle the most important
feature of our situation, which was, above
everything, to keep out of the way of the silk
I felt every moment more mortified at my
attempt to shut him off. I had done the
trick of the woman who grabs the reins. It
was even better to tear up the yard than to
stop for Foley to smash into and scatter the
silk over the coal chutes. Bartholomew's
decision was one of the traits which make
the runner: instant perception coupled to
instant resolve. The ordinary dub thinks
what he should have done to avoid disaster
after it is all over; Bartholomew thought
On we bumped, across frogs, through
switches, over splits, and into target rods,
when - and this is the miracle of it all - the
109 got her forefeet on a split switch, made
a contact, and after a slew or two, like a
bogged horse, she swung up sweet on the
rails again, tender and all. Bartholomew
shut off with an under cut that brought us
up stuttering, and nailed her feet with the
air right where she stood. We had left the
track and ploughed a hundred feet across
the yards and jumped on to another track.
It is the only time I ever heard of its happening anywhere, but I was on the engine
with Bartholomew Mullen when it was done.
Foley choked his train the instant he saw
our hind lights bobbing. We climbed down,
and ran back. He had stopped just where
we should have stood if I had shut off.
Bartholomew ran to the switch to examine
it. The contact light (green) still burned
like a false beacon; and lucky it did, for it
showed that the switch had been tampered
with and exonerated Bartholomew Mullen
completely. The attempt of the strikers to
spill the silk in the yards had only made the
reputation of a new engineer. Thirty minutes later, the million-dollar train was turned
over to the East End to wrestle with, and we
breathed, all of us, a good bit easier.
Bartholomew Mullen, now a passenger
runner who ranks with Kennedy and Jack
Moore and Foley and George Sinclair himself, got a personal letter from the General
Manager complimenting him on his pretty
wit; and he was good enough to say nothing
whatever about mine.
We registered that night and went to supper together: Foley, Jackson, Bartholomew,
and I. Afterwards we dropped into the despatcher's office. Something was coming
from McCloud, but the operator to save his
life couldn't catch it. I listened a minute;
it was Neighbor. Now, Neighbor isn't great
on despatching trains. He can make himself
understood over the poles, but his sending is
like a boy's sawing wood - sort of uneven.
However, though I am not much on running
yards, I claim to be able to take the wildest
ball that was ever thrown along the wire,
and the chair was tendered me at once to
catch Neighbor's extraordinary passes at the
McCloud key. They came something like
"To Opr. Tell Massacree" - that was
the word that stuck them all, and I could
perceive that Neighbor was talking emphatically. He had apparently forgotten
Bartholomew's last name, and was trying to
connect with the one he had "disremembered " the night before. "Tell Massacree,"
repeated Neighbor, "that he is al-l-l right,
Tell him I give him double mileage for to-day all the way through. And to-morrow he
gets the 109 to keep. - NEIGHB-B-OR.
© RailroadStories, 2001.