Doctor Skeevers' Sure Cure for Throttle Fever.

Jim Skeevers don't always confine his object lessons to the firemen. Sometimes he works one off on other engineers, the foreman, the master mechanic, or the superintendent, and he has been known to illustrate a point to the fourth vice-president.

One of Skeevers' object lessons converted an intolerable nuisance of a roundhouse foreman into a reasonable human being, and, if there is anything in the doctrine of perdition, saved the souls of a lot of men who were before prone to blaspheme every time they talked to the hereinbefore mentioned foreman.

This foreman was one of those restful mortals who make you feel satisfied with your lot, when you kick about cylinder packing that blows, valves that leak, or rods that pound, by telling you how much worse some other fellow's is - this helps yours so.

He was one of the kind that sneer at everything the engineers do on the road in an emergency, and tell what they ought to have done.

The kind that kick about giving orders for the little engine supplies as if they had to pay for 'em.

The kind that scratch off all the work put on the book if they do a little of it.

The kind who believe in "good enough" jobs.

The kind who are always wanting to get out on the road to run - and have never done any running, or firing, eyether.

Skeevers laid for Davidson for over a year, and finally got him. Davidson had been wanting to ride over the road with Skeevers the first Sunday that he went out in the morning. So he got him alone last Sunday. Skeevers was marked up for an extra freight at 8.40.

Skeevers' engine had been double-crewed all summer, on account of World's Fair business, and running repairs were cut down half on account of the engine being out most of the time, and another half on account of the reduction of shop force and a 10-per-cent. encourager for shopmen to do as little as possible.

Skeevers don't kick much, as a rule, but when he reported "Right check ground in and cylinder packing down on the right side," trip before last, he felt sure the engine couldn't do her work much longer without it; but when Davidson told him he "ort to hear Jim Bishop's engine blow," and that "Baldy Bates' fireman got out on the running board with a pail of water and the coal pick every time he shut off the injector," Skeevers said that he hadn't noticed it, and perhaps the "6i8" was all right, after all, but she needed washing out awful bad, anyhow.

Davidson laughed. "Lord," said he, "Dave Keller's had the '96' on the express for four months without washing. Dave is a good man with an ingin, you know," he added parenthetically, "machinist runner, too; he doesn't shut off on the road at all, jest run her on froth - soda water."

Skeevers was glad he was going to get that extra Sunday morning. It would surely be empty coal cars - about two more than the engine ought to have. He knew the road would be crowded with trains - there's no God on a Western railroad.

He knew Davidson would go out with him - and Skeevers smiled.

Skeevers called on the train dispatcher who would be on duty the next day, talked a few minutes, and - they laughed.

Skeevers hunted up Billy Woods, his conductor; they had a cigar, chatted a few minutes, then, well - they laughed real loud.

Davidson came down the next morning smiling - going to have a holiday. Skeevers got around later, got into his over-clothes and commenced to oil around; Billy Woods came by and gave them both a cigar, remarking to Skeevers that they were going to be four loads short of a full train (they had three too many), and that the "618" would just play with the train - sure to have a nice easy trip.

Pete Doyle had a cushion on his seat for the foreman, and let him have the window all to himself and be right in his way - Pete knew it wouldn't last all the trip or he'd have kicked lustily, and who could blame him?

As Skeevers dropped a little 13-cent oil on the well-worn bearings of his engine, Davidson followed him around, and Skeevers "jollied" him a little.

"Been runnin' you pretty hard lately, ain't they, Skeevers?"

"Well, yes, tolerable; but then, you know, we get paid for it; I got in fifty-one days last month."

"Fifty-one, four times fifty-one, by George, that's $204! The old man only gets $150."

"Yes, but he's just a master mechanic, you know," said Skeevers in a pitying voice, which made Davidson's $90 a month seem measly and small. "Pete gets almost as much as that. I've often wondered why you didn't go out runnin' - a man like you 'ort to be makin' decent pay - the idea of being tied down to a roundhouse is hard lines. Running is pleasanter, better paid and less responsibility, and, knowin' as much about engines as you do, you 'ort to get a great reputation on the road. Some of these ducks don't know no more about an engine than I do about preaching." Skeevers knew he tickled the governor in the right place there.

"Well, I shu'd say so. Why, Giles come in last night with the piston blocked wrong and the" -

"Here's your orders, Skeevers," said the conductor, and holding one, read: Run to Junction City extra. Trains 21 and 107 are abandoned. Don't pass Hope without orders. You may use fifty minutes on the time of No.8, Cole conductor. Meet light engine, Smiles', east at Preston.

Skeevers and Davidson swung up into the cab, and, after comparing time with the conductor, the "618" commenced to cough and wheeze getting the train started. The packing in the right-hand cylinder roared lustily and, though Skeevers was used to it, he cocked his ear and pretended to listen - Davidson listened, too.

"When did you clean her nozzles, Skeevers?"


"Got a funny sound in one; guess the tip is loose on the stand."

"Nozzles be damned," said Pete Doyle, "thot's one ave the jobs Skeevers has asked youse for the doin' these many times; avery turn ave her wheels means a shovelful of coal for mesel' to sling. I never heard cylinder packin' blow the equil ave thot."

"That ain't her packin', is it Skeevers?"

"Yes, but that's nothing - you ort to hear it blow on Jim Bishop's engine!"

Then he whistled for a road crossing to keep Davidson from answering.

They were not ten miles from home when they had to stop for a hot pin on the left side.

"Maybe you've got her keyed too tight," suggested Davidson.

"No, it's the main rod, and it pounds itself hot."

They looked at it, and, sure enough, it was awful loose on the pin. Davidson offered to file it right there, and promised to do it in ten minutes. Skeevers led him on, looked at his watch, and said if it could be done in fifteen minutes it would be all right.

They had to cool the pin and strap, then take it down. Skeevers had a file, but no tools except the regulation set, and they had trouble in getting the strap off the rod, and more trouble to get the back half of the brass out. Then there was no place to hold it, and nothing to square the brasses by or with. Davidson had his store clothes greasy by this time, and was in a good sweat, hard at work, when the conductor came up and wanted to know why in the blankety-blank they didn't overhaul the engines in the shop, looked anxiously at his watch, ordered the head brakeman to run and flag No.2 (which wasn't due for an hour), and made a howl in general.

When the main rod was up again they had not time to make the next town for No.2, so they backed up and headed in. When they got to the next telegraph station there was a fierce message about the hour and forty minutes' delay.

Skeevers wrote a bland explanatory message, and the reply came over the wire that whoever caused that delay would hear from me on Monday. This was signed by the superintendent, and it made Davidson very ill at ease.

The next twenty-eight miles was level or slightly down grade, and Skeevers seduced Davidson over to his side, and finally got him on his seat and hold of the throttle. This was all very nice for half an hour, and Davidson was getting a little confidence in himself.

Skeevers went over on Pete's side and sat down, and in going had hooked the cab door behind the new runner.

The "618" commenced to work water, and Skeevers remarked that she was full and the injector had better be shut off.

Davidson shut it off. The check stuck up, there was a growl, and in just one second the boiler of the "6i8" commenced to blow off through the overflow of that injector, and the new engineer was trying to get out of the side window. Skeevers was there and stopped him.

"It's the check stuck up," he yelled; "go out on the running board and pound it. I'll hand you a pail of water."

Davidson got a shower bath getting by that overflow, for he didn't think to shut it and let her blow into the tank - he'd thought of that in the shop.

When he was half way out to the check Pete pulled the whistle open, and he came back in a hurry and shut the throttle. Then Skeevers opened it as he handed out a pail of water. Davidson dodged back again, thinking it had worked open. Finally he hammered and cooled the check into taking his seat.

Davidson was wringing the water out of his vest and swearing, when Skeevers made it all right - he told him about Baldy Bates' engine, and how her check stuck.

Davidson made up his mind to get back on the fireman's side. But when he looked around for Skeevers, he was back on the first box car, with his legs hanging over the side talking to the brakeman, and Davidson had to "keep her going."

Pete watched his chance, and when Davidson whistled he started the left-hand injector - it was level and easy for the next two hours' run, and Davidson never thought of the injector again.

Presently Skeevers came over, and the first thing he asked was if the check stuck up again.

"No; ain't used it."

"How's your water?"

Davidson's face was ashy white in an instant, and his hand trembled as he reached for the lower gauge-cock; it reddened when he found water.

"Haven't you put any water in her for the last two hours?"

"Not a drop - she don't use much, does she?"

"Misther Skeevers," said Pete, "it's mesel youse can thank for the wather. The boss av the roundhouse is hell on runnin' engines as is standin' still - if Pate Doyle hadn't put on his squirt, youse wud a had the mud ring melted aginst now."

Davidson tried the gauge-cocks every two minutes the rest of the day.

When they stopped at Slocum for water, Skeevers found use for the soft hammer, and asked Pete for it.

Pete looked all through the box and reported a drouth of soft hammers.

"Oh! it's there. I saw Davidson get it to pound that check."

"In coorse, ye did, sorr, and he left it on the runnin' boord and it's jiggled off entoirely."

"And it's lost."

"Gone till the divil, and it's himsel' as stud up on his hoind legs and cursed me, Pate Doyle, for bein' thot kerless as to drap aff the lasht one. He sed he'd never give you nor me another saft hammer so long as the Lord left him wind to breed wid."

Davidson couldn't help hearing; but he laughed and said he'd give Pete an order for a new one.

Skeevers gave Davidson his orders, made him read them, and told him to go ahead - he was going back to the caboose.

Just as they struck Hope yard, Pete slyly let down the right tank valve, gave the lazy cock of his injector a quiet kick, and it broke. He told Davidson that his injector was "kicking up" and that he'd better start his own. Davidson tried. The more he tried the more excited he got. Pete told him to unhook the door, and he would show him how to start it. This was humiliating. Of course, it started all right for Pete.

They were sailing right through the little town, when, all at once, the emergency went on (from the rear), and as Davidson pulled his head out of the front sash he looked back, and the conductor, Skeevers and both brakemen were flopping their wings like windmills.

"Are ye tryin' to kill everybody, ye crazy loon?" yelled the front brakeman.

"Gimme a red flag, quick, Pete."

Skeevers came over on a run, and pushing poor Davidson out of the way, backed the engine inside of the switch limits.

"What's up, for God's sake?" asked Davidson.

"Up? Why didn't you read them orders: "Don't pass Hope without orders?" It's a sure discharge for going by a 'do not,' besides we might a had a collision."

Davidson got over on Pete's side, and Skeevers had to run her in, and they got along all right.

At the end of the road they got supper, and Skeevers proposed a walk around town before they went to bed; but the caller came for them before they could get away, and at nine o'clock the "618" was hooked onto a row of freight cars up in the big yard.

Skeevers got Davidson on his side to "learn him the yard," and with all the switch lights and switch engines dodging out and in, and the signals from three crews, the whistling and answering whistles, Davidson was a little muddled. Maybe Skeevers made some extra moves, got some extra signals, and did some extra whistling, but it all served to mystify Mr. Davidson and to increase his respect for the engineer who understood it all and was so cool about it.

That night, going down, Davidson learned that he couldn't handle automatic air nearly so well on an engine and a grade as he could in the roundhouse.

He learned how pleasant it was to put the reverse lever down in the corner, and skin the knuckles in doing it.

He learned how much it helped to keep one awake by putting a red hot steam-pipe just under the throttle-lever - just where the wrist will touch it if the arm is allowed to sink a sixty-fourth.

It rained, and he learned something about handling a big train in bad weather on both sides of a hill.

Skeevers illustrated in several ways, without saying so, that it is impossible for an engineer to do much "keeping up" of his engine on the road and handle his train on time.

Davidson was nervous about fires along the track until passed; he got excited over some horses that got on the track and got hit.

He learned what it was to "hustle" and be "hustled" by every man with authority to send a message.

He learned what it was to stay on a freight engine for twenty-four hours without rest, and without a lunch pail. Skeevers longed to make it thirty-six, and then tell him that Swifty Wilson once ran fifty-four hours without rest - always sprung on a man who kicked about doubling the third time.

At Junction City Skeevers went into the office for orders, and asked Davidson to "make a switch" for him. The crew got him into a cut-off with forty red lights in sight, all of them made signals at once, both ponies whistled at him, the check stuck up, and he burnt his hand all at once - and backed off a switch to boot.

He was down with his lantern looking at his "luck," all the switchmen were cursing the air blue, and the "618" was blowing off wildly when the conductor came down with an order for him to run engine "618" into the terminal, as Skeevers was wanted to run Carlton's engine west; Carlton was sick.

Davidson's heart was faint when he thought of the eighteen miles of down hill ahead of him, and that pesky automatic that he knew so well how to tell others to use, but could not seem to show the how very successfully; besides that the "618" was off the track.

He was more at home getting her on than running her. He looked her over carefully and yelled up to Pete to bring the "blockin'."

"We ha'nt got no blockin'."

"Well, get out the jacks."

"They've all been took off, sorr."

"Say, neighbor," said the conductor, "do you think we've got time to raise this engine up on jacks. She's blockin' the main line. Git up there, Pete, and when I say 'when' give her the tit."

He ran around the engine, threw in a couple of links here and there, a piece of wood or so and - said the "when."

Pete pulled her open; there was a great fuss and wiggle and slip and shake - but she got on all 0.K.

"That's the way to do business - on the road," said the con.

They got home at last. Davidson sent word to the roundhouse that he wasn't able to come down, and went to bed, but he asked that the "618" lay in and have work already reported done.

The next day as Skeevers was packing the throttle a helper, working on the rods, struck Davidson for a job of firing.

"You're a fool, young feller," said Davidson, "why don't you finish your trade?"

"The firemen make more money than most of the machinists do. I've worked three years at it now, and that ought to help me about gettin' promoted."

"Well, they earn it. Why, confound it, man, they don't eat regular, nor sleep any to mention; and as for your machinist experience helpin' you, why, it ain't worth a damn. They ain't supposed to repair engines on the road, and any fireman on the division can give me points about fixing up a breakdown. Running an engine is a separate trade, sir, a separate business. An engineer don't know much about putting in springs and facing valves; but don't think he don't know nothin'. There's just as much difference between the machinist trade and engine-running as there is between diamond-cutting and sausage-stuffing. Why, I wouldn't run the best engine this company's got for fifty dollars a day. It takes a different kind of a man from me, or you either. You go on and line them guides, and thank the Lord you ain't gettin' four dollars a day on an engine, and earning twelve."


Prev     Next
Site Map