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Wabash anecdotes

"Wabash operator at Berkley to the extra 31 over" 'kerrr' ... "Extra 31 go ahead Berkley"  'kerrr'. "Extra 31 you have permission to proceed from McLaran Avenue to Robertson. on the main line watching out for welders at the switch at Ferguson over .... I understand the Extra 31 has permission on the main line from McLaran to Robertson looking out for welders working at Ferguson over .... thats correct extra 31 .... at 9:42 am. over "9:42 over" 'kerrr' "At Robertson you'll be waiting for the East bound mail train, he's about 40 minutes away over ...." "Extra 31 understands I'll be waiting for the special number 4 at Robertson, hold the main. Looks like 40 minutes over " Thats correct extra 31 wabash operator out...." "Extra 31 out..."
- David W. Johnson
In the late '30s, the Wabash used to run a daily freight from Detroit to St. Louis which we referred to as the Henry Ford Special. Behind an O-1 locomotive, this train used to go through Huntington, Ind., in the early evenings, generally at a high rate of speed. With the crossing gates lowered, alarm bells ringing, all that was needed was a fusee or two for the fireworks effect. I seem to recall the train consisted of 40-foot box cars, 50-foot automobile cars and gondolas with stacks of automobile frames. All the cars were tagged "When empty, return to Ford Motor Co. – River Rouge plant."
—William T. Paul

We lived in Granite City and commuted to the family farm just north of Palmer. We knew all the conductors – including the one who used to push his false teeth out to scare me!
One of the engineers on, first, No. 4 and, later, No. 10 – Foggy Fogwell – was a butter customer of the farm. He made a special lead-lined box that was exactly the right size to carry the butter. When my grandpa had some ready for him, he'd stand in the pasture and wave at Foggy as he rolled through on 4 coming out of Palmer. This was the signal that Grandpa's son, who delivered dairy products in Taylorville, would be waiting at the Taylorville station to hand Foggy his butter. How's that for service?
Old No. 50, which stopped at every fencepost, was the commuter train for my folks in the 1920s. In very early days, the Wabash would stop its trains at the crossing on the farm to let off passengers who were attending the annual running horse sale and picnic, a two-day affair. The crossing is still there and I manage the family farm. My great-grandfather gave the land for the early railroad when it first went through back in the late 1800s.
Being deadheads, we often had to stand if there were paying passengers filling the seats. Fortunately, our riding was usually only a little over an hour. When we took the train up to our next home in Albia, Iowa, it was a different story! That was a long, slow trip during the night.
—Janet Allen

Riding with the troops during the war was always a ride with the unexpected. My favorite trip was a long overnight trip in the winter of 1945 from St. Louis Union Station to Albia, Iowa. The train departed sometime about 8:30 p.m. and it was a slow progress with numerous stops.
On board were perhaps 40 soldiers of a battalion who were going home to Iowa after three years in England. They couldn't contain their joy and excitement, and sleep was out of the question. They had brought plenty of liquid refreshment to enhance their celebration, one had brought a guitar and the party began before we cleared the St. Louis yards.
Our car was packed, and our family had turned one seat so that the four of us could face each other. There was laughing and visiting, with soldiers going up and down the aisles visiting with passengers who were, for the most part, enjoying watching their fun and were friendly in response.
As the night wore on and we started north in central Missouri, life was getting busy and noisy. The conductor turned down the light level then retreated to be rarely seen thereafter. By the time we reached the Iowa border, snow covered the ground and a bright, full moon showed us a frigid, beautiful landscape.
There was a small, dark soldier of perhaps Italian heritage who had done his share of imbibing and became very social. He decided to begin at one end of the car and progress, kissing every female on board. The reactions of the victims were generally amused and cooperative. However, there was a white-haired little lady sitting behind us who was incensed. She sat rigid as a post, which didn't discourage her visitor as he sat on her lap and planted a kiss right on her mouth. Next was our turn! My mother and I were expecting who-knows-what. The little guy approached us, looked at me (age 15), looked at my father and said to him, "Sir, is this your daughter?" My father said, "Yes, sir. She is." The soldier said, "She's a mighty fine looking girl," and passed on. I didn't get kissed!
The MPs on board were tolerant, allowing generous leeway to happy men going home, speaking only occasionally to a troop who needed a little coaching as ties came off, some members became unsteady on their feet, hair became disheveled and, eventually, some fell asleep. In the early morning darkness, I made my way down the aisle to the restroom and saw, out in the vestibule of our car, an MP standing watch over two young partiers whom he had ordered to take off their shirts, down to their underwear. He had dropped down the windows and the boys were standing in the freezing wind blowing through, getting a pretty sobering dose of Iowa air.
We left the boys, who were going to Des Moines, at Albia. Under the care of the MPs, we assume they all made it home in good order. That special night was, thereafter, one of our favorite memories of riding the Wabash.
—Janet Allen

The Wabash used to have a spur line between Centralia, Mo., and Columbia, Mo., the university town. On Friday nights, we college kids rode the doodlebug from Columbia up to Centralia and waited for connecting trains home; in my case, No. 11 to Brunswick. On Sunday nights, we reversed course and went back to school for the week.
I can recall my dad, supervisor of track maintenance stationed in Brunswick at the time, saying that when Winston Churchill came to Fulton, Mo., to give his Iron Curtain speech, his special train rode that spur line. Before his trip, however, a man walked the entire distance on foot to check that the rail was in top-notch condition and safe. That was 1946. Before saying that is gospel, however, I think it should be forever researched.
—Janet Allen

Told to me by my daughter who has been vice-president of Anheuser-Busch's wholly-owned manufacturers' railway located at the brewery on Pestalozzi Street. It is about to be sold off and she is about to retire after 31 years. She has a lot of knowledge about railroads and recently told me this: When the railroad bridge crossing the Mississippi to Illinois was built by the city of St. Louis, the city would not allow the brewery's trains to use the bridge for its eastbound traffic. The city didn't want to be bothered with the little stuff. For years there were lawsuits over the issue and, finally, the brewery won the right to use the track. It was always the Wabash Railroad who picked up the brewery's cars on the Illinois side for further distribution to destinations.
—Janet Allen

Wabash XM 17047 end-loading car for aluminum tubing at the ALCOA extruding mill on the southeast side of Lafayette. Actually located on Wabash-leased Lafayette Union Rwy. This is/was a 5 mile belt line leased Sept. 1929 for 30 years by Wabash, [also] served large National Homes Plant. ALCOA works at one time had several double sheathed auto boxes still in Wabash livery.
—Mark Vaughan

A Wabash time card.