© 2018 Bill Murphy
The man on the left in the photo above is my maternal grandfather, Patrick Henry Fairchild. He was an engineer for the Canton and Carthage Rail Road. This treasured photo was taken in the early 1930s.
Grandpa Pat had two sons, both railroad men… and two daughters. One daughter married a railroad man, the other married my father, a grocer. So my hands-on railroading experience is limited to model trains, although I do like to think that I have at least some ‘coal dust’ in my blood.
Railroad men have stories. My favorite of Grandpa Pat’s involved a heifer.
In the 1930s, the Canton and Carthage was primarily a logging RR. The ‘big’ sawmill/lumber yard in the area was located in Canton. The Fairchild’s lived in McAfee, a thriving RR community just west of Carthage. Grandpa Fairchild made the Canton run numerous times.
There was a slight ‘hill’ along the Carthage/Canton route, a grade that required a second locomotive when pulling an especially long and heavy load to the mill. But Grandpa Pat mastered the art traversing this grade using only ONE engine. Speed was the key. Simple inertia did the work.
On the day in question, Grandpa Pat was pulling a long and heavy load. He’d gotten up the speed he needed, when… looking ahead, he saw a cow standing on the tracks! Grandpa Pat never slowed. That’s what that angular device on the front of a locomotive is for. And that’s why it’s called a ‘cow-catcher.’ Scratch one heifer.
The next day, a very angry farmer showed up at the RR Superintendent’s office, demanding payment for his lost animal.
The company paid the farmer. And Grandpa Pat was called before the superintendent.
“Pat,” he said angrily, “I hear that you killed a heifer on the tracks yesterday, and that you made no attempt to stop and clear the tracks. You know full well that we don’t like to rile the local folks around here. We had to pay that farmer $35 for the cow you killed! I hope you have a good answer for what you did!”
“I do,” replied my Grandpa. “That run yesterday, with that load I carried, usually requires two locomotives. I made it with only one. May I ask, sir… how much would that second locomotive have cost you?”
(Now remember, this was in the 1930s)
“Well,” the superintendent said, “around $45 I suppose.”
“Do you want to give me that $10 I saved you – now,” replied Grandpa Pat, “or just put it on my paycheck at the end of the week?” Case closed!
The engine (#102) in the photo could be the engine in this story, and one of the two well dressed gentlemen could be the superintendent.