6 hours ago
Friday, March 14, 2014
I was going through my Grandma's junk drawer the other day and found this picture. She isn't around anymore; she passed on 25 years ago or better, but for some reason nobody has ever emptied out the junk drawer. I was actually looking for a 1/4-20 wingnut; Grandma's junk drawer is one of those places where you tend to find the oddest things. No matter what you're looking for, you tend to find it.
Anyway, I was looking for a wingnut and found an old envelope with this picture inside. I know some things; others I need to guess at. They should be pretty good guesses; I knew my Grandma pretty well. I'll go so far as to say that this picture was taken on December 30, 1953 at 10:08 in the morning.
I know for a fact that this is a steam engine, and they stopped using them regular back in the 1950's. I also think that is my Uncle Ferd in the red jacket. He was a conductor for the Chesapeake and Ohio from right after the war up to when he retired in the '70s, and he had a jacket like that.
The snow tells me it was winter- ain't I the genius- and the heavy coats on most of the men tell me it was the winter of '53; one of the bad ones around here. The winter of '53 was also when the C&O quit running steam around here and went to the new diesel engines. That's when a fireman's job went from being one of the worst in railroading to one of the best. He went from shoveling 10 ton of coal a trip to getting paid for watching the scenery go by.
The shadows and the sky lead me to believe this was about 10:08. Yeah, I can be that exact; Uncle Ferd was the conductor on the 10:12 that left here every other morning for Charleston and points East. 10:08 was when the crew reset their watches to match Uncle Ferd's. December 30th was when the last steam engine left the yard for the Mid-Coast run; the run on January 1st was pulled by a diesel.
Grandma just got a new camera for Christmas that year too; her old Brownie only took black and white shots, but new Kodak used 35 mm film, and could take color pictures too. Grandpa splurged and got her a roll of color film for Christmas too, and I can see her using one of those precious frames for Uncle Ferd's last steam run.
See; it ain't so hard to make a few guesses when you have some background.
I figure I know why that picture was still in Grandma's drawer too; Uncle Ferd was married to the railroad; he never missed a run in over 40 years. Being married to the railroad had its advantages, but creating children wasn't one of them. Depending on how you feel about kids I guess. It could have been one of the advantages.
Anyway, Uncle Ferd never left home. He lived with Grandma and Grandpa all his life. He retired at 65, on his birthday, and died 26 days later; he never collected a single dime of his pension. Grandma must of stuffed this picture in her junk drawer then; she probably found it in one of the pockets of Uncle Ferd's red coat.