Doggone! : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

Uncle Jack, had come home after the war with some new skills. As a young buck Sergeant, he had made the trip across Europe with General George S. Patton's, Third (yankee) Army.

After hiring out as a brakeman after the war, and when the normal time in service permitted, he settled into the Tampa area. Mostly he worked the Tampa Southern freight jobs. These were typically much sought after bid jobs because they involved a lot of overtime.

But..... in the early 1960's, he bid in the baggagemaster's job on 91 & 92. This was not as desireable of a job because of the lack of overtime.

On this particular hot summer Sunday, we find him running north on 92.

Dressed in the regulation "Hickory Stripe overalls and ACL Baggagemasters cap he was Northbound to answer the siren's call of the on-going poker game in Jacksonville. You see, Uncle Jack, had picked up quite a knack for poker playing while in the yankee army.

Perhaps in the historical archives of the Southern Rwy, Seaboard Air Line, Florida East Coast, and Atlantic Coast Line there may not be mention of the passenger train crews "floating poker game." It was a regular fixture among the off duty train crews in Jacksonville, for quite some time.

Housed near the Jacksonville Terminal, the out of town trainmen from the different lines mingled during their overnight stays. No one really knows when the first cards came out, but the ongoing game ended up as much of a fixture as Fielder's Restaurant. Blue collar life at its fullest.

Well, let's get back to the Northbound 92. Veteran passenger engineer Marcus Patterson would be on the right side seat until the engine crew change point in Sanford. Being a lazy Sunday, the Northbound Champion, loafed along in CTC territory. Leaving each station precisely on time.

It had all indications of being a very boring and hot trip. Uncle Jack had the baggage car doors open trying to catch a breeze from the train movement. With very little company mail or storage U.S. Mail to handle this morning, it was quickly turning into a boring trip. With the veteran engineer at the throttle, there would not even be the usual excitement of a freight engineer mishandling the passenger train. Yeah, smooth starts, no wheel slip, the baggage car stopped where the baggage floats were... the passengers lined up on the concourse and their assigned car stopping precisely in front of them.

We have probably all seen the results of a freight engineer at the throttle of a passenger train. The porters quickly pulling the floats to where the baggage car stopped.. passengers scurrying along the concourse to their assigned car which probably stopped about two car lengths from where they were told to wait.

Even that would have broke the monotony, but this Sunday, it would not happen.

Coming into Sanford, the engine crew would change, but the Baggagemaster, Flagman, and Conductor would continue on to J'ville. Holding on to the grab iron above the baggage car door, Uncle Jack, looked over the passengers on the depot concourse as the baggage car passed them. A friendly smile and wave for the children, a look of recognition for the deadheading freight crew about to board for the trip to Jacksonville.

The remainder of his trip would be over ABS, Style-S Semaphore signals and spring switches. They may even be ordered to take the siding for a meet. If that happened he would lock up the baggage car, drop down to the ground and throw the spring switch for the train to enter the siding. Waiting at the switch, for the end of the train to enter the siding, he would then re-line the switch to the the main, lock it, and catch up to the last pullman car. The flagman would already have the vestibule door and steps open for him to run for after lining the switch. Remember radios were few and far between. The train line signal would then be used to let the engineer know he was aboard.

His mind subconciously looked forward to this, which would give him an official reason to be absent from the baggage car. On his walk through the train from the last Pullman car, whe could kibitz with the deadheading freight crew and kill some time. Even though the Captain, was by the book and would not let him chat long.

As the new engine crew boarded, the train orders would not even permit this. Due to the light Sunday freight traffic they would hold the main all the way to Jacksonville. No. 91, had also been on time and they had passed as scheduled on the double track between Winter Park and Orlando.

Uncle Jack, was sentenced to a very boring and hot trip! His mind wandered ahead to the poker game and the opportunity to pocket a few bucks from a Southern Rwy. flagman, among others. Crossing the bridge at Monroe, found him at the door again, waving this time to the bridgetender.

Settling in for the boring trip he glanced around the baggage car. His eyes came to rest on a small dog that was traveling on to Washington, D.C. Since they were both prisoner's in the baggage car, Uncle Jack playfully reached into the dog carrier to pet him.

The dog responded in a friendly way which invited more contact. But, this day they were running way ahead of time. This engineers curse... which would require adjusting the train speed to drift into the stations or the flag stops precisely on time, even if there were no passengers to board they would have to needlessly stop and wait before leaving at the posted timetable schedule.

To compensate the engineer would throttle back and purposely get behind schedule to prevent long station waits. Then throttle back up and make up some time. Nothing at all like the telegraph poles looking like a picket fence when they were making up time on other trips.

As luck would have it, after leaving the flag stop at Pierson, the engineer throttled down to a lower speed. Uncle Jack, had settled down on the Baggagemaster's stool and was eating a sandwich. Looking back over to the small dog carrier, he went over and put some water in the dogs dish, and gave the dog part of his sandwich.

Both of them being ever so bored, he started to play with the dog again. The friendly response of the dog, enticed him to remove the dog from his carrier. Playing with the dog would surely relieve some boredom.

The dog was so excited to play, he quickly ran towards Uncle Jack, but unfortunately went right past him... Alas, he went right out the baggage car door. Since the train was in one of its slow loafing speeds, Uncle Jack, looked back from the baggage car door and saw the dog hightailing it unhurt through the woods towards some houses.

Now the delimna.... Uncle Jack, quickly looked around, and pushed the empty dog carrier back under the baggage shelves. Two remains loaded earlier in Orlando, would block the view of the carrier. Evidently, the other ACL, baggagemasters further North to Richmond, never noticed. Who knows who took the rap for the missing dog...

Uncle Jack, now is in retirement which requires me to be delicate and tell you this story with a wink of the eye and knowing smile. Oh yes, part of his Northern Alabama, retirement farm was made from his skills acquired in the yankee Army, and practiced while running as Baggagemaster and Flagman on 91 & 92. Other than that, I don't know anything about anything, and that is all I have to say.

-- Curtis Denmark Jr. (, June 12, 2000

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