Слике страница

The Phantom Engine

By F. H. Sidney

Have You Ever Thought of the Harrowing Happenings and Lonely Vigils of the Tower Signalmen, who Guard the Passing Trains and Human Lives. These Two Narratives, “The Phantom Engine" and "The Celestial Wireless," WIII Glimpse for You the Inner Life of These Men, in the Still Watches of the Night. The Author, a Railroad Man, Writes Out of His Own Experience.-The Editor.

IN the old days before there were distant signal. The whistle had the

any Federal nine-hour laws, In- strangest and most beautiful sound I

terstate Commerce Commis- ever heard. I leaned far out the winsions and relief men,” said Signalman dow as the engine approached the Jones to his friend, Bill the locomo- tower. I wanted to be sure and catch tive engineer, "we signalmen often the number of the engine that had worked twenty-four, thirty-six, and such a beautiful, musical whistle. As seventy-two hours at a stretch.” the engine approached the tower the

"Yes, I know," replied Bill. “I bell rang, and what a wonderful bell have often stayed at the throttle fifty it was; it sounded as though it was hours myself.”

made of silver, and it was tinkling "Those were the times," said Jones, clearly and musically as the engine "that after being on duty long hours drew near the tower. I tried to catch without rest, that we often 'saw the number, but it was obliterated. In things.' I remember working a sev- the dull morning light I saw 'she' enty-two hour stretch at ‘WG' Tower was one of the small old style engines, fifteen years ago. The last eight hours and just about fit for the scrap heap. were the hardest I ever put in. I was The paint had worn off, and the top of so tired and nervous I couldn't have "her' diamond stack had rusted away. slept if I had had the opportunity. Her exhaust sounded as though all

"About three o'clock in the morn- the packing had been blown out of ing on the last lap of that long 'trick, the valves, 'she' was moving slow and something rang in on the track circuit. working 'one side.' This is funny, I It was a short ring, and I concluded it thought. Are they sending that old must be an engine running light, but scrap heap to the shop to be made what engine? I had listened to the over into a shifter. ‘OS,' and knew just what was moving “Just then I caught a glimpse of the on the division at the time, and ihere engineer, his hand was on the throtwas no 'light engine' among the ex- tle, and he was looking out of the side tras that were being reported. Fur- cab window facing the tower. I could thermore the nearest thing to me at see he was an old white-haired man. that time was an extra freight at His head was bare, and his face was Berkshire, forty miles away.

deadly pale, the coat he wore was as "It might have been something that white as snow. He waved a white I did not happen to hear reported, I gloved hand at me, then the engine thought, so I set the route for main disappeared. 'She' disappeared as line. In a few minutes an engine came though swallowed by the earth. The in sight, and whistled as it passed the engine was moving slowly as 'she' passed the tower, and it is straight mud under the engine, and suffocated, track for a mile to the west, as you I presume, or they may have been well know.”

killed outright. I came down here Bill nodded his assent, and Jones with the wrecker, and they were dead continued:

when we lifted the engine, and picked "I can swear that engine disap up their bodies. They say every litpeared less than fifty feet from the tle while the old man gets restless, tower. I did not dare to report that and digs his old engine out of the strange engine to the train dispatcher, scrap heap and takes a run over the he might think I had been asleep and road. His engine was the old Numdreaming. I was as wide awake then ber One, and 'she' had the old style as I am now. I thought, perhaps, if bell and whistle, that's why they it was a real engine, and I didn't 'OS' sounded so strange and musical. it, the dispatcher would call for a re- They don't make any such bells and port of it, and I would be safe to give whistles these days," said Bill rather it to him then. Consequently I made sadly. a note of the time, in this old diary. "Now isn't that strange," exSee there it is now. 'Phantom En- claimed Jones. "I was reading an acgine departed west, 3:02, A. M.'” count of that wreck in an old news

“That,” said Bill, "was old Uncle paper clipping I found in the locker, Eddie Eastman, who went over the the day before I had this strange exbank in a washout near 'WG' about perience.” forty years ago. The engine and “That accounts for it,” said Bill. twelve freight cars rolled down the "It came out of your sub-conscious bank, and uncle Eddie, two brakemen mind. The human mind is certainly a and the firemen, were buried in the strange instrument."


receiving a when not to messages chip

CIGNALMAN JONES, like most working as a ticket agent and teleg

telegraphers, was interested in rapher at one of the suburban sta

wireless telegraphy. He built a tions. We visited back and forth and receiving set, which he put up in the corresponded regularly. tower; and when not busy he amused "Jack, (that's my friend's name), himself by listening to messages that became interested in wireless. He were being transmitted between ships studied at evening schools in the city at sea and the stations along the coast. and fitted himself for the position of

One day Jones had a very strange constructor of wireless plants. After experience; and after that time he completing his studies he entered the never touched any part of a wireless employ of one of the wireless comset. He disconnected his plant and panies. Jack constructed wireless stored it away. Jones told the story of stations at points along the Atlantic his experience to his friend Bill, the coast. Finally the company sent him engineer, as follows:

to the Far East to take charge of the "At the time I learned telegraphy, construction of some very powerful one of my school mates who was about stations. He wrote me some very inmy own age became interested. The teresting letters from the far-away consequence was he took up the pro- places. I often thought as I read his fession and became a telegrapher. We letters: Suppose Jack should contract worked together on the lower end of one of those Eastern fevers, what the road, until I was transferred to the would become of him in those strange tower service up here in the hills, far-off lands? Then the thought came while he remained down near the city; to me: Jack is a Mason, they are to be

hi tored it a disconny part that ting

pounger days.ber feeling Pad Jones, with one of assed away she has left

found everywhere, and he will be who might be signalling. And mencared for in case he is sick or in dis- tally I answered the signal. I say tress. I felt more comfortable after mentally because I did not have any that."

sending apparatus connected to my "You're right; they'll take care of station. It was only a receiving set. him,” replied Bill. “I've met Masons Then came this strange message, and among the savage tribes in Africa, in sent by one whose ‘sending' I recogAfghanistan, and other out-of-the-way nized: places. I travelled some in my “Calcutta, India, Aug. 7, 1914.

“'To 'SY,' "I remember feeling particularly “'WG' Tower: blue one night,” continued Jones, “After several days of suffering "and I thought I would listen to the with one of these terrible Eastern wireless a while to see if it would fevers, I passed away shortly after cheer me up. I picked up all sorts of noon yesterday. The fever has left messages from ships within radius. me and my sufferings are over. I am It is five hundred miles from here to happy now. All messages from this the coast, and I could easily pick up Celestial World where I have been messages from that distance. I heard brought are transmitted by telepathy. one of the new battleships communi. There is no need of any mechanism cating in code to the Boston Navy here. Every one is happy and no one Yard. It was just before Germany suffers. Here and only here, does the declared war. I often wondered real Brotherhood of Man exist. Goodwhat that message meant. As I list- bye with love to you and everybody ened, this Biblical quotation came to else on earth. my mind: 'There will be wars and


JACK.' rumors of wars.

"After listening to the ships a “Many a night since then have I while,” said Jones, "I 'tuned' my in- listened for a telepathic call or messtruments and picked up some nearby sage from my friend Jack who has amateurs. While listening to their idle gone to that undiscovered country, chatter I thought to myself, what from which no one returns. I know poor senders they are; most of them when the message does come that I sound as though they were using their shall recognize the 'sending.'” foot to send with. Finally everything “Yes, Jones," replied Bill slowly. was quiet and I decided to close my “I too, have been waiting this many station. When suddenly in clear, years for a message from my loved sharp Morse came the signal 'SY ones gone before. I know I shall rec(my personal sign). It came so sud- ognize the 'sending' when it does denly I didn't have time to wonder come.”

ogniz gone bemessa, waiting Bill slom


T was on the day of his fifth an- Train No. 27, to cross from the Conniversary in the railroad service way Branch to the outward main line.

and on the day that the signal Number 27 made the customary stop man at “WG” Tower began working at Bellville Station and approached eight-hour shifts instead of twelve. the tower slowly. The rules of the Jones had been assigned to the last road were that “trains crossing over "trick,” which began at 11 P. M. and at junction points should do so under ended at 7 A. M.

full control.” In obedience to this rule It was a windy, snowy night, and at Bill Perry, the engineer of No. 27, 11:05 P. M. Jones set the route for had his train under control as the train approached the “home signai" of crew quickly realized what the engi"WG” Tower. Just about that tine neer hoped to do, and they began runan extra freight train on the main line ning over the train letting off the reported to Jones.

brakes they had set to increase the On account of the route being set speed of their train. for No. 27 to “cross over," it was “There's only one chance in a necessary for Jones to hold the extra thousand we can make it,” yelled freight at the main line signal until Fred Baker, the conductor as he flew No. 27 had cleared, as these two over the train as fast as his short fat routes conflicted. About the time the legs would carry him. freight train approached the main line “If we 'cross their bow' and not hit signal a sudden gust of wind blew them amidships even though they the snow against the tower windows nose us behind the engine there won't and Jones was unable to see what was be any one hurt," replied Frank Nelgoing on outside. When the atmos- son, the middle brakeman, who had phere cleared a few seconds later been a sailor, as he raced over the Jones noticed the extra freight was train, his long legs enabling him to nearing the main line signal at a cover the length of a box car in three rather rapid rate.

strides. "I wonder if they intend to stop ?" Just about that time the water glass he said half aloud. "If they slide by in the cab of No. 27's engine burst, there's liable to be a smash-up." This and the cab was soon filled with was before the days of air brakes on steam, consequently neither Bill Perry freight trains, and the freight train nor his fireman could see the apcrew were all out on top of the cars proaching freight train, or they would setting hand brakes to assist the en- have stopped and allowed the freight gineer in stopping the train. Unfortun- to pass. ately it was down grade from the main “Wide Awake Jones" heard the line signal to the tower and the rails extra freight whistle “off brakes," and were wet and slippery from the snow. he realized it meant danger. Glancing

The engineer of the freight train at the position of both trains, and takrealized the brakes were not holding ing in the situation in an instant, he and the wheels were "skidding," and sprang for the levers and with a few said, "She's getting away from us.” mighty throws, he succeeded in di

"What will we do?" yelled the verting the route of No. 27 to the fireman from the opposite side of the “long passing siding,” just as the excab as he slid down from his seat and tra freight train rushed madly by. prepared to jump.

In the meantime Bill Perry had "Stick! cried the engineer, as he succeeded in getting his water glass gave a yank at the throttle, and reach- shut off, and when the cab was clear ing up for the whistle he blew two of steam, he found his train moving long blasts, the "off brakes” signal. down the "long passing siding” inThe intention of the engineer was to stead of "across the road." "What in increase the speed of his train and the devil are we doing here?" cried pass the tower before No. 27 “took Bill to the fireman as he stopped the the cross-overs.” If he could do this train. it would save a wreck and the only Just then Jones signalled No. 27 to damage would be a few broken "back up” and with only a few moswitch points. Otherwise he would ments delay they were on their way strike No. 27 "amidships" and prob- again. The passengers on that train ably kill and injure many of the never knew how near death they were passengers on that train. The freight on that cold winter's night.

[blocks in formation]

TiO a devotee of the Western yarn, loud "yuh home Jim?" the door was

the Old Timer is apt to prove slowly opened wide, to be quickly

disappointing; he has no beard closed again as Jim recognized in me, nor top boots, and he figures the time a stranger, that is nearly closed, for I of day by a watch, instead of the became aware of a scrutiny that bid number of drinks, and shades of Bret fair to be embarrassing, when he Harte, he doesn't drink.

spoke in a cracked faded old voice: In the old livery stables which once “H’lo Mist' Leagan.” sheltered the four and Concord coach “How're yuh today, Jim. I come the print of which the S. P. used in down to see if yuh wanted anythin' advertising the newly established line, over to Hollister. The boy's goin' with now stands at intervals the big ma- the stage and I thought might's well chines, that have succeeded the Old see if yuh wanted anythin'.” Timers first stage line from Sargent So he opened the door wider, never to Hollister.

taking his eyes from me—the inThere I met the Old Timer Leagan truder, and I saw a picturesquely typiand he was pleased to meet me and cal Chinaman of the old school dazyes-he'd be able to spare me some zling in contrast amid the squalor of time and tell me something of the the surroundings with the sheer richcountry.

ness of his attire, his brocaded silk "Well say," he said, "I was goin' over jacket with the gilded buttons so down to see Jim, our famous old necessary to the ensemble, and the unChinaman down here, p'raps yuh'd der coats faintly in evidence in a fairy like to go along, huh?

web of blue and white silk. “I hafta go anyway and I can show On a ranch, at that time encased in yuh the old buildin's that was used as sticky mud by the rains, to see creasea retreat by the young fellers learnin' less blue broadcloth trousers and to be priests; they'd go down there white socks in the soft slippers of durin' retreat when they couldn't talk China, caused one to wonder anew at yuh know and rest and pray; les the Oriental vanity that makes for the crank the ole flivver and go.” So we poetry of the life of the unfathomable did, we cranked and went.

Chinese. Arriving at the Chinaman's ranch Back of him was a cook stove and and stopping at the familiar tin mail several pots simmering and giving out box, we went through a wooden turn the pungent smell of teas and herbs, stile and up to the usual shack and that combine with the long stemmed lean-to that does duty on a ranch of little pipe and its choking odor in givthat sort as home, harness shop, store ing one that lasting impression of the room, and whatever else may be Chinese at home.

emed essential in the Oriental con- “Oh, sick, Misť Leagan, too sick." ception of comfort.

"What's the matter Jim, ketch cold Any pleasant thoughts I may have I'll bet, huh?" had concerning our prospective visit “Yeh, ketchum cold, Misť' Leagan, were quickly dispelled by our recep- sick thlee, fouah day, hot, too hot you tion. In answer to the Old Timer's sabe, yeh ketchum cold."

« ПретходнаНастави »