Facebook Page
by Raymond C. Griffith, Chester, NJ
Used by permission of author
(First printed in the NEW JERSEY TRANSPORT HERITAGE, Vol. 11, No. 2, April 2002.)
      D uring the summer of 1947 I started working on the Becker Dairy farm in Roseland. My first job was carrying pails at the morning and afternoon milking times. In the spring of 1948 I was to start working on the farm gang, outside, driving tractors, planting, harvesting, etc. That's what I really wanted to do for Becker. Then, what could be worse for a boy of 16 on the verge of getting his drivers permit? I broke my wrist playing softball in high school, on the second of June, three days before my seventeenth birthday. But, read on, this is how I got to work on the Centerville & Southwestern Railroad train. I got back to work after the cast was removed, about July 19th. They put me on the lawn-cutting gang because I couldn't do any heavy work.

      On the morning of July 31, a Saturday, I was told to go to the Roundhouse. Gene Becker was there and told me I would be working on the train that day. It would be the first day the C&S would be open to the public for rides - a carrier of paying passengers for the first time! Jim Booth and others would be working on the train with me on that day. Gene explained our duties to us. Gene's wife, Pauline, was the first ticket agent. She sat at a card table as there was not yet a ticket office, and fortunately no rain. Later there was a raised ticket booth, about four feet square with a miniature railing around three sides - somewhat like the stands the hawkers used at circus sideshows. The ticket office which resembled a small station was built later - it has been preserved and is used at the Phillipsburg Railroad Historians site. My older brother, who had been working in the route office for the summer, would fill in when Pauline Becker wasn't there. There was no roof over the station area and all the ballast was exposed. The following spring the area was paved with blacktop. Much later a wood platform was built to enable the public to board the train more safely.

      Our first job each morning was to remove all canvas covers from the rail cars and wipe off the seats. One of us would fill a wheelbarrow with soft coal and push it out to the yard area, near the turntable. The tender of steamer 1501 was filled in the morning and again after lunch. My job was to ride the small E-l electric rail car to inspect the line out to Peachtree Junction. The track had to be checked for any problems along the way and to unlock all the switches. The engineer would bring the 1501 from the Roundhouse to the turntable and our muscle power turned it to the yard track. The 1501 then backed up, coupled to the train and pulled it down to the station area.

      The C&S was run as if it were a full size railroad. We had to get used to using the regulation hand signals for all moves of equipment. When the public would get on the train, only adults were permitted to sit in the single chairs, which were generally at the beginning and end of each train. Children were seated in the wood cars and the doors were securely fastened. We, as trainmen, would punch all the tickets. I remember the fare being 48¢ for adults and 24¢ for children. The engineer was signalled that all was ready to start the trip; he blew the whistle and we were on our way. As the train progressed toward Peachtree Junction, the trainmen did not sit, but stood to keep a watchful eye on all the passengers - with extra attention to the children.

      Each trip ran out to the "wye" at Peachtree Junction. There the train was turned as the loop at the end of the line would not be built for another two years. At that time I also helped to construct the loop when I was working full time on the farm. After turning the train, the engineer would stop to stoke the fire and build a head of steam before we would make the return trip to Centerville (the early name which was given to the area before it became Roseland). Ralph Leonard was the regular engineer. I always thought Ralph was one of the most intelligent men I ever had the honor of knowing.

      When we arrived back at Centerville, the 1501 was uncoupled, run around the train, with a stop to fill the tender water tank, to the "armstrong" turntable where we turned her around. While this was taking place the tank car, which was spotted in the middle of the train, had to be refilled with compressed air for the train brake system. There was an underground pipeline from the roundhouse to a riser pipe near the track from which we would connect a hose line to the tank car and fill it to capacity. (Later the locomotive would be modified to be able to pump enough air itself to keep the train line at full pressure.) Due to passenger safety considerations, riders were kept on the train while the train was serviced. This also lengthened the trip and allowed passengers to safely observe the servicing. After these operations were completed, the train would return to the station area to unload and reload passengers for the next trip.

      At the end of the day, the 1501 was run into the roundhouse and the flex pipe put over her stack to carry the smoke out through the roof. We would then cover all the cars with canvas to keep them dry. Finally, I would retrace my morning ride out to Peachtree Junction, locking all the switches along the way. The C&S employees were all very surprised at the popularity of the miniature railroad and the way the public was drawn to it on Saturdays. As time went on, we all settled down to the "big time railroad" routine.