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Veteran Railroader Says, 'Boys Today Don't Know What Work Is'

Veteran Railroad Says, 'Boys Today Don't Know What Work Is' 

KENILWORTH, N.J. (HTNS) - "Railroad men today aren't what they used to be - not by a heck of a lot." The speaker flung his six-foot-three, 235 pound frame into a groaning swivel chair and grinned sourly. This was 58 year old George A. Clark, President of the Rahway Valley Railroad, all 7.1 miles of it.

This was the man who, needing a brakeman for the freight switching line, advertised in a local paper last week that "no bugle boys, blowhards, dreamers, goldbrickers, hotshots, or wobblemouths" need apply. There were a number of applicants, but the one selected worked exactly two days, and was never seen again.

"These boys today don't know what work is," boomed Mr. Clark in his office in the turn-of-the-century wooden building which is Rahway Valley's Kenilworth Station and headquarters of the railroad. "On this line, we start out in the morning and work until there is no more to do. If that means night work, we work at night."

Besides a large desk and a couple of easy chairs the president's office contained a diavan (occupied by two nondescript dogs) a refrigerator with open cartons of dog food on top, and a two ring electric range with jars of instant coffee on a shelf underneath. The walls were covered by a collection of vintage calenders---all bearing pictures of locomotives.

Mr. Clarks has occupied that office since 1932, when he succeeded to the presidency upon the death of his father, Roger Clark, but worked for the Rahway Valley Railroad since 1920. It was just before then that the elder Clark, a railroad auditor, came east from Oregon, to try to put the railroad on it's feet. The son worked his way up from trackman, to brakeman, to conductor, to engineer, before taking over the top job.

The line itself is only a little older than Mr. Clark. It began operations about 1894 as the New Orange (now Kenilworth) Four Junction Railroad, linking this town with the Central Railroad of New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley. Ten years later, it was taken over by Louis Keller, publisher of the "Social Register."

The story is that Mr. Keller bought the road only to give him and his friends easier access to the Baltusrol Golf Club, of which he was one of the founders, in nearby Springfield, N.J. In any event the Rahway Valley did carry passengers until 1919. This traffic was especially heavy in World War I when a munitions was located here and an automobile for every worker was unheard of.

Today, the line, handling freight, connects also with the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western at Summit, N.J. It handles the cars of three major roads which are routed to factories along it's right of way. There is also a certain amount of "bridge traffic", freight cars being shunted from the Lehigh Valley to the DL&W for instance.

Rolling stock consists of two diesel locomotives, a self propelled track maintenance car with trailer for tools and materials, and a seldom used caboose. In the shop here is a large steam locomotive.

"We'll probably never use it again, but I can't bear to part with it," Mr. Clark said. "I know diesels are more economical but, damn it, they don't thrill me the way those old huffin' and puffin engines used to."

The entire payroll of the Rahway Valley, including it's president is 15. Almost any of them can do any job that might have to be done. Right now the three maintenance men are on strike for higher wages. When the weather is fine, they picket the station, when it isn't, they stay home. No one is worrying at this stage because most maintenance work is done in the summer months.

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