06 journey   roland morsell

Roland Morsell - The Train

In Roland Morsell’s oral history, he described the long, hard hours working for the railway in the 1930s, and the many jobs held afterwards once the train stopped operating.  Inspired by Mr. Morsell's oral history.


I started working on the railway with my father in the late 1920s.  I walked to work until I could afford to buy an old Chevrolet Roadster. I’d get to the station by 5 in the morning and didn’t  leave until 8 or 9 at night.  I was what you’d call a jack of all trades. While the train was running I worked on the train gangs, digging ditches, driving spikes—I could get that spike driven in three licks and a tap!  Sometimes I was the hostler, the man that had to keep the engine loaded with coal and water overnight.  We’d unload coal to the coal bin and, when the time came, we’d throw it up into the tender.  No machine to help us; it was pure muscle power!  The boss at times had me making repairs or catching the line of the steamers docking on the long pier.  I was even a flagman at one of the bigger stations to guide the automobiles.  During the busy summer season, I carried two signal lanterns and would stand at the railway crossing directing cars until the last train of the day passed.

My pay?  I started at 15 cents an hour.  It was rough going, hard work, and it took me years to get to 25 cents an hour, but I got there, eventually even making 30 cents an hour.

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