The History of the American Railroad, Written by One of its Original Pioneers

That the width of the railroad track is exactly the width of of the ruts left in the stones of the ancient Roman Roads. These first "tracks" were made by chariots.

The first trains only had two wheels and were so similar to chariots that the first men to drive them were called gladiators instead of engineers.

Boxcar Willie designed the first railroad boxcars and they carry his name to this day.

The first brakes used to stop trains were anchors left over from ships from the Civil War. The brakeman would throw the anchor out the window of the engine and the train would jerk to a stop often throwing gladiators from the train.

During the potato famine in Ireland, thousands of Irish workers were bribed to come to the U. S. by railroad executives. The Irish refused to accept money all they wanted was as much liquor as they could drink and a pound of potatoes every day for each member of their family. This led to the famous quote: "A pound of flesh for a pound of potatoes".

The Chinese Railroad workers came to America to work on laying track in the western part of the U. S. The only workers qualified to work on laying track were the Chinese that had built the Great Wall of China.

The Native Americans called the steam engines the Iron Horse. They always left bales of hay alongside the track to help feed the giant steed. They foolishly thought that feeding the Iron Horse would appease their gods. The hay on the sides of the track proved a blessing when a gladiator was thrown out after tossing his anchor.

Trains were not allowed to run after dark because electricity hadn't been invented yet. After Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity a single bulb was installed on the front of every train that had the same strength as a 40 watt bulb saving many lives and also leading to "red eye" trips.

The standard time zones across the U. S. were designed by railroads so that train schedules would work in different parts of the country. The legendary Johnny Cash was the person who actually came up with the idea as witnessed in many of his writings.

Samuel Morse created the "train language" known as Morse Code. History shows that this was the first time that U. S. government eavesdropped on American citizens after the FBI broke Morse Code.

Some of the early steam engines could fly, but this was a safety hazard to the many birds attracted to the steam they issue forth.

Caboose is a word that came from the Native American language and it means "see you later dog-headed god Coyote."

Hoboes are the poor Irish men that lost their jobs once the railroads finished laying track.

The word Hobo means Irish man who lost his job when the railroads stopped laying track..

While pounding the "Golden Spike" railroad executives three railroad executives died in a spurt of steam. This created the Old Faithful Geyser.

Engineers always ate potato chips while on duty in honor of the drunken hoboes who made their jobs possible.

After the Civil War, the freed slave were brought to the north in a special caravan of trains known as the Soul Train.

Hot dogs were invented by the railroad as an easy way for them to dispose of animals hit by trains on the tracks.

The knuckle coupler, the most common way to connect train cars, was invented by James T. Knuckle. James T. Knuckle was working on the railroad and got his hand stuck between two freight cars. Determined not to have this happen again he set about inventing a coupler that throws hands and arms out of the way.

Theodore Pullman built sleeper cars for the railroads. Sleeper cars were designed for passengers to bed down for the night as the train traveled cross country. Pullman and the railroads forgot to add bathrooms to the sleeper cars. John Crapper designed the Potty Car that traveled right behind the sleeper car. Mr. Crapper's name is was so popular that several towns across america are named in his honor. There is a town in Colorado known as Crap City and another in New Mexico called Crap Pipe Drop and one in California known as Crap Valley.

Casey Jones, one of the most courageous early gladiotors, is best known for saving New York City during World War II. Casey single handedly used a steam engine to pull a Japanese Submarine out of Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor houses the Statue of Liberty and the Japanese were about to torpedo the statue. The song "Casey at the throttle" is sung as a tribute to his courageous act. Single-handedly, Casey Jones was able to prevent Pearl Harbor.

John Seward was one of the richest men in the country. He made his millions by overcharging passengers on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Finally in 1897 the passengers revolted and stormed Sewards mansion in Palm Beach Florida. He tried to drop boiling water on the crowd from the roof of the mansion. The police finally threw him in jail. This foolish act became known as Seward's Folly.

Wooden railroad ties were not always the standard. Railroad ties were originally made out of plastic. The ride was so rough that many passengers had their teeth jolted out of their jaw. Wood ties act as a buffer to downward motion saving the teeth of many passengers and allowing the railroads to get rid of their Dentist Cars.

The famous boxing match, FUN IN THE SUN, between Muhammad ALi and Jolting Joe took place on a flatcar in the city of Miami Beach Florida.

Benjamin Franklin flew his famous kite into the middle of a thunderstorm while standing atop a moving steam engine. When the lightning struck the kite Franklin got the idea for inventing the first electric train engine. He also got the idea for HO scale trains, which were not popular as travel devices as passengers found them too small to actually sit in.

Runaway Trains were popular in the early 1900's as the engineers spent many hours driving the trains. A runaway train happens when the engineer falls asleep. The most famous runaway train happened on the Big Island of Hawaii. This became known as Pickett's Charge when the runaway train took the life of the Hawaiian Queen Ka'ahumanu as well as her royal guard, know as the Soul Asylum.

Some of the famous quotes that have come from the railroad include the following:

"A light at the end of the tunnel" This refers to the first accident involving drunken Irish railroad workers. They fell asleep in a tunnel and were awakened by the light at the end of the tunnel, a giant train which they imagined was God. They stumbled about but couldn't outrun God, who ended up smashing them to little bits.

"Going to hell on a handcar." This refers to a small car that fits on a track and is driven by railroad workers. These small cars are referred to as carts. The Reverend Pat Roberts used these carts to smuggle drugs and dirty magazines into his compound. When this was revealed in the press, the phrase "Going to Hell in a Handcar" was coined in the press.

"And never the twain shall meet" This refers to an accident that involved two trains that crashed headfirst going 70 miles an hour. Everyone blamed the stationmaster for not throwing the correct switch. The stationmaster had a lisp when he talked. When he thought he thew the switch, he said, "and never a twain shall meet."

"Stay on track" refers to stay the course. This is a term used by Presidents of the United States to justify bad decisions and unwinnable wars.


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Copyright 2006 William Wahl

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