Tag Archives: railroad conductor

The Charm on His Watch Chain: 1884

torquoise shell heart locket

Tortoise-shell locket with pique work. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/15128/lot/205/


Half a dozen railroad conductors, running on different roads, all good friends, met in a cigar store one day last week, and smoked, and talked, and joked each other about owning the various roads they run on, “knocking down” fares, “whacking up” with the directors, etc. They are great men to “cod” each other, as the saying is, and one stylish conductor, who always dresses well had to take it pretty rough. One good natured fellow, who is a great talker, joked the stylish conductor about his diamond, and finally got sight of a little worn and dilapidated charm on his watch chain, a little tortoise shell locket with marks cut into it all over. The talking conductor said.

“O, boys, look at him? A diamond as big as a paper weight, a two hundred dollar watch and a hundred dollar chain, and a dirty, nicked, worn out, miserable locket not worth ten cents. The brotherhood of railroad conductors ought to bounce him out of the association.” The boys all joined in and said it was a shame to wear such a thing ; some proposed raising a purse to get him a new one, and one of the boys was going to take hold of the miserable little charm and pull it off. The stylish conductor stepped back with a forced smile, and took the charm in his hand tenderly and seemed to caress it, and he tried to change the subject, but the boys would not allow it, when he said.

“Boys, that is of more value to me than my diamond stud, my watch, or my position. I would not part with it for all of Alex. Mitchell’s wealth. I would not erase one of those little dents in the charm to save my right arm. I couldn’t do it, boys.”

“Oh I know what’s the matter,” said the talking conductor, as he punched the stylish conductor in the ribs with his thumb, “some girl gave it to him. I know how it is. A girl made me a present once of a grand bounce, and I carried the marks of it for years. Old softy, here, carries that cow-horn charm with the notches in, as a reminder of old love. Every notch represents a kiss eh, you old rascal?”

The stylish conductor turned away from the boys, ostensibly to light his cigar, but really to hide a tear that was trying to steal a ride on the truck of his eye-ball. He took his handkerchief and wiped his eye, and said something about a cinder in it, and then turned to the boys and said: “Fellows, I don’t want you to think I am too soft, and as the most of you have children, I guess you won’t think so if I tell you about this cheap-looking affair. I used to wear it on a silver watch chain when I was braking on a freight train fifteen years ago. We had a little flaxen-haired girl baby, a year and a-half old, and I was away so much, leaving at four o’clock in the morning and coming home late every second night, that I did not have much time to visit with the baby, except when she woke up nights with aching gums, and Sundays. Well, boys, the little baby almost cut a whole set of teeth on that miserable little watch charm. Nothing else would seem to hit the right spot on a tooth, and she would lay awake nights to wait for me to come, and pap’ was never too dirty for her to get in his lap, nestle up in the bosom covered with a greasy blouse, and be happy. Sundays her mother didn’t have to even look at her, because she was in my lap all day.

Well, one day I was up the road with a way freight, unloading some stuff at a station, the second day out, and thinking that at eight P. M. I would be home and the baby would gallop over me, when my conductor, as good a boy as ever lived, who is now a division superintendent, came along the platform as pale as a sheet, and said to me: “Boss you have got to go right home. Go get on the engine and the old man will pull her out and get you down to your house in forty minutes, and he can get back before we have this freight unloaded. Your baby is awful sick.”

Boys, I was so weak I couldn’t lift a pound. I couldn’t get on the engine without help, but we run to J. like the wind. The baby was dead when the conductor told me, and he knew it, but it was tough enough for him, poor old, pard to tell me she was sick. I found her dead, having died of convulsions in teething, and my wife frantic, while 1 felt as though a train of box cars had run over me, and I wished they had. Oh, what a blow that was. The prettiest baby that ever was, that I left two days before with a smile on her face that would soften the hardest heart, dead. She said: “Tum home morrow, papa, and baby have new toot.” As she lay on the bed, an angel, with her lips smilingly parted, enough to show some of the little teeth that had cut the holes you see in this charm, I took the charm up and kissed it, and I said I would wear it always, and I have, so far boys, and I always will.”

The stylish conductor turned his head one way to wipe his eyes, the talking conductor turned his head another way, and every blessed one of the largehearted boys had tears in their eyes as big as the stylish conductor’s diamond. They shook hands with the stylish conductor and went away. A few days later the stylish conductor missed his charm from his watch chain, when he was going away, and his wife told him she wanted to have the ring fixed that held it on the chain, and she would have it for him when he came back from his run. When he came back the boys met at his house, and after supper one of them handed him the charm beautifully mounted in gold, with only the part of tortoise shell showing where the tooth marks of the dead baby had been made, and on the back in pure gold, was engraved the word, “Darling.” The boys wanted to show that they appreciated the conductor’s feelings. How often a careless remark, in a joke, will bring out a story of heart ache that makes tears flow from eyes unaccustomed to weeping.—

The Conductor and Brakeman, Volume 1, 1 October 1884: pp 471-73

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil wishes all doting Papas a very Happy Father’s Day.

To celebrate, that ghostly person over at Haunted Ohio has posted this dire story of a dead father who returns for his little daughter.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The Woman in Black, the Conductor, and the Abandoned Infant: A Drama on Wheels 1870

train conductor

“Don’t forget your luggage–and babies!” cries the conductor.

A Woman Abandons her Infant on Board a Railway Train—the Conductor Procures her Arrest—How she Circumvented his Vigilance

Chicago Tribune 28th
On Friday last an episode of an irregular character occurred on a Michigan Southern Railroad train coming west, which furnished food of gossip and speculation among the passengers. There came aboard the train at Adrian a well-dressed, though modest little woman, bearing in her arms a cherub some three months of age. The woman, with her child took a seat in the ladies’ car. Soon the conductor came along to collect the fares. When he arrived at the seat occupied by the little woman, he appeared slightly confused, but regaining his equilibrium, asked to see her ticket. She replied that she was not possessed of the desired piece of pasteboard, neither had she the wherewith to purchase the article. Some conversation in a low tone then occurred between the conductor and is impecunious passenger, when he turned about and going to the gentlemen occupying the coach, told them that the woman was a deserving creature, who had met with misfortune through the machinations of some “double-dyed villains,” etc. and whom he desired to help. He proposed to head a subscription in her behalf with a V; would not the liberal-hearted passengers assist him? Of course they would. Who could resist such a tempting offer? In less time that it requires to write these lines, a purse of considerable magnitude was collected and handed to the little woman in black, who returned her thanks with tears, which spoke more eloquently than could words.
While what is above related is occurring the train was speeding on its westward way station after station being passed in quick succession. When “Hudson” was called, the little woman in black started to her feet, and rushed for the door of the car, forgetting in her haste to take along the “blessed baby,” which was left in the seat lately occupied by its mother. In a minute the train was again under headway and was soon beyond the suburbs of the charming village. As it sped along toward the setting sun, the jostling awoke the offspring of the “woman in black,” the late recipient of alms, and then, for the first time were the occupants of the coach made aware that the woman had abandoned her babe. The poor innocent was at once kindly cared for by some gentle ladies and the conductor notified of what had occurred.
At Pittsford, the next station, the conductor stopped the train, gave the waif into the keeping of the agent, and, calling the telegraph into requisition, sent a dispatch to Hudson, requesting the arrest of the “woman in black,” and giving his reasons for making the request.
A lapse of twenty-four hours must now occur, as they say in the play bills, before we can commence the second set of our little drama, the curtain having descended on the first at the telegraph office at Pittsford.
On Saturday our conductor was again on the road, this time journeying eastward, bound for Toledo. When he reached Pittsford he again took aboard the abandoned child, intending to deliver it to its mother at Hudson. Upon reaching the latter station he alighted with the cherubim in his arms, and immediately set about searching for the mother or someone into whose possession he could give the babe. But no one could be found to accept the charge. Not they. “Not for Joseph.” [a sarcastic refusal on the order of “not on your life.”] They knew a trick worth two of that. They had been posted. They had been present at the examination of the little woman before a Justice of the Peace and heard the testimony. “Oh, no, Mr. Conductor, keep your own child; don’t try to turn it over to us to bring up. A pretty father are you to act so shamefully.”
Such were the responses our noble conductor received from the people of Hudson, whose population he was so anxious to increase to the extent of one soul.
Of course he was mystified, not to say dumbfounded. What did all this—nonsense mean? Would they explain? Would they come out from behind their masks and inform him who he was? And all that sort of thing.”
An explanation followed. It appeared that when the woman was taken into custody, in response to the Pittsford telegram of the day before, she demanded an instant examination before a competent judicial tribunal. This was accorded her, and the telegram was offered as the chief witness for the prosecution. Though a little irregular, it was admitted to testify, and had its due weight upon the mind of “His Honor.”
Then came the defence. The little woman proceeded. She admitted that she had abandoned her child, but contended she had done nothing wrong. Only half of the infant belonged to her, and she was willing to live up even that share. To its father belonged the remainder. Into the possession of its father had she delivered the child. The conductor, the author of the dispatch which led to her arrest, was also the author if its being, and he must look to its welfare in the future. She had done for it all she was going to, “and that’s the end on’t.”
The learned magistrate took the testimony under advisement a few minutes, and then rendered “judgment in favor of defendant,” in other words, order that the woman be released from custody and be permitted to depart. And she did depart, right soon, to parts unknown.
The conductor—upon hearing this revelation, was almost distracted; he paced frantically up and down the platform, one moment cursing the crowd, which had by this time grown to considerable magnitude, and the next imploring some one to relieve him from his unpleasant predicament, and take the “accursed baby” off his hands. He said he was a married man, with wife and children of his own to support, and he did not want to add to his flock any stray lambs.
Finally he succeeded in convincing an old lady in the crowd that they had been imposed upon by the mysterious woman and she consented to take the innocent cause of all his troubles under her protecting wing.
“All aboard!” The train is under motion and our conductor is the happiest man on earth.
And so ends the drama of the “Mysterious Woman; or, the Abandoned Baby and Distracted Conductor.”
The above facts were given our reporter by a gentleman who obtained them directly from our friend, the conductor.
The Conservative [McConnelsville, OH] 15 April 1870

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Frankly Mrs Daffodil finds this “end” to the story inadequate; one really wishes to know more. Mrs Daffodil is well-acquainted with the impostures practised on railway travellers (she once obtained a lucrative position by possessing herself of a lady’s maid’s letters of recommendation when the trusting young woman left her hand luggage in care of Mrs Daffodil)  and is puzzled as to why the infant’s mother did not try to extort more money from the hapless conductor. Perhaps she merely wanted to rid herself of the fruit of her shame. The whole affair is an indictment of the American railway car.  If this had occurred on the British railway system, it would have been an easy matter to find an empty compartment from which she could launch the child out the window and into Eternity. Or, if the woman in black was apprehensive of exposure or suffered from scruples, to check the infant (placed in a capacious handbag and rendered temporarily  unconscious by an opium-laced soothing syrup) at the cloak-room at Victoria Station.  One fears instead that the child ended up as a drudge in a local household or was sent to the county orphanage.