Rockport Railroad.
Part Two.

Rockport Train Depot.
A stat by jrd on 2/15/05.


Photo of C. E. Durbin-Depot Agent.
Probably taken in the early sixties.

Railroads-Part 2.

The Old Rockport Depot is long gone as well as the Water Tank. Trains just don't need water anymore. Add that to a train not needing a caboose and the modern day train is certainly not as exciting at it once was. When trains were moved by steam engines and thus, had to stop for water, a person, and especially a young boy, could get up close and personal to a train. You could actually touch one. As a precaution, each young observer knew that the steam could be hot and was careful not to be in the path of the escaping steam or the spent steam when a train was starting up. I don't know of anyone ever getting hurt or being burnt by the steam, but the enormity of the train, the noise and the ever present steam made it seem exciting. Imagine, if you well, an enormous train, with a steam engine and a coal car, twenty or more various railroad cars, and a caboose parked on the main line taking on water and the engine just seemed to be idling. The engineer may have been inside the depot, along with the conductor and the large train just sitting there, seemingly unattended. Now would have been a good time to place a penny on the tracks just in front of the engines' large drive wheels. The penny never got flattened very much when the train started, but it certainly seemed that it became paper thin. After the necessary stop, another exciting event was about to take place and that is the starting up of the train. With the train crew on board and the fireman adding fuel to the boiler, it was time to get that big old train moving. The train's whistle was the first to be heard and it was loud and long, as it was a signal to all that the train was about to start. Next the steam valve would be open enough to allow the steam to be released into the drive cylinders. Escaping steam from the exhaust of the cylinders would create somewhat of a mist that made the event seem more exciting. When enough pressure was build up to cause the piston to be pushed forward, another type of loud noise would be present. Now, the large drive wheels would move and the train would inch forward just a little. More steam pressure to the cylinders and the train would continue to move forward, but very slowly. Steam would seem to be coming from all parts of the train and a different noise would occur at different points corresponding to the steam escaping to the surrounding area. With the train moving forward and the steam pressure increasing, every kid knew that soon the drive cylinders would have enough power to actually spin the wheels on the track and that unique sound seem to emphasize the power of those large cylinders. As the train slowly picked up speed, enough noise was being made to entertain every kid in the area. Here the "Chug- Chug-Chug" noise of the cylinders, the clanging of parts driving the train, the escaping noise of the steam and the loud train whistle made the visit to the train area worthwhile. The entertaining start-up of a train is just one of things that a kid will never forget. No more though, as modern day trains just don't sit still and they don't make very much noise.



Railroading in those days was not all pleasant. The engine room could be a hot place to work in the summer months. It could be a cold place in the winter. Railroad workers never seem to have a permanent type job. Job placement and job location was done on a seniority basis. If a Depot agent in one town wanted to move to another work location, and he had the seniority, he could have the younger Depot Agent's work location. The younger agent would now have to look for a work station that was being manned by a person with less seniority. In this matter, if an older person just wanted to move, he could cause a chain reaction that may cause several other people to move. Railroaders and Railroad families had a history of having to move.

I don't remember the names of very many Depot Agents. H. D. Bailey was the first Rockport Depot Agent that I remember. After he retired, there was several agents that served for a short period of time and then C. E. Durbin became the Depot agent in 1952. Mr. Durbin trained a few young men that went on to larger operations. Two trainees quickly come to mind. His son, Jimmy is one that I can remember as well as a young man by the name of Marvin Dunn. Mr. Durbin worked at Rockport until he retired and it was not long after his retirement that the old Depot was outdated, like the old steam engine, and both were replaced with other newer and more modern methods.



Did you ever think that the Railroad Companies delivered the mail? Well, they did and for quite a number of years. A mail bag was delivered to the depot by the postmaster. Then the Depot Agent would attach this mailbag to a post that had special arms that held the bag in an upright position and eight or so feet off the ground. As the train approached, a train crewman would extend a metal arm with a spring loaded clamp, and without even slowing down, grasp the mail bag and it was on the way to another station. During this period of time, the incoming mail would just be tossed out the opened door of the train and the Depot Agent would pick it up and hand it to the Postmaster. Post Office and a Railroad-What a combination!



There was once a time when the Steamboats on the Green River were powered by steam generated from a boiler, just like the old Steam Locomotives that would pull the railroad cars. These "Steamboats" are being lumped together, but there were many different types. Rockport was a "Stopping Point" for the "Excursion Boats" and many visitors debarked from an excursion boat to spend the night in Rockport. A night on the town and a nice hotel, to spend the night, awaited the visitor. In most cases, the visitors would embark the next day and be on the way downriver. Not only visitors, but other type passengers, like salesmen, would stay overnight and return downriver the next day. Other type boats that were powered by steam included the "Packet" boats. These boats carried goods as well as the mail. In the first half of the twentieth century, practically all of boats on the Green River were powered by a steam engine and all of the rail cars were pulled by a steam driven locomotive. Before the railroad was built, the Green River was the major means of transportation. By the time that I was old enough to visit the river, the excursion boats and packet boats were gone. About all that was left was the regular tugboat. The "Tug" was steam driven and it drove a "Paddle Wheel" to move the boat. Then in the mid-fifties, these steam driven boats were replaced by diesel powered boats and another era was gone. A few years before the river boats switched over to diesel engines, the locomotive had been in the process of switching to diesel. End of another era and most of the young people hated to see those two type steam engines be replaced with diesel power. A person will win some and will lose some. To lose the steam powered engines to diesel engines was a loss to all of us that enjoyed the enormity and the closeness of being associated with those older machines. Too Bad.

Thanks for looking and thanks for reading.

See you.......
jrd
 





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