Trainmen…

Posted on September 12, 2011 by

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This past week, my grandfather, a “trainman” of, apparently, 25 (give or take) years, would have been 108… and it got me to thinking how incredibly cool it is that the railroad has played into my family history, since, perhaps, as early as the late 1860s.  I know, I know, I’m jumping the track (hey, why not… pun intended :) ) when it comes to the Civil War, but, perhaps not so much, considering…

… the first three trainmen in the family (at least that I know of) began in the post-Civil War years (two of them being veterans of the Union army)…

… and, following the arrival of the railroad in the central and upper Shenandoah Valley, by 1881, many a Confederate veteran’s son and grandson in my family benefited in the wake of the reconstruction period (thanks to the efforts of P.B. Borst and William Milnes, Jr. with the Shenandoah Valley Railroad).

Close-up from a SVRR bond certificate, from 1879

Now, I write a lot about “men of war”, but, I think these fellows deserve attention… so… here’s my memory download of their stories…

The first of the line appears to have been George Arthur Ege, a veteran Union officer and first cousin to my third great grandmother Moore, who, soon after the war, found a job working in the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, as Commissary, Terminal, and Station Agent at Junction City, Kansas. By 1876, Ege transitioned to the General Accounting Department of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, at Topeka, Kansas. Granted, he didn’t ride the rails, but worked in support. Ege died in 1913, and was buried at the National Cemetery in Fort Leavenworth.

“Uncle Joe” McKinney, in his days as a Union cavalryman

Next up, there was Joseph Lake McKinney, brother to my third great grandmother Moore (same one mentioned above), and that other Union veteran, having been mentioned here more than a time or two, who served in Cole’s Maryland Cavalry. Following the Civil War, he found employment with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, working on it until the early 20th century (I think up until the day he died). One of the worst incidents in which he was involved occurred in the Keyser, West Virginia yards, in April 1906. He, along with brakeman W.L. Long, was seriously injured (suffered a broken leg, and injured back, respectively) when “a runaway B&O railroad yard engine crashed into a string of cabooses standing on a side track… smashing the cabooses, killing two men and injuring three”. I’m not sure if it was related to the incident or not, but McKinney died two years later, and was buried in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Looking back and yesterday: The B&O Roundhouse and Shops at Martinsburg (vintage 1865). No doubt, a familiar site to many of my railroad ancestors.

Then we begin to get into the Moore family line of trainmen, beginning with my third great grandfather… the husband of the above-mentioned third great grandmother Moore. Having traded-in (figuratively, of course) his canal boat from the C&O canal, Cyrus Moore found employment with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad sometime in the late 1860s, as a conductor. In conjunction with his work on the B&O, Cyrus became associated with the Conductors Brotherhood, and began regularly attending conventions of this order. On December 15, 1868, he was a representative of the B&O when he attended the convention in Columbus, Ohio. At that convention, he served as doorkeeper, was elected Grand Guide, and was appointed to a committee to prepare Constitution and By-Laws. He was re-elected Grand Guide at the Chicago convention, in June, 1869; elected Assistant Grand Chief Conductor at Buffalo (Oct. 1869); became Grand Chief Conductor by the death of A.G. Black (August 23, 1870); was elected to that office at Philadelphia (St. Lawrence Hotel, Oct. 6 – 7, 1870) while one of the two representatives of Martinsburg Division 6), and presided over the fourth session at Cleveland (11/1/1871 – 11/3/1871). He received a certificate for the Conductors’ Brotherhood Life Insurance Company on June 21, 1871, which listed him as a member of Berkeley Division No. 6.

From “Railroad Conductors: A Study in Organized Labor”, by Edwin C. Robbins, 1914

Cyrus Moore, in his retirement years (ca. late 1880s/early 90s)

Cyrus was also listed as a conductor in the Cumberland Valley Railroad Directory from, for the years 1877 – 1878, during which time he was living at 62 N. German Street (now Maple St.) in Martinsburg. This was also the time in which the Great Railroad Strike took place, though Cyrus’ situation during this strike is unknown.

A family story/legend suggests that sometime during his service on the railroad, Cyrus may have also worked for the Shenandoah Valley Railroad and that he was the engineer or conductor on the first train into the Shenandoah Iron District to pick-up iron ore. John Howard Moore, his son, was the last to take ore out of Shenandoah.

By 1880, Cyrus changed careers once again. In the census records for that year (dated June 3, 1880), he was listed as a hotel clerk, living with his family on King Street, in Martinsburg. After being associated with the Hannis Distillery in Martinsburg, he and his wife, Kate, moved back and forth between Martinsburg and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in the years that followed, and when Cyrus died in 1904, he received a proper trainman’s honor, being transported back to Martinsburg by train, arriving “on the 8:25 train”, for burial in Green Hill Cemetery.

Two of Cyrus’ and Kate’s sons went into the “family business” as well… James Draden Moore and, my great-great grandfather, John Howard Moore (while a third son, “Cliff“, went into the other “family business”, working in the hotel industry).

Draden Moore, ca. late 1880s

I don’t know a great deal about James’ work on the railroad, but do know he was first a passenger train brakeman, and later a passenger conductor on the Cumberland Valley Railroad, and referred to as “Captain” Moore. In addition to being a member of the Order of Railway Conductors, he was also a 32nd Degree Freemason, his funeral service, in Green Hill Cemetery, in Martinsburg, being conducted by Palestine Commandery Knights Templar.

Blinky, ca. 1915

Now, as for gg grandad (John Howard) Moore, it was only after his ventures out to Kentucky and Kansas, did he return to, I believe, Martinsburg, before he started his days on the railroad. Known more commonly among fellow trainmen as “Blinky” (because of an eye twitch or spasm he had), he may have started with either the B&O or C.V.R.R., during which time, it is said, on one of his runs to Shenandoah, he found a parcel of land that appealed to him, along Naked Creek, just on the Page County line, with Rockingham County. Moving to Page County, Virginia, he made the transition to, likely, the Shenandoah Valley Railroad… what would eventually become part of the Norfolk & Western R.R., and made his first run on that line in 1890 (with T.B. Davis, who attended “Blinky’s” funeral in 1942). One of my favorite stories of Blinky’s days on trains details how, when headed home, he would climb out on the engine, and take off the train whistle, replacing it with a steamboat whistle. He then commenced to playing music as the train came down the mountain. On the downside this sort of work, however, how a boiler explosion scalded him severely, and left his legs scarred for life. Though residing in Shenandoah, Virginia, in 1894, he was serving as an officer (“Receiver”) with the Antietam #512, Brotherhood of Local Firemen and Enginemen, in Hagerstown, Maryland (which met in the Odd Fellows’ Hall, at the corner of Franklin and Potomac Streets, on the 1st and 3rd Sundays at 10 a.m.,… for those who may be curious and happen to live up in that direction). Blinky eventually retired from the railroad, and became active in the coal and transfer business with his grandson (my grandfather), Robert F. Moore. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Shenandoah Union Store Corporation, and an active Freemason, serving as Worshipful Master of the Ashlar Lodge (1911-1912 & 1936-37), in Shenandoah, and District Deputy Grand Master (1938). Blinky died in 1942, and was buried in Coverstone Cemetery, Shenandoah.

One of Blinky’s train watches; another cherished family heirloom from railroad days, in my collection

Hume Moore, ca. 1950s

While he didn’t make a career of it, Blinky’s son, my great grandfather, R. Hume Moore, also worked the railroad for periods of time… in between a number of occupations ranging from policeman to ranch hand in Wyoming… and other places… first as yard brakeman for the Norfolk & Western, in Shenandoah, and later, in Ilmo, Missouri, on the Southern Pacific Railroad (ca. 1940s), and Wendover, Utah, as yard master for Western Pacific R.R. I’ve also heard passing reference to the MoPac (Missouri Pacific Railroad). He died in 1960, and was buried far from old Virginny, in Perry County, Arkansas.

Others who served in support roles with the Norfolk & Western, included two other great grandfathers, Edward B. Emerson (retired as an electrician with the N&W), and James Ernest Mayes (20 years of service).

Edward B. “Pop” & Mamie “Nanny” Emerson, on their wedding day, 1908

James E. and Artie Mayes, on their wedding day, 1901

… and then we come to the source of my living memory of railroadmen, my grandfather, Harry G. Hilliard. A brakeman and conductor with the Norfolk & Western, since November 1948. In fact, as with James Draden Moore and John Howard Moore, my grandfather was part of another brother combo that rode the rails of the same line, as my granduncle Jim Hilliard was also a trainman with the N&W.

H.G. Hilliard, in the 1970s

I still remember my grandfather being called out to work shifts, his telling me about passing near the old Antietam battlefield (see, yet more Civil War!), and bringing me the Fig Newtons he saved from his lunch pale. Interestingly, in the mid 2000s, when my mom and I were out looking at a piece of land near Shenandoah, we were greeted by a fellow who actually remembered stories of my grandfather on the railroad… in fact, a particular “Christmas” train incident, which I won’t elaborate on just now, but funny, nonetheless. Remarkably, at the time, it had been at least thirty years since my grandfather had retired from the railroad, and over 25 years since he had passed away, but the story still lingered with another old trainman… as did stories of my gg grandfather Blinky Moore, with Grandad Hilliard, when he was on the railroad… trainmen remembering trainmen. That’s pretty cool stuff, there…

Those trainmen days have long since passed now, vanishing with the passing of my grandad Hilliard in 1979… but the memories of the trainmen of the family linger with me still, and, whenever the Norfolk Southern coal trains pass nearby, where I now live, and I hear the train whistle as the engine comes near road crossings, it takes me back to the memory of that long line of rail runners in my family.

One of my grandfather Hilliard’s train watches, Trainman hat, and photo of him in his youth.