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 Post subject: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:05 am 

Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:45 pm
Posts: 128
A couple of times recently I have been about the blacks working on the railroads. This was something that I really did not have much of an answer for. I do know that Pullman hired many black porters and that many of the track gangs were made up of blacks. Beyond that I was not able to give much of an answer.

The other part of this would be the Jim Crow era and how that played on the history of railroading. I was wondering how many places have actually addressed this part of history and what some of the thoughts are on it?

Mark A. Frazier


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:26 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1876
At National Capital Trolley Museum, we have an exhibit on "Jim Crow Streetcars" and a program about Rosa Parks. These are presented during Black History Month. An exhbit panel for the U Street corridor discusses the segregated business and housing in "Uptown". In our new exhibit "Street Cars Go to the Movies" we acknowledge the segregation in Washington, DC movie theatres.

Wesley


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:30 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
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Location: Maine
Americans of African descent were, have been, and continue to be, integral units of track gangs. My older brother worked one summer in the early sixties on a track gang, and recalled a black man hurling ties over hand from a gondola. Track work has always been hard, back-breaking, but essential labor in the railroad story. In those days, it was hard to for men of African ethnicity to move upward. Thank God, we have moved away from that era.
Good topic.

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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:39 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
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Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
If my memory serves correctly, California State RR Museum, RR Museum of Pa., B&O Museum, and a couple others have done programs or exhibits on the subject(s). The Baltimore Streetcar Museum has an exhibit or two that highlight African-American members of the transit companies.

Consider the following:
1) Urban museums have an imperative to be "relevant" to their potential visitors, a great many more of whom are African-American (or Hispanic, Asian, etc.) than in decades past;
2) Museums that operate with, or appeal to, government dollars have an incentive to take extra efforts to "recognize" minorities and other special-interest groups.


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:16 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Trains did a feature on African/Americans in the rail work force back in the 1970's. Look it up in the index. I believe the title was something like, "They called him George".

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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:11 pm 
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Location: MA
Don't forget about Simm Webs acasey Johns fireman.


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:14 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2012 3:08 pm
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Here's a couple of video's of Gandy Dancers done by "FolkStreams"

Interviews done in the early 70's with retired black railway workers.

http://www.folkstreams.net/film,101
http://www.folkstreams.net/film,223

They all tell how hard it was to come up thru the ranks..............


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:22 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 987
I believe South Carolina's Rockton & Rion Railway, which was steam-only into the mid-1960's, was one of the few railroads, particularly in the South, to employ black engineers during that era.


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:01 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:45 pm
Posts: 128
Shortly after I posted this I did remember Simm Web, and was wondering if blacks were often hired as firemen? I did read the comment that not many were hired as engineers. I had also read that there were many blacks employed building the overseas railway.

Mark A. Frazier


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:14 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:10 pm
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Location: TN
Many Southern roads had injector controls in a position best accessible to engineer for carrying water with black fireman. A spot that you rarely see a white person working in photos (with the exception of the steward) is the dining cars.

In reply to the original poster, at TVRM we have 2 operating Jim Crow cars, ex-CG 906 and 907. 907's partition was removed, but 906's remains (and for the longest time the white/colored labeling in each section). Though the cars are used daily, there's rarely much said about this part of their history aside from a plaque in each car.


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 10:07 am 

Joined: Wed Aug 25, 2004 11:01 pm
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Location: LA or NC
If I'm remembering correctly, if you study some old photos of ICRR locomotives, you'll see both injectors and their feed pipes on the engineer's side of the boiler.

In the 1970's Charles Kuralt did a special on track lining gangs at the Mississippi Export Railroad that included some interesting telescopic filming of track moving in line to the beat of the chant. Does anyone know if this footage is on the internet?


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:12 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
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That would be the Buckingham Lining Bar Gang. At Trainfest 2004, Charles White Sr. said they were nearing the point of having to decide whether to stop or train some younger men, because they were running out of guys healthy enough to travel and work out in the heat. There is a lot of video of them around and they used to sell their own DVDs as well. Nothing beats living history done by the people who lived it the first time.

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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:24 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
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Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
Well, Jawn Henry, "The Steel Driving Man", was famous enough to have a powerful steam locomotive named after him. "Trains" magazine published a photo of it crushing a caboose.

In the late 1950's, "Railroad" magazine published a photo of a logging railroad steam engine in the Old South of the U. S. of A. with a teenaged Negro girl running it. I brought it to class and Sister agreed that the Devil might be using the photo to torment the souls of the founders of the Klu Klux Klan as they enjoyed their eternal rewards. We were too young to be taught that there was anything unusual about a lady engineer.


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2012 5:33 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 10:49 am
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Some of you may know that my paternal grandfather was a Pullman porter and his brother was a locomotive fireman on the Santa Fe. My maternal grandfather was a track laborer for the Santa Fe. Some of the stories they used to tell me will live with me forever..I just wish I had had the foresight to get a tape recorder and record them for posterity. Like my great uncle, I went into engine service and stayed there, straying occasionally into the brakeman and conductor ranks.

My uncle would tell the tale of working into Amarillo, Texas on one occasion to find there were no accomodations for black firemen. Being from deep East Texas, he expected as such so he arranged to stay at a bordello until his appointed call time, along with several Pullman porters. Turned out that when the call boy came around to give him his call, his engineer was upstairs accepting his call for the same train!


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 Post subject: Re: Blacks in railroading
PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:32 am 

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 3:25 am
Posts: 1025
As I recall, on many if not most railroads in the "Old South", a black man could be the fireman on a steam locomotive, but could not aspire to promotion to engineer. Could someone with more knowledge of the subject advise as to whether this was an unwritten "tradition" or part of the union agreements? Also, is it true that railroads in the South were relatively late in adopting mechanical stokers for larger steam engines?

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