SooLineHistory Group Narrative Part 1 - pix Part 2 - pix
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From Keith Meacham, June 3, 2005...

At the risk of insulting others, otherwise tainting reputations or somehow digging up bones from the past, I'm going to recount for you things that happened on the Manitowoc Line in Manitowoc circa 1960-1966 when my Late Father, Neil E. Meacham, was First Operator there. My apologies to those that may find the contents therein embarrassing or somehow painting all Soo Line employees with the same brush.

Spare Dennis and this list your complaints; if you have any, write me directly at:

And I will weather same. To me, the story doesn't have the same "Punch" to it without everyone knowing who was who and did what when.

These are things that went on over 40 years ago. I highly doubt the Superintendent is going to conduct an Investigation or remove anyone's retirement benefits.

I cannot put things that happened in the proper timeline. I wish I could, but I cannot, nor can I put the things that happened in a proper perspective. To have Dad tell it, events that happened sounded like they happened all at once!

And so, on with the story:

I cannot explain what made Dad bid on the First Operator's job in Manitowoc early in 1960. Dad had the first Operator's job in North Fond du Lac, beginning in late 1958. From all he recounted to me, it sounded like Dad was quite happy in NFDL, but it seems he had a driving desire to become an Agent. Apparently, word must have reached him through the "grapevine" that the Soo Agent in Manitowoc, Al C. Sell, was close to retirement and Dad must have thought he had enough "Whiskers" by 1960 to be able to bid on and hold the Agent's job at Manitowoc. Dad hired out in June of 1944; with subsequent retirements of older gents after WWII and Korea, the Soo's aggressive Depot retirement program, anyone with 15 or more years seniority had a better-than-average chance of holding an Agent's job.

I can only fathom that the above could be the only reason Dad would have wanted to go to Manitowoc, and could be the only reason one would have wanted to enter the weather-beaten doors of the Manitowoc Depot every day. No other reason could suffice, for what Dad faced each day in Manitowoc had actually driven more than one man to either quit the Soo entirely or move to a position even less comfortable than being First Operator---even Yard Clerking in Schiller Park on Third Trick!

"No one", Dad once said to me, "would've wanted to work at Manitowoc for the sheer "joy" of it". Manitowoc 40 years ago, was a "Meat Grinder" type of job, grueling, stressful, and the personnel there were hard to work with. As noted before, more than one Operator up and quit because of Manitowoc. The place even got to Soo Line's "Hippie Operator", Larry Koy. Koy was, seriously, a Hippie in the strictest sense; long hair, down to the middle of his back, tie-dyed tee-shirts, Love and Peace symbols, and he was prone to wear sandals on the job. The office personnel in Manitowoc rode Koy so hard about the length of his hair, among other things, that Koy simply quit, never to return to Railroading. Too bad, because Koy was a good Op. I have no idea what became of Koy after he quit the Soo.

The Clerks in Manitowoc were a Clique, and went out of their way to make the Operator's life a living hell. Anyone outside of this clique was treated very badly---such was what Dad walked in to in 1960. Dad's seniority may have had something to do with this, too, and perhaps the personnel at Manitowoc sensed Dad's intentions on becoming the Agent. After all, why else would someone with 16 years of Seniority want to come to Manitowoc?

The personnel in the Depot would barely acknowledge Dad's presence. Even the Freight House men stonewalled Dad; it was young Donnie Edwards, a Warehouseman in Manitowoc, who took a liking to Dad and the two struck up a friendship which began to break down the barriers placed by others. When Donnie was killed in 1965 (I don't remember this, as I was 2 years old, but I have the Newspaper clipping of his obituary yet) out on some quiet street Manitowoc, after he ran into a tree and beheaded himself in the process. Dad took that very hard.

Perhaps the archaic attitude in Manitowoc came from the Agent, Al Sell, himself. Al was a fiery individual who mistrusted anyone in a Union. He particularly hated Trainmen and thought they were all out to "Screw" the Company. Al Sell was extremely serious in doing his job for the Soo Line, and, as such, those that didn't like Sell used that to pull some nasty jokes on him. More about that later.

Manitowoc was a traffic plum for the Soo Line. Soo was sub-dominating in Manitowoc; Chicago & North Western was the "Home" road and had most of the Business. Something like Marshfield but in reverse; in Marshfield, the Soo was dominating with the C&NW being the Alternative Routing. However, I'd bet the C&NW wished it had the Business in Marshfield like the Soo had in Manitowoc: Manitowoc Portland Cement, Manitowoc Shipbuilding/Engineering, Burger Boat, Wisconsin Malting, Whitehouse Milk/Foods, Braun Lumber Co., Wadam's Oil, Kersher Metal Services and Northern Elevator Co. All required frequent service from the Soo, Manitowoc Portland Cement needed to be switched twice per day or more, as did Wisconsin Malting and Manitowoc Shipbuilding/Manitowoc Engineering.

In addition, Soo serviced three Carferries per day: Two Chesapeake & Ohio carferries and one Ann Arbor ferry called at the Soo Line Carferry Slip per day, 7 days per week. The Switch Crew in Manitowoc stayed very busy!

Dad was no Stranger to the Manitowoc Line. He had relieved at Hilbert Junction, Potter, Collins and Valders both before his service in WWII and after. Hilbert Junction was a job Dad liked; by coincidence, it was at Hilbert that Dad met Johnnie Bablitch, a Soo Line Signal Maintainer, and those two struck up a friendship that lasted the rest of their lives. Hilbert was a "good Job", not terribly stressful, although, one evening Dad forgot the correct order of throwing the Levers that controlled the Interlocking Plant with the Milwaukee Road, and the plant went in to "time", as a timer ran out a specific set time before the lock on the levers ran out and allowed Dad to line up the Plant for the Milwaukee Road. This happened in the face of an on-coming Milwaukee Road hot passenger train, the CHIPPEWA HIAWATHA; to delay this train meant getting called on the carpet by BOTH the Soo Line AND the Milwaukee Road!!! With seconds to spare, the Plant timer ran down and Dad was able to line the route for the Milwaukee without delaying the CHIPPEWA.

When Dad relieved in Potter and Collins, both stations were entrusted to two men Dad swore had hired out before Chester A. Arthur was president. Dad likened the Agent at Collins to Ebenezer Scrooge, a hard-bitten old man that, even on the days he had off, would make a point to come to the Depot to collect the Express Commissions earned by someone else! Most Agents Dad relieved or worked under on the Soo were gracious enough to divide the Express Commissions with the Operator, although, like Collins, some hoarded those commissions all to themselves.

The Agent at Potter was another hard-bitten old man that Dad said acted as though he hated the world around him. Extremely hard to work for, and as likable as a Spavined Mule.

Valders was the place that Dad LIVED in the Depot for the week he relieved there; the Citizenry back at that time (ca. 1948) were predominantly German-speaking, hard drinking people. Dad felt both more comfortable and SAFER hiding in the Depot, waiting for the Railway Express truck to arrive----and someone that spoke ENGLISH!

But nothing prepared Dad for what he encountered at Manitowoc. He had worked in places on the Soo that had problems before. Glenwood-Downing was one, where the Agent and Operator HATED each other so much that the Agent locked up EVERYTHING in the Company Safe---including the PENCILS!!! Manitowoc was something else.

The Soo Line Manitowoc Depot

The Soo Line Manitowoc Depot

Some of the Cast of Characters in Manitowoc at the time Dad was there:

- George Macmillan, Yard Clerk: George, or "Mac", was a former Police Officer turned Yard Clerk. Mac's lists were what Dad had to work off of when doing the Computer Report when the Local to Neenah was put together and ready to head west. Mac was a good Yard Clerk; he always kept up with the engine. Alas, Mac was one of those guys whose handwriting was a nearly-illegible scrawl! If you could figger out the "Hieroglyphics" Mac handed you, his initials and numbers were always 100% correct.
If Dad had to question Mac about something he had written on a List, the exchange went like this: Dad: "Mac, What the hell is this number on the list!??" Mac responded with "Which?" In fact, Mac responded to most questions that way, a habit Dad picked up (and me too, to some extent).

- Stan Vogel, Chief Clerk: Thinking back on things, Stan Vogel held several different Clerking positions in the time that Dad was in Manitowoc. Billing Clerk, Yard Clerk, and, I believe, Stan had become Payroll Clerk/Chief Billing Clerk in Manitowoc by the time Dad took the swing job in Marshfield in late 1966. Stan was an impish individual, hard to get along with if he didn't like you. Yet, when Dad had a car accident two blocks north of the Depot in 1964, Stan was more than happy to be a witness to the fact the accident was NOT Dad's fault! (Ironically, two weeks after this first accident, Dad had another, with the SPOUSE of the man that hit Dad's 1960 Corvair the first time!!!!) Stan Vogel was characterized by Dad as a troublemaker, yet, at the same time, Dad respected the work Stan did. He was a good clerk. In the end, Stan and Dad became friends. I recall being at Stan's house with Mother and Dad once. I must've been 3 years old at the time.
As Manitowoc slowly wound down in later years, the Chief Clerk's position was abolished, and the last I had heard of Stan Vogel was that he had ended up on the Valders Section Crew. That was ca. 1975.

- Wayne Wicklander, Footboard Yardmaster/Hump Conductor: I don't know how it was to actually work under Wicklander, but Wayne was one hell of a switchforeman. The man was a mind; he only looked at his Switch Lists twice per day---once in the Morning when he picked them up and put them in his pocket and again that night when he removed them after 10 hours! Wicklander memorized all his work in a single glance! Or so I've been told. Wicklander had the same drive someone I knew in the same position in Marshfield had: he could do 12 hours work in 10 hours.

- Bill Franks, a Switchman in Manitowoc, and the man who relieved Wicklander on his days off. A pretty nice guy by all accounts, and his claim to fame was that he stood 6' -something or other, by far the tallest man working in Manitowoc. Bill was still working in Manitowoc in 1970, and was pictured on the front page of the Soo company newsletter, The Soo Liner, as he stood talking with another man on the Ferry Slip as engine 2401 worked the C&O Boat, CITY OF SAGINAW 31.
Bill's biggest claim to "Fame", as it were, was kicking two cars together in the "Upper Boat Yard" (more on this later) so hard that the Truck Springs in the car that was hit, FLEW out of the sideframes! While switching cars into the Upper Boat Yard for later movement onto a Boat, Bill, passing hand signals back to the engineer from atop a box car (this was in the days before two-way radios were installed in every locomotive and all switchmen had walkie-talkies), gave the "Kick Sign" and they let the car go a liiiittle too fast. The car, a carload of steel, hit a Tank Car which was on the end of a cut of cars; both cars jumped upwards in the air with a cloud of dust, with these little "Black Things" that went flying out of that dust cloud---the truck springs.

- Al Sell, Agent: As mentioned above, Al Sell was a fiery individual, prone to public displays of anger or otherwise, with an outspoken mouth that did little to endear him to anyone. Al hailed from up near Butternut, Wis., on the Ashland Line. Sell had gone to work for the Soo sometime around WWI, and, as Dad put it, "Sell thought himself to be the consummate company man". Sell thought EVERYONE should pitch in for the good of the Company, i.e., work overtime for little or no pay, because Sell himself had done so many times. Sell distrusted Labor Unions, and thought all Unions were out to screw any company that put up with them. He thought overtime pay was a sham. When confronted with Overtime Slips, Sell would rail LOUDLY about what he thought of overtime and those asking for compensation.

There were others that have slipped my mind, and others I can't place, like Don Pocket. Jerry Houdon (pronounced HOO-don), was the First Operator, the man Dad replaced, who couldn't wait to get out of Manitowoc! I *think* Don Pocket was the Semi Driver for Gross Common Carrier, the firm contracted with the Soo Line to handle their LCL by Semi Trailer shipments out of Manitowoc, but I'm not sure. Jerry Houdon was the man Dad replaced as First Operator in Manitowoc; Jerry would come back to relieve Dad one time before Dad took the Third Trick Swing Position in Marshfield.

Perhaps it was a harbinger of things to come, but, not long after Dad arrived in Manitowoc, a Grain Elevator located across the Manitowoc River from the Soo Line Boat Yard and Depot, caught fire in one of the hottest conflagrations ever seen. The Elevator was serviced by the C&NW, and was located along the C&NW Two Rivers Branch, which left the C&NW Calumet Yard and ran in City Streets until it reached the Manitowoc River, where it bent sharply north-northwest to follow the curvations of the Manitowoc River and scale the river bluff to get out of the river basin. Also located near here was a Cardboard plant of Weyerhaeuser, and a portion of Manitowoc Engineering/Manitowoc Shipbuilding.

When this Grain Elevator burned, it taxed the abilities of the Manitowoc Fire Department, less in trying to put out the Elevator itself, more so in trying to keep everything else within a 3 block area from catching fire from the INTENSE heat generated as the Elevator burned to the ground. The Manitowoc Fire Department had to station one of their Fire Engines at the Soo Line Depot in Manitowoc to spray water on the Depot to keep it from going up, too; the Shingles on the roof had started to smolder under the heat generated from the burning Elevator!

Years later, Dad, when recounting this story, made the comment: "Had I known at that point what I was in for at Manitowoc, they could've let the damned Depot burn down right along with the Grain Elevator".

The first thing that jolted one into the realization that Manitowoc was no cake-walk was that the Operator's Job posted hours were nothing like advertised: One started at 6 a.m., not 7 a.m., and worked until one was done, which could be anywhere from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., depending upon business levels. When Dad would pull up to the Manitowoc Depot (a classic structure that looked like HELL because it was missing so much paint---I'm surprised the City of Manitowoc didn't say something to the Soo Line about that since the Depot was right in the Main Business District) at 5:55 a.m. each day, there would be a C&O or AA boat made fast in the Slip and the Boat's Purser would be waiting patiently at the Depot for the Operator to make the exchange of Train Car Lists and Waybills.

Part of the reason the Operator's Job became so untenable was that Interchange Reports---reports of cars moving to or off the Soo Line to or from Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad's & Ann Arbor Railroad's Carferries, and the "Transfer" between Soo and Chicago & North Western---were up to either two months or two YEARS behind, mostly in corrections. It was supposed to be the job of the Clerks to handle the Interchange Reports, NOT the Operator, but the Clerks in Manitowoc had deftly managed to shove this work off onto the Operator. When it became apparent that Dad would get NO help from the Clerks in cleaning up these backlogged reports, Dad simply rolled up his sleeves and dove in to this work himself. After something like a month or more of prodigious work, Dad got the backlogs cleaned up AND managed to keep up with daily reports coming in. At one point, Stan Vogel came to Dad, complaining that Dad was "Doing the work of two men!" Vogel pleaded with Dad to give some of that work back or they would lose another Clerk in Manitowoc. Dad told Vogel to "Go To Hell", and, sure enough, one man DID lose his Clerking Job at Manitowoc. This gent went on to pursue a career in another field, Insurance, I believe.

At one point, Dad's computer work ( Telegraph-Operators on the Soo Line were mostly becoming Computer Clerks in the 1960's) became so flawless that he was sent a letter of commendation from Soo Line Headquarters in Minneapolis on it. To get in a dig at the Clerks---who, it should be remembered, had sloughed off their Computer Work onto the Operator at Manitowoc---Dad posted this letter on the Bulletin Board in the Manitowoc Depot. The next day, this letter was gone, ripped off the bulletin board by some unknown person (s). Dad always regretted he never thought farther ahead and kept that letter, instead of trying to rub in the fact he was doing what had been the Clerk's work---and doing it quite well, in fact, a fact acknowledged by Corporate Headquarters in Minneapolis.

The Operator's "Office", such as it was, was situated in a remodeled space, with a new window centered right in front of the Main Track. Under the right conditions, Dad or whomever was the Op at the time, would stare directly at the rear of the Local's Caboose.

That, of course, was not how it worked. Sometime shortly after Dad arrived, Soo Line came up with the "Brilliant" idea that the LCL Trailer---one of those 38' or 40' ft. trailers recently touched upon on this list---should be spotted at the Freight House Dock Door CLOSEST to the Depot----which blocked the view down the track. I recall hazy memories of an Orange or Silver Trailer sitting right in front of the window, complete with a Maroon Band and "SOO LINE" in White lettering on the band.

I'm not completely certain when the Manitowoc Depot was remodeled. There were, originally, double doors in a curved casing that led out to the wooden platform that ran alongside the Main Track from the Depot almost to the Switch with the Lower Boat Yard. By the time Dad arrived, the interior of Manitowoc had been completely redone, and the Operator had his office in a section that had been a Beanery, I believe. The Double Doors were removed and the area walled shut. The former Waiting Area became workspace for the Clerks, set, as I recall, in a square pattern of desks. The Operator had what was characterized as a "Cubby Hole" and was hemmed in with Computer equipment.

The Computers in those days were older IBM "Ticker Tape" machines, that produced a long yellow tape, instead of a paper read-out. On longer trains, some tapes could be up to or sometimes exceeding 5 feet long!

Transmitted tapes were clipped to the wall; back in the days of those tape machines, offices looked like an explosion in a spaghetti factory with those tapes hanging there, some touching the floor.

At one point, Soo Line had a "Brainstorm" idea of moving the Operator into the Bridge Tender's Shanty for the Jack Knife Bascule Bridge. In this way, Soo saved some money by eliminating the Bridge Tender's position. Problem was, Soo never thought of HOW the Telegraph Operator was supposed to receive the paperwork for making up train lists, departures, arrivals and Interchange reports in the Computer (yes, the idea was to move EVERYTHING associated with the Operator's job into the Bridge Tender's Shanty), and deliver/transmit messages via Telegraph when the Operator was so far removed from where the "Action" was---the Depot. The idea was quietly dropped. Dad always said that had the Soo carried out this plan, he'd have stayed in Manitowoc longer, since he would have been apart from the nastiness going on in the Depot.

The Manitowoc Line is still noted for the steep Westbound grade leaving the city pointing the Manitowoc Line in a west-southwest direction until it slowly turned to the west near Valders. The Grade crested around Alverno, and continues, today in 2004, to tax the tractive effort of any locomotive that had slogged up the grade headed west, be it Steam or Diesel. In the days of Steam, Soo Line preferred to keep as heavy a locomotive as they dared run on the Milwaukee Road trackage from Hilbert Junction to Menasha Junction---the portion of the Milwaukee Road the Soo had Trackage Rights on, which was infernally light trackage. Hence, in the late 1940's, Soo Line kept the heaviest 2-8-0 Consolidation Types out on the Manitowoc Line, Class F-11, F-12, F-22 and F-23 types to haul the Local. Some of the lighter examples of 4-6-2 Pacific types worked over the Manitowoc Line during the War Years as well; Dad told me they were there hauling extras.

In Dieseldom the Manitowoc Line hosted anything 4-axle, From Alco FA-1 and Electro-Motive F3A & F7A types up through GP7, GP9, GP30, GP35, GP40 and GP38-2's. A leased Green Bay & Western Alco RS27 made it over the Manitowoc Line at one point, as well. The only departure from the use of 4-axle power was Alco RSC3 # 2380, and lone EMD SD9 # 2381. 2380 was, supposedly, purchased by the Soo specifically with the Manitowoc Line in mind; it proved to be not what the Soo had hoped for. Although 2380 DID spread it's weight efficiently enough to avoid harm to Milwaukee Road's frustratingly light trackage, it required the Yard Engine in Manitowoc to give a helpful push on the rear to get up the grade leaving Manitowoc---otherwise 2380 "Sat N' Spun" after stalling, far too light in the toes to regain her footing to make forward progress. 2381 did what it normally did when it appeared: Astounded those watching with an uncanny ability to pull everything behind it, even though it dragged down to 5 mph in the process, it kept on pulling.

Alas, 2381, at 286,000 lb., the lightest SD9 (or one of the lightest examples) ever built, was still TOO HEAVY for the Milwaukee Road's Hilbert Jct.-Menasha Jct. trackage, leaving a trail of broken and spread rails in her wake to mark her passage. THAT couldn't have made the Milwaukee Road too happy! Yet, the Soo could put doubled FA-1, F7A, or any combination thereof of FA/F7, FA/GP, GP/GP or F7/GP over the Milwaukee track with gaspingly long trains behind and not have problems. That disparity always makes me shake my head in wonder.

Still, I often wish for and pray for, someone to come out of the Woodwork with a photo of two Alco FA-1's smokin' it up leaving Manitowoc Westbound, with an Alco RS1 pushing for all it was worth on the caboose to get the train out of Manitowoc!!!

For a switch engine in Manitowoc, in Steam, it seemed the Soo assigned Class E-21, E-22, E-23 and E-24 10 wheelers to Manitowoc, possibly even B-20, B-21 and B-23 0-60 switchers. In dieseldom, Alco S-2's, the lone S-4, # 2116, and RS-1 and EMD GP-7 & GP-9's were picked. Dad always insisted the Soo preferred to put a Roadswitcher at Manitowoc for use as the Switch Engine, but Ron Kamenin worked in Manitowoc, too, and Ron's Timebook shows that 2116 worked there when Ron was assigned over there. The use of something heavier than a switching engine made sense; if they had to shove the train out, the extra weight of a road switching engine was much appreciated on the tail end.

As a side note: In steam, Milwaukee Road assigned a spiffy 2-6-2 Prairie Type to the Hilbert-Menasha Jct. trains; in Dieseldom, it seemed whatever was light enough of foot was assigned to the Hilbert-Menasha Jct. trains, from Switchers to "Plain Ol' EMD GP types.

Getting the Train out of Manitowoc when tonnage crested near the rated tonnage rating of the Locomotives involved sometimes necessitated some tongue-in-cheek guessing, Al Sell HATED allowing the Switch Engine to tie on the rear to shove the train out to Alverno, since this was added expense charged against his station. It also gave the Switch Crew a 1/2 day's pay at Road wages---trainmen on road trains always made more money than those in Yard Service. Sell hated that, too, since he thought all trainmen were out to screw the Soo Line.

In one instance, Sell was gone from the Depot one day when the decision of whether to shove the Train Out to Alverno came to rest upon Dad's shoulders. Being the Senior man when Sell wasn't around, these things fell upon Dad. The Conductor of the Local and Wayne Wicklander queried Dad, "Whatta we do, Neil? We're really close on tonnage and we can't guarantee we won't stall."
Dad thought about this for all of 2 seconds.

"Shove 'em out of town", Dad said. "The Hell with Al. Make sure we get 'em out of town. No matter what we do, Sell isn't going to like it. Shove 'em out."

So, they did.

And, like awaiting Old Faithful to blow it's top, Sell exploded the next day. He hollered at Dad, "JUST WHAT THE HELL WAS THE IDEA BEHIND SHOVING THE TRAIN OUT OF TOWN WITH (I forget the tonnage)?

Dad replied, "Al, when there are decisions like that to be made, then YOU should be here to make those decisions, not off gally-vanting around town hiding from your responsibility. When decisions like that are to be made and I have to make them, then I will go with the safer idea, and I will stick by those decisions I make in your absence". Sell never said another word, and basically slung the responsibility of whether to shove the train out to Alverno off on Dad.

On another occasion, while shoving hard on the rear of the Local to get them out of town, the generator on the locomotive, an Alco RS-1 that has remained an enigma, burned up! What a sight; a local resident living along the Soo called the Manitowoc Fire Department upon witnessing this locomotive with white smoke billowing out of ever louver and out of the cab; the Locomotive came rolling back into the Boat Yard with a Manitowoc Fire Department fire truck following alongside, with the firemen in bewilderment of when the engineer planned on stopping the locomotive so the firemen could do their job! I gather the crew was out on the running boards to avoid the smoke billowing out of the cab and hoods, and the engineer was leaning out as far as he dared to keep from suffering smoke inhalation!

The Locomotive, who's number remains a mystery, was duly SOAKED by the MFD, and, apparently, repaired and returned to service. I've never found out what locomotive this was, but always suspected it was an ex-Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic engine, as they seem to have had the propensity to burn up their Main Generators under excessive strain.

To reach the level of the Manitowoc River from the direction the Original Wisconsin Central built from, it was necessary to build almost directly down a sharp escarpment that forms the bluffs along Lake Michigan. At that, Wisconsin Central meandered off to the south a bit, following the Manitowoc River from Valders, trying to find an easier gradient away/to the Lake, before striking off towards Manitowoc in an east-northeast slanting. Once the line crossed Meadow Lane it was, essentially, in Manitowoc. Meadow Lane was also the demarcation line between Yard Limits and not. On the eastern side of Meadow Lane the Soo had a restricted speed limit of 10 mph on Manitowoc Trackage, and you could tell it! Looking westwards the track looked very good; looking eastwards you got seasick. A grade profile of the Manitowoc Line shows you a profile that was relatively flat until you get to Alverno, where the line took a very sharp drop to Lake Michigan. The Line didn't curve to the east until before it crossed under the Chicago & North Western Green Bay-Milwaukee "Shoreline" Subdivision line; not far beyond the track that serviced Wisconsin Malting curved away to the east-southeast and ran down some distance before ending alongside Wisconsin Malting proper.

Just before crossing under the C&NW Two Rivers Branch bridge, the Line curved south-southeast; just before the same said bridge the track split. The southern pair of tracks was the Scale Track; just before reaching the C&NW Two Rivers Branch Bridge, one of the Transfer Tracks leading to the C&NW split off the scale track to run up to meet the C&NW. On the eastern side of the C&NW Two Rivers Branch Bridge, the Lead for the "Cement Plant Yard" and Manitowoc Portland Cement itself left to Main Line trackage on the north side.

Cement Plant Yard had all the Capacity; it consisted of 9 or 10 stub-ended tracks, and was shoe-horned in between the Bluff formed by the Manitowoc River and the Cement Plant itself. The yard itself curved eastwards well back along where the bluffs also curved around. I have no idea just what the capacity was for Cement Plant Yard. Cement Plant Yard also acted as a holding area for cars, seeing as to how the grade leaving Manitowoc limited how much a train could take with them. Cars that weren't on a particularly pressing schedule would be stored in Cement Plant Yard until they could be put in a westbound train without taxing the tonnage rating for the Locomotives. Alas, cars that weren't needed right away on Monday, were, by Wednesday or later, adding to the problems of getting the Local out of Manitowoc because of tonnage exceeding what the Locomotive (s) could drag out. Oftentimes, the Local would have to be shoved out of Manitowoc by the Switch Engine shoving on the read end on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Cement Plant Yard was a great place to "Lose" freight cars. Often, cars would disappear in Manitowoc, stuck on the upper end of Cement Plant Yard, buried somewhere, forgotten. Since none of the Clerks had any ambition to physically WALK the tracks in Cement Plant Yard, a lost car could be "Lost" for up to a month.

This malady happened to a carload of Salt going to O.W. Trindal's in Loyal, Wis., on the Greenwood Line some years later after Dad became the Traveling Agent out there. Numerous inquiries by officious persons as to the whereabouts of this car in Manitowoc brought forth the heated insistence by the Clerks in Manitowoc that said carload of Salt was NOT anywhere to be found in Manitowoc, contrary to the Computer showing the car as received by the Soo from a C&O Carferry. Finally, a call direct from one of the Clerks in Marshfield to Manitowoc, resulted in the car being found by dropping Dad's name in the Conversation. It happens the Marshfield Clerk contacted Stan Vogel, still in Manitowoc and holding down the Chief Clerk's job. When Vogel found out it was Marshfield calling, he asked about Dad. When informed that Dad was a Traveling Agent and the Greenwood Line was his territory, Vogel said, "Well, we normally wouldn't do this for just anybody, but, seeing as how it's Neil, we'll go looking for that car". A few days later, it showed up in Marshfield. The car was found in Manitowoc's Cement Plant Yard, stranded on the end of one of the tracks, forgotten about, until someone actually went looking for it. It was dug out and switched into the Local and sent on it's merry way west for forwarding to Marshfield. Never mind the Clerks had INSISTED the car was NOT in Manitowoc!!!

As Dad used to say, "Whatta way to run a Railroad!"

Manitowoc Portland Cement was serviced by the Soo on four tracks; two sets on each side of the complex. The two sets that ran up alongside the eastern side of the complex along the Manitowoc River appear to be the raw material delivery tracks; the two sets on the western side appear to be where cars were loaded with Cement. Manitowoc Portland Cement also received raw Material via Lake Boats, and had a large moving unloading gantry crane for the purpose. Most of the finished bulk cement moved by rail, originally bagged in 100-lb. sacks and loaded in Box Cars. I'm not certain when MPC started loading out their product in Covered Hopper Cars, but by the time Dad came to Manitowoc in 1960, about 80% of the outbound product moved in 29' Covered Hopper Cars. In Talking with Don Manlick, a life-long resident of Manitowoc, Soo Line had 90% of the outbound Cement business. Some moved over the Carferries eastwards, but most all the Westbound Cement business rolled out of Manitowoc on the Soo. C&NW got very little.

The Scale Track rejoined the Main Line just before crossing the Manitowoc River over a swing bridge, called "The Burger Bridge" for it's proximity to Burger Boat Company, and because, supposedly, Burger Boat maintained same said bridge. When Burger would float a new hull or otherwise test try some of their wares, this Swing Bridge would be opened for Burger. I do not recall if there was a regular Bridge Tender position for the Swing Bridge or not. I highly doubt it. There was more Boat Traffic moving through the Burger Bridge than just Burger Boats; Manitowoc Shipbuilding also tied boats up south of the Soo tracks in the River for repair work.

C&NW's Two Rivers Branch also crossed the Manitowoc River not far from the Soo's Swing Bridge on a Swing Span of their own. It was noticably higher than the Soo's Swing Bridge, as the Two Rivers Branch was climbing to get out of the river valley.

There was one more track that left the Scale Track before it rejoined the Main Line, the East Transfer Track to the C&NW, and, off of that track, the spur in to Whitehouse Foods. Whitehouse Foods was originally Whitehouse Milk Corporation; shortly after Dad arrived in Manitowoc, Whitehouse Milk became Whitehouse Foods, and not long after that was purchased by Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., better known as "A&P". Perhaps, those of you old enough, remember the "Whitehouse Brand" on A&P store shelves (Since we haven't had an A&P Store in Marshfield for nearly 30 years, I can not say if A&P still markets Whitehouse Brands anymore)? Traffic out of Whitehouse Foods appears to have been dried milk and condensed milk by the 1960's. Most all of it moved on the Soo Line.

I am in a state of confusion as to the location of Burger Boat Company. Both Don Manlick and Dad have indicated Burger was located on the same isthmus as Manitowoc Shipbuilding; can't be. Burger had to be located across the Manitowoc River in near Whitehouse Foods, and the Soo served Burger almost exclusively. Soo got in some really exotic things for Burger, such as Teakwood for inside paneling for the interiors of the boats Burger built. Burger specialized in Yachts, really. If you wanted a Fishing Boat, you went Downtown in Manitowoc and visited Mirro Aluminum!!

After crossing the Manitowoc River over the Burger Bridge, the Soo tracks were on the isthmus created by the river meandering around in a wide half-circle. On the isthmus was Manitowoc Shipbuilding/Manitowoc Engineering, and the Soo's trackage ran right through the heart of the complex. Trackage serving the various divisions of the Company spider webbed off two spurs that left the Soo Line Main. Tracks ran to all buildings Manitowoc Company (The various divisions of Manitowoc Shipbuilding/Manitowoc Engineering became "Manitowoc Company" sometime in the late 1960's---possibly before), the Fabricating Division, The Plating Division, the Erecting Division, et. al. I have a large promotional brochure put out by Manitowoc Company sometime after WWII, with some excellent aerial views of the complex (some showing Ann Arbor RR Car Ferry "WABASH" in for work in a floating dry-dock), and Soo Line had some switching work to do there when necessary. One track even crossed the Main Line to head in south to the portions of the company's division located there. I've questioned Don Manlick, noted Custom Scale Decal Manufacturer, a longtime Manitowoc Resident and former C&NW Switchman, about that track crossing back and connecting with the C&NW, but Don insisted that Manitowoc Company was a mostly Soo Line customer.

Aerial view of the Manitowoc Company

Coast Guard cutter, Carferry WABASH

From the Manitowoc Company brochure I have (ca. 1948), there were quite a few tracks leading all over inside their complex, into buildings, switch-backing somewhere else---even across the Main Line---and I can't fathom that the Soo handled all the switching within the complex due to the sharpness of the curves. I have to believe Manitowoc Company most likely had a tractor or truck tractor pull cars about as they needed them. Some curvature looks far too sharp---almost Interurban-like (streetcars in Laymen's terms) in their sharpness, I simply cannot believe the Soo switched everything given their proclivity to using Road Switching-type power that had longer wheelbases, making them unsuitable for the tight curvature contained within Manitowoc Company's grounds.

This brochure also contains photographs of other wares Manitowoc Company produced, including views of High Pressure Tanks loaded on Flatcars (one photo shows a high pressure tank.....on a C&NW Flat Car.....)---one reason the Soo Line built flat car # 54011, a car capable of hauling 300 tons, spread over TWELVE axles. Alas, this car was extremely allergic to rough trackage, of which there was quite a bit in Manitowoc and Neenah, and I'm told the car spent as much time derailed as running on the rails!!!

Still nothing better suited the kinds of behemoth equipment Manitowoc Company produced, like HUGE Crawler Cranes, High Pressure Steel Tanks, boiler tube sections among other heavy items. I can well imagine that during WWII, Manitowoc Company was a terrific source of in-bound Steel movements due to the Shipyard's Government Control during WWII. It must have remained a great source of inbound Steel into the era Dad was in Manitowoc.

Also contained in this Brochure is a photo of a US Navy Submarine being launched SIDEWAYS into the Manitowoc River; in the background is the Soo Line Bascule Bridge that linked the isthmus to the Boat Yard, what Soo Employees called, "the Jack Knife Bridge" because of the way it folded upwards to permit boats---Ocean Going and Lake Boats, like Iron Ore Boats---into the River surrounding three sides of the Manitowoc Company.

Submarine Launching

Once the Soo Main Line crossed the Jack Knife Bridge, it was in the Boat Yard. The Boat Yard was, actually, two yards separated by the tracks leading to the Ferry Slip. The "Lower Boat Yard" was 5 through tracks, and the "Upper Boat Yard" was 4 or 5 stub-ended tracks that ran almost to the sidewalk on South 8th Street. The "Main Line" ran right up to the foot of the Depot, and terminated right outside the Window where the Operator's office was. The Lower Boat Yard was used to pull off cars coming to the Soo off the Boats, and Upper Boat Yard was used to stash cars going on the boats from the Soo. Kind of a neat, common-sense arrangement, that I know of no other Railroad serving Carferries to have had.

To the North of the Depot was Kersher Metal Services and Northern Elevator Company; just a touch south-southwest was the Soo's Engine House and Turntable. Along the edge of the river to the south of the depot were two parallel tracks that once serviced a long warehouse owned by the Wisconsin Central. By 1960 this warehouse---used to load package Lake steamers in break-bulk service---was long gone, although the two tracks serving it remained, and were still there the last time I was in Manitowoc, 1973 (I recall seeing flatcars stored on these two tracks, always. The only large concentration of Soo Line flat cars I had ever seen, outside of hauling Ribbon Rail in MOW Service). Another track fed off the outer track to the west, terminating by the river edge; this track once served Northern Elevator "Elevator ' B '", which, too, was long gone by 1960. Along the north boundary of the Manitowoc River above the Jack Knife bridge were another pair of tracks, "River 1 and River 2", I believe they were called, that serviced Wadahm's Oil Company and Braun Lumber Company.

If I'm not mistaken, I believe the Warehouse Tracks, River 1 & River 2, and the Main Line all met by the Jack Knife Bridge in a 3-way Switch. I'm sure someone will harshly correct me if I'm wrong on this point.

Photographs that have appeared of Manitowoc Line trains lead to a bit of confusion, especially when I try to place pieces together with things Dad told me of Manitowoc Line operations at the time he was in Manitowoc itself and relieving at the other Stations on line. As best as I can determine, Dad got in to Manitowoc at a period of long prosperity, which lasted into the time he left in late 1966 and slightly beyond. Photographs of Manitowoc Line Trains that have appeared in The SOO magazine and in Bob Wise's "Soo Line in Color" show the trains to be naggingly short. Only one photograph seems to exist to support Dad's thesis that M-Line trains were long affairs: Wally Abbot's "Little Jewel" shows an Eastbound M-Line Local slogging through Collins, Wis., with two Alco FA-1's and a train that seems to never end behind it. The Abbot photo dates from the era Dad was in Manitowoc, right around merger time, 1961-ish.

Pere Marquette Carferry

Ann Arbor No. 1 Carferry

Ann Arbor No. 3 Carferry

The Original Pere Marquette

Ann Arbor No. 5 Carferry

City of Flint No. 32 Carferry

By 1966, Chesapeake & Ohio was actively trying to rid itself of the Carferries it operated, and was openly engaged in promoting using an all-rail alternative through Chicago and Barr Yard versus using the Carferries across Lake Michigan. Soo Line and Chicago & North Western were easily led into promoting the all-rail alternative, since it increased the "haul" on freight cars traveling these respective railroads. That Soo's Manitowoc Line trains look to be considerably shorter in Bob Wise's book does not surprise. Though the all-rail alternative didn't hurt the Soo or the C&NW, since both were active in Chicago, it did hurt the Green Bay & Western, which relied on the Carferries for the bridge traffic that filled out their Kewaunee-Winona time freights. GB&W fought the discontinuance of the carferries for years; it had pretty much given up by the time Wisconsin & Michigan Transportation, the successor to C&O and Ann Arbor, applied for discontinuance of the Ferry Route to Kewaunee in 1988. Nothing much was moving via carferry by that time.

While Dad was the Operator in Manitowoc, the Local was oftentimes at the rated tonnage capacity of the Locomotive or Locomotives assigned to it, from what I gather, trains of 50+ cars, which was a CHORE getting up the hill to Alverno with. Dad often said that the Local should have been built as big as the Soo could get away with, and have the Switch Engine shove the train out EVERY day. That way, the crews had more space to work with, and more cars could have gotten out of Manitowoc sooner.

I'm of the notion that the Manitowoc Line Train (also known as "The Local") did all the Local Switching Work in Alverno, Valders, Collins, Potter and Hilbert Junction as it made it's merry way west. Coming back to Manitowoc, the train made a more-or-less straight run in to Manitowoc. Once returned, I'm not really certain how the train yarded itself. If the local crew simply broke their train apart and put it away in the Lower Boat Yard or if they put it away in Cement Plant Yard, or simply cleared their train up and left anything else to the Switch Crew in Manitowoc. I DO know that, sometime early in the morning, the Local's Caboose would be pushed up next to the Depot on the Main Line to the very end of track and the outbound train was built on to the caboose there. But, the train arriving and what they did remains a mystery.

Soo Line gave up switching the Carferries in Manitowoc by 1976. An inspection showed that the Soo Line Slip in Manitowoc was in poor repair and needed extensive rebuilding. Soo Line simply threw in the towel, since they weren't really shoving that much traffic to the carferries anymore, and condemned their slip. Any cross-lake traffic the Soo brought over to Manitowoc was given to the C&NW to handle to the boats via their Ferry Slips on the lake. From all accounts, it wasn't much. With the termination of Carferries to the Soo, the Switch job was removed, and what was left was serviced by the Local, which reverted to three-day per week service, going over to Manitowoc on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, returning to Neenah on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The Soo Line Ferry Slip

C&NW Ferry Slips

At the time Dad was in Manitowoc, the boats the Soo Line serviced between the C&O and the Ann Arbor were thus:


I believe PERE MARQUETTE 19 and 20 may still have been active into 1961, but both were retired shortly after Dad got to Manitowoc.

     ANN ARBOR NO. 7

Ann Arbor was always short of boats. It was not unusual to see a Grand Trunk carferry pinch-hitting to move the AA's traffic, such as CITY OF MILWAUKEE, CITY OF MUSKEGON or CITY OF MADISON plying Ann Arbor Carferry routes. The GT boats were as familiar with the Soo Line slip in Manitowoc as they were with berthing at their own slips in Milwaukee and Muskegon!

The boats held varying amounts of cars on their car decks; AA 5 was the smallest at 22 to 24 cars. PERE MARQUETTE 21 & 22, ANN ARBOR 7, WABASH, ARTHUR K. ATKINSON and the Grand Trunk boars held 24 to 26 cars. Ironically, except for ANN ARBOR NO. 5, WABASH, SPARTAN, BADGER and ARTHUR K. ATKINSON, all were built in Manitowoc by Manitowoc Shipbuilding Corp. CITY OF MIDLAND 41, BADGER and SPARTAN were the biggest Carferries on the Lake, holding 28 to 30, and 30 to 32 cars respectively on their car decks. Car capacity was severely affected by length of the freight cars being hauled. Although this didn't bother the traffic the Soo had, it did bother over on the Green Bay & Western, which had 89' Auto Racks moving onto or off of the carferries.

I will not recount the varied and interesting history of Lake Michigan carferries here; that has been done by George Hilton and Karl Zimmerman elsewhere to better advantage. But, SPARTAN, BADGER and the CITY OF MIDLAND 41 DID call at the Soo Line slip, at least once per week, usually on Sundays. C&O didn't like to send their biggest boats---mentioned above---to Manitowoc because of the tight clearances involved in the narrow confines of the Manitowoc River by the Soo's ferry slip. A carferry coming in to the Soo slip had to turn itself 180 degrees and then back in to the Soo Slip. With the older, shorter boats, including Ann Arbor and Grand Trunk boats, the turning maneuver presented little problem---because the boats were shorter. But the bigger C&O boats got to the Soo slip in Manitowoc more often than reported.

GETTING to the Soo Line Carferry Slip in Manitowoc was fraught with it's own unique problems, too. The Soo was about a mile upriver from Lake Michigan; where the Manitowoc River empties into Lake Michigan and forms the Harbor. The Manitowoc River contains a heavy flow to the east; in times of bad weather with heavy winds, it made for interesting problems just getting to the Soo slip---we won't mention trying to get the Carferry TURNED to back in to the Soo slip.

As such, a couple interesting incidents need recall, here:

Once, CITY OF FLINT 32 was making slow headway up the river in violent wind and rushing current in the river. The boat literally struggled getting to the 8th street drawbridge, which was right outside the Soo Line Depot. Alas, CITY OF FLINT 32 could no longer best the onrushing current or make headway into the wind, and ended up STUCK, unable to go forward but dared not try going backwards down the river, while in between the raised drawbridge sections of the 8th street drawbridge. CITY OF FLINT 32 spent the night anchored while in the drawbridge; traffic was rerouted over to 10th street. The next morning, after the winds had settled, CITY OF FLINT 32 was able to berth and unload to the Soo Line.

On another occasion, CITY OF SAGINAW 31 was being buffeted by heavy south winds. I suspect she was not loaded heavily, as she was being blown about quite hard. While besting the narrow confines of the 8th street drawbridge, she was blown hard to starboard, and the boat scraped the western side of the drawbridge. Maybe "scraped" isn't quite the correct term; the boat had almost no damage with her encounter, but the Drawbridge was put a full 2 or more feet off of center!

Ironically, both of the aforementioned boats were propelled by electric motors driving the Propeller shafts ( I believe this was called "Electro-static Drive"), the only Carferries so equipped. This may have had something to do with their difficulties in besting bad weather and strong head currents. The other Carferries, Ann Arbor, C&O and the occasionally leased Grand Trunk Boats, never seemed to have these problems, as all were steam driven to the Propellers.

Dad always claimed that he had taken me aboard the car deck of the CITY OF SAGINAW 31, but I have no memory of it. I DO remember that day, to a point: It was the FIRST time I was up close and personal with any train, and the Switch Engine, an Alco RS1, snapping, chortling and screeching scared the hell out of me. I clung to Dad's leg as the engine went about it's work, kicking cars about in the Lower Ferry Yard, as Dad stood talking with Wayne Wicklander. I also recall walking over to the Ferry Slip, and being outside the Boat, but I do not recall being ON the cardeck, something that, no matter how young one is, one should have retained a memory of that.

That's something else I recall about Manitowoc: Each time Mother and I were downtown, we would stop in the Depot to see Dad. There was, always, a C&O boat in the Soo Slip unloading/loading; the Upper Ferry Yard was full of cars. My first exposure to Railroading was mostly Nautical in nature, courtesy of the Chesapeake & Ohio and Ann Arbor Railroads. Another memory: The Frequency of Boats---not just Carferries--traveling up and down the River. You were as likely to get stuck at either the 8th street drawbridge or the Tenth Street Drawbridge for a boat heading in or leaving up the Manitowoc River. With Manitowoc Shipbuilding still a going concern back in that time period, crossing the Manitowoc River was as frustrating as crossing the Railroad Tracks in Marshfield was. You never knew when you'd get stopped.

It was this constant river traffic to the Manitowoc Shipbuilding Corp. that introduced Dad to CHIEF WAWATAM, the bow-loading, Straits of Mackinac-plying Carferry partly owned by the Soo (with New York Central) when she would come to Manitowoc for routine repairs.

I can imagine how Manitowoc looked when the CHIEF WAWATAM would steam upriver or down---lost in a BLACK cloud of Coal Smoke, as the CHIEF could be used as a Smoke Screen---she threw out dark, basic black clouds when under steam.

One last personal memory of the Carferries: Once, while out on a run downtown with Dad, we were stopped on our way home at the 10th Street Drawbridge by an outbound Ann Arbor Carferry. The boat was ANN ARBOR No. 7, later to become the VIKING. This encounter still remains with me, because the day was exceptionally foggy---to the point of almost seemingly like twi-light, it was that dark. Visibility was 1/2 a block, most likely less. In the haze of this fog, we came to the open 10th Street Drawbridge, which was only a dark outline in the fog. Then came the slowly moving outline of a Boat moving along in the murk; all you could see was a vague outline and all the Cabin and Running Lights glowing eerily in the murk. The entire scene could've been cast by Alfred Hitchcock, including the sounds of the Foghorn moaning in the murk out on the Breakwater, and the memory of it STILL raises the hairs on the back of my neck.

Then there was the "Great C&NW Strike" of 1962: In late September or early October of 1962, the C&NW went out on Strike. The reasons are not to be debated here. The result was: ALL the C&NW-bound traffic on the Carferries ended up at the Soo Line Slip in Manitowoc! Soo went from 3 boats per day, to something like TWELVE (12) boats per day!!!! It all kept coming, with boats lined up, one behind the other, out in Lake Michigan beyond the breakwater to the Harbor, waiting to scuttle down the Manitowoc River to the Soo Line Slip to unload.

The Strike itself lasted a period of one month. My late Uncle Keith , a Chicago & North Western Employee, and Agent at Port Washington, Wis., was walking picket at Port Washington at the time. To hear Dad tell it, it sounded like the C&NW was off work for SIX months!

The effect in Manitowoc was cataclysmic: At first, Soo Line didn't seem to understand what was going on, and Manitowoc filled up in a hurry. The Switchcrews used every available track space they had to stash inbound cars from the boats; the Local ran extra long every day with the Yard Engine pushing them out; Caboose Hops ( an engine & caboose only move) out to Manitowoc to clean out the yards were run. Neenah became packed and simply couldn't take anymore, so trains ran to, first, North Fond du Lac, then, later, Stevens Point. Until the day he died, Dad never understood how the Switch Crew in Manitowoc unloaded 12 boats per day, AND still performed ALL the Industry switching work at the same time---oh, yes, and Built the trains leaving AND shoving them out to Alverno. 15, 16 or more hours per day became commonplace; Dad worked a stretch were he never got home, even. Too much Computer work to do, and none of it could be left undone---or, maybe Dad felt it couldn't be left undone. Take your pick.

Believe me, when the Operating Unions settled on the C&NW ending the Strike, no one was more relieved than the Soo employees in Manitowoc.

Al Sell had regular Sales Calls to make to Manitowoc Industry every day. This was a necessary part of every Agent's job. Soo Line, at one time, insisted upon personal contact between their Agents and Customers; this oftentimes resulted in Business coming the Soo's way, and sometimes from Businesses located on a competing Railroad where Soo vied with another carrier. For example: Richter Vinegar in Manitowoc shipped just about ALL of their product via the Soo Line, even though they were located on the C&NW down by the Budweiser/Anhaeuser Busch/Rahr Malting Plant. Some Mirro Aluminum products found their way on to Soo Line trains leaving Manitowoc. It was all sales types of things.

Included in Sell's routine of calling on Soo Line Customers and prospective shippers/consignees, Sell would work in what the Switch Crew called, "Spying Missions"----checking up on the Switch Crew, trying to catch them doing something wrong or otherwise screwing off. That was an outgrowth of Sell's inordinate distrust of Trainmen.

Often, Sell---who had taken a liking to Dad by this time and came in to the Operator's Office often to gripe about a litany of things almost daily like clockwork---came in to the Operator's office, mad as Hell about some overtime slips turned in by the Switch Crew. Sell made the statement: "Jesus Christ, Neil! Where do those God Damned Trainmen get off? Pretty soon, they'll be trying to screw the Company when they go to the bathroom!!" (When I think back on this, I believe the Switch Crew was claiming a 1/2 day's pay for placing a car on the Manitowoc Turntable---part of an agreement systemwide on the Soo, made when Hostlers were done away with. The agreement entitled the Crew to a 1/2 day's pay as I recall it).

"Al", Dad said, "These are legitimate claims. You HAVE to pay them according to Union Agreements".

"The Hell with that!" Sell raged. "Those God-damned trainmen probably didn't do any of this at all, but were off playing Cards someplace!" Sell yelled over his shoulder as he walked off to his office, fuming that he had to pay Overtime.

Someone---Dad never knew who, but he had his suspicions---relayed that last comment about "Playing Cards Someplace" to Wayne Wicklander. Wicklander and Sell never got along to begin with, but Sell's comments, made without thinking, gave Wicklander some "Ammunition". Just how long Wicklander laid for the day to get even with Sell for what he said I cannot tell you. Might have been a day, a week or a month.

But, get even Wicklander did.

One day, after Sell's comments, Sell, out on his Sales Calls, included one of his "Spying Missions" on the Switch Crew. He found them at the Cement Plant. Given that the Cement Plant, Cement Plant Yard and the Track Scale were all located here, go figure what the chances of finding the Switch Engine working here were. Sell was a regular Dick Tracy.

Upon seeing Sell standing on the bluff that lead Spring Street past Cement Plant Yard and the Cement plant and over the Soo tracks on a bridge, all the work the crew was doing came to an immediate halt. The Engineer appeared from the cab carrying a folding card table, followed by the Fireman carrying 6 folding chairs. This was set up in the middle of the track in front of the engine, all sat down and Wicklander started dealing out a hand of cards! The capper to this was Wicklander hollering up to Sell on the bluff above, "Hey Sell!! You got time? We got room for one more!"

Sell came back to the depot fully enraged. Dad said Sell was "Soo Line Red" he was so mad. Dad often said this incident later led to the Heart Attack Sell suffered not long after this.

Dad jumped all over Wicklander about this when he saw him later on. "That wasn't very nice, Wayne! What the hell were you thinking!?"

Wicklander replied, hardly repentant: "That'll serve the little bastard right!"

Being the Senior man in Manitowoc, Dad was given the choice to Relieve Al Sell when Sell went on Vacation. Dad did this with regularity later on, after I was born. Dad was used to this; he had done it before, and had relieved Agents all over from Gloster, MN., to Des Plaines, Illinois, and everywhere in between.

That led to the following incident, and provided some insight as to what most Customers and potential Customers thought of Al Sell.

Dad stopped at the Rahr/Budwieser/Anhaeuser-Busch Malting Plant to call on the Traffic Manager there one day. Dad was led deep inside the Malting Plant complex to the Traffic Manager's office, where, Dad once said, he stepped from reality into "The Big Time"---a Teakwood-paneled office, where the Manager sat behind a huge oak desk, and the chairs were leather upholstered, deeply plush office furniture. The difference between what Dad was used to working with, and what he had just seen right outside the door, were astounding.

Dad enquired what it would take to get some of the Malting Plant's business. The Manager was a no-nonsense, somewhat blunt person and he cut to the chase right away. He said:
"Mr. Meacham, you could have ALL of my business if you could get me Covered Hopper Cars like the Soo Line brags about in their promotional literature they send me. The North Western can go to hell as far as I'm concerned".

"Ohhh..." Dad said, "Those cars are all in Dedicated Service out on the western end of the System already. I'm sorry."

"I knew it," replied the Traffic Manager, "But it never hurts to ask. Y'know, Meacham, I like your style. You could have done what that damned Sell does to me every time he stops here and lie your ass off to me. Then, when I tell him there is no way the Soo will get our business, the little *ssshole literally cries," he said.

"Well," Dad replied, "Al tries to do the best he can for the Soo. He's got a tough job here."

"That may be, " the Traffic Manager replied, "But when I don't want to ship on the Soo, Sell pounds his fist on my desk and makes promises I know damned well he and the Soo can't or won't keep. You don't do that. I like your style. Truthful, Honest, you told me right out that there was no way I was going to get Covered Hopper Cars for my business. My offer stands, if the Soo wants our business, supply us with Covered Hopper Cars and the Soo can have it all. I can get box cars from the North Western anytime".

"I can check with Minneapolis, " Dad said, "But I wouldn't be holding my breath. Soo Line is particular about what gets hauled in what type of car."

The Traffic Manager chuckled, "I like your Style! I think I can do you some inbound business, just for being honest. I can divert 80 cars of inbound Barley to the Soo, just for you're coming here and being human. What do you think the Soo would think of that?"

The question, and the very notion, of 80 cars of inbound barley being diverted to the Soo left Dad pretty much speechless. But, sure enough, 80 cars of Barley began showing up on the Manitowoc Line Local in cuts of 10, 12 and 20 cars over the next 5 days. It all had to be interchanged to the Chicago & North Western, but the Malt House Traffic Manager kept true to his word.

Al Sell, upon his return from Vacation, was ASTOUNDED when he looked over the car accounting books to find that a total of 80 carloads of Barley for Rahr/Budwieser/Anhaeuser Busch had come in on the Soo Line. However, instead of congratulating Dad, Sell jumped all over Dad about it.

"Just WHAT the Hell did you do!???" he ranted, "to get business out of Rahr?" (The Malting Plant that exists today in Manitowoc was built by Rahr Malting Co., it was sold in 1960-something to Anhaeuser Busch/Budweiser when Rahr, and off-shoot of the Rahr Brewing Co. in Green Bay, went under). Dad could only reply that he had gone to see the Traffic Manager there and address what concerns the gentleman had. The cars that came in were in appreciation for a nice conversation.

"That's Bullsh*t!" Sell raved. "You must've done something else, like, make the Soo take a cut in the rate or something! That Traffic Man NEVER ships anything over us, ever! What the hell did you do!?"

The unfortunate aspect of this was that Sell was jealous of nothing, but Sell, being who he was, carried a grudge for a time. One day not long afterwards, Sell came rambling in to the Operator's Office carrying the OS&D (Over Shipment and Damage) books for the Richter Vinegar Account. He THREW them on the Operator's desk, and yelled at Dad that "This was your Goddamned fault since it happened when you relieved me, now straighten it all out!"

One look at the date in the book told Dad this was Sell's work, not something Dad did. He hollered at Sell, "Hey, You! Take a look at the dates---this is YOUR problem, NOT mine!!" Sell looked, slowly picked up the OS&D book, and walked off with some faraway look as though he had just arrived on this planet for this first time and was completely astonished at his surroundings.

Sell, however, WAS grooming Dad to be his successor when Sell retired. He allowed Dad in to his personal life, something Dad did not want, because he really didn't care for Sell. He didn't hate Al Sell, but he preferred not to consort with him all that much.

One thing Dad found out when Relieving Al Sell and calling on Customers: Who were decent folk and who were not. Dad disliked dealing with Kersher Metal Services and Northern Elevator, because, "All they'd do is cry about service", that the Soo Line was "Too Slow". Kersher was "Something Else", Dad used to tell me. "You go in there, and the Old Guy (Not the real word Dad used) would tell you, "Ve'd ship more carz, buy chu don' never bring de gonz in ven ve vant dem"". Indeed, Kersher, and most scrapyards in the Lake Michigan-Lake Winnebago-Green Bay area, were directly influenced by Sadoff in Fond du Lac. Sadoff set the prices; when Sadoff rose, EVERYBODY wanted to ship 99% of their scrap YESTERDAY, making it difficult to supply empty gons for scrap loading fast enough. It really wasn't the Soo's fault, but, tell that to a dissatisfied customer who couldn't ship fast enough to take advantage of a higher scrap price.

Manitowoc Engineering produced some truly spectacular pieces of equipment in it's day, that stretched the upper limits of clearances. Manitowoc Engineering produced this giant steel ring for use in an Ore Crusher on the Missabe Iron Range. The finishing of this product rated coverage in the Manitowoc local paper. There were even photographs taken of it.

Soo Line got the haul to Superior on this car. This ring was loaded on a Soo flatcar, and placed in next to the Caboose of the Local. On the day the giant ring left, Dad was sending the Departure report via the Computer to Minneapolis. On one of those RARE occasions where a Soo Line semi trailer WASN'T blocking his view down the track, Dad watched impassively as the Caboose disappeared into the Fog. The Manitowoc Line train was on it's way.

Years later, Dad admitted to me that, in passing, the though crossed his mind, "I wonder if the Car Department ever checked that Car (the one loaded with the ring) against clearances?", but that was as much thought as he gave it.

About 20 minutes later, Dad happened to look up to see the Manitowoc Line Train caboose BACKING back up the Main Line to the Depot. "Now what the hell?" Dad asked himself.

The Conductor staggered in the door, ashen colored, moaning, over and over, "We're all gonna be FIRED! We're all gonna be FIRED!"

Dad interrupted with, "Now, now, just calm down. What do you mean we're all going to be fired? What are you talking abourom

With that, the Local's Conductor recounted what had happened: The Local was leaving Manitowoc; the Ore Crusher Ring cleared the Jack Knife Bridge and the Burger Bridge quite nicely, BUT, it didn't fit under the C&NW Two Rivers Branch bridge by a long shot (In fact, if you look in Bob Wise's "Soo Line In Color" book at a shot of the Local crossing under the C&NW Bridge, you'll see two nicely spaced DENTS in the C&NW Bridge where that ring had pasted the bridge years before that photo was made.). The ring hit the C&NW bridge, knocking it 2 feet off center, where upon the Ring broke off it's straps holding it to the Flatcar, was turned to the left (facing West) and it rolled OFF the flat car, PAST the caboose (had the Soo gone under the C&NW bridge at less of a steep angle, this ring would have rolled onto the Caboose demolishing it and anyone inside), down the riverbank and into the Manitowoc River, whereupon it broke in to three easy pieces on the rocks in the river.

To quote some nameless person, "Oh Sh*t!"

For a period of about a week, some person from the Car Department in North Fond du Lac hung around the Manitowoc Depot making thinly veiled threats that EVERYONE at Manitowoc was going to lose their jobs because of the mis-handling of that car, saying things like, "Yep, mistakes like that (the Ring) will never happen again once we get done cleaning up around here." As I say, this went on, along with the rumor of a pending Official Railroad Investigation into HOW this happened, for about a period of one week. At this point, Dad was so fed up with Manitowoc he couldn't have cared less what happened or if he would be fired.

Finally Stan Vogel, tired of "Hearing this *&^)(^ broken Record" stood up to the guy, saying to his face, "Y'know, I'm not too damned worried about losing MY job, 'cause when they (the Officials) start poking around here, they're gonna end up back in Shops Yard (North Fond du Lac), they're gonna find out that it was the CAR DEPARTMENT that wasn't paying any attention to what was going on and DIDN'T SEND ANYONE OVER HERE TO CHECK THAT CAR FOR CLEARANCES. Then we'll SEE who loses their job around here!"

This gent turned on his heel so fast to exit the Depot that Dad though he was going to fall on his face! Stan Vogel, on the other hand, was quite proud of himself, saying, "Boy! Did I tell him! Didn't I tell him! Neil, didn't I tell him?"

Nothing came of this. Soo Line quietly paid for the repairs to that ring. It was re-loaded, BUT, the Car Department sent a crew to Manitowoc from North Fond du Lac to check the clearances of the ring against EACH bridge before the car left.

The end for Dad came when Al Sell retired, and the Soo Line had appointed a North Dakota man, with the last name of Ritchie, to the Agent's Position in Manitowoc. Sell had suffered a heart attack not long before, which convinced him to retire. The appointment of Ritchie was a shock to Dad, whom, I'm quite certain, thought he had a legitimate chance of becoming the Soo Line Agent in Manitowoc. Stung, Dad forever disliked Ritchie and treated him badly. After about a year of working under him, Dad had enough and bid on the Swing Man's Operator Position in Marshfield. For about 6 months, Dad drove home on Weekends between Marshfield and Manitowoc. Mother and I moved to Marshfield to join Dad in April of 1967.

Please forgive me the length of this posting. This is a good story and I enjoy telling it, no matter what the consequences may be. I hope others of you out there enjoy it as much.

Keith Meacham (let the Flaming Begin)

SooLineHistory Group Narrative Part 1 - pix Part 2 - pix
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