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William J. Brotherton

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Burlington Northern Adventures: Railroading in the Days of the Caboose
by William J. Brotherton   

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Publisher:  South Platte Press ISBN-10:  0942035682 Type: 


Copyright:  October, 2004

Author William Brotherton went from hopping freight trains as a youth in Atlanta to working as a brakeman, conductor and trainmaster in North Dakota and throughout the West. The book, a collection of short stories intertwined with the author's humor, tells about his encounters with such characters as the Milwaukee Queen and Pisser Bill, in bone chilling places like the Black Hills of South Dakota, the North Woods of Minnesota, and the mountains of Colorado.

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Burlington Northern Adventures

This is a book you must have for your library. Brotherton's unique Southern sense of humor compliments the stories he tells. From the crazy ideas of a child while growing up, to the adventures of an adult working the rails, Brotherton captures your attention from cover to cover. Excellent read.
Ken Lothridge: Author of A Conductor Tells Unauthorized Train Stories.

It is one of those books one wishes never ends. Jim Harris, retired railroader

Great stories and a terrific read! Steve Glischinski, author of Burlington Northern and its Heritage


As we embarked on this Saturday day trip, I had told my little band that we would only go out several miles, jump off the train, and hike back in time to play some baseball at the park.
That was the plan anyway; to see where the tracks went beyond Piedmont Road. The Seaboard Air Line had different plans for us, however, as the train built up speed. We could only sit in the boxcar, and wait. Wait for it to slow down enough for us to jump out. Several miles went by and it was obvious my plan wasn't going to work.
“What if,” my brother asked, “this train never slows down?” Worry, something highly unusual in my 11 year-old brain, began to creep in.
An hour passed, according to my Timex watch that had been my Confirmation present. I quickly figured out that we would not be able to walk home. Looking over at Steve and Walter, their worried faces showed they realized the same thing.
We could hear the train’s horn, two long notes, and one short, and then another long, as the train roared through the crossings. This train was in a hurry to get somewhere. It was exhilarating to sit just inside the doorway and watch the world go by. We went through small Georgia towns and waved at startled motorists at the crossings. We three were clearly somewhere where we were not supposed to be and it was delicious.
As the train ride progressed, my brother found a piece of cardboard and swept our little area of the car. After all, it looked like we were going to be there for a while. It was no longer fun to wave at crossings and it was now past noon. We had a dollar in change among us, enough for some nickel cokes and moon pies to tide us over till supper. If in fact we could get back for supper. Steve and I also started worrying about our dad, a firm believer in the use of the belt for major breaches of discipline. Our train trip would clearly qualify as a belt offense if our Dad discovered what we were doing.
We felt the train lurch and the train began to slow down. The loud boom of the drawbars banging together as the engineer applied his air brakes, signaled it was time to get off the train. It was now or never, it looked like.
The train was coming around a right hand curve and ahead was a bridge on a slight incline. The train slowed down even more, but it was still moving. The right of way sloped down to the creek the trestle crossed and the entire area was overgrown with Kudzu, a lush, green vine and an accidental import from the orient that had overrun the South. Trains had been known to stall on the tracks after the fast growing Kudzu had lapped over onto the rails. I hoped the Kudzu would cushion our jump.
The train continued to slow down. I calculated it was going about 20 miles per hour, based on watching my Dad’s driving and the speedometer. I addressed my brother and Walter.
“We’ve gotta jump!”
My brother started crying. After all, he was 10. Walter nodded his head because he knew we had no choice. Who knew when the train would slow down again?
We stood at the doorway and could see the diesels ahead as they passed clear of the bridge. There were four of them; it was a long train and they began spewing thick, black smoke. The car lurched again, as the slack ran out. That meant the speed would go back up once the train cleared the hill.
I shoved my brother, Steve, and he landed in the Kudzu and rolled and rolled. Walter looked at me and jumped, yelling, “Geronimo!” I closed my eyes and leapt out of the boxcar.

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