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Railroad Stories: Railroad Work Was Scary Job

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By Capper's Staff | Jul 22, 2011

As a 12-year-old boy, my father worked for Canadian Pacific Railway. It was a scary job that sent him trudging three miles from his home near Scotstown, Quebec, to the nearest siding of the railroad. There he filled switch lamps with kerosene, trimmed the wicks and made sure the signal lights were burning for the night trains.

Sometimes the temperature dropped to 35 or 40 degrees below zero, but Dad strapped on his snowshoes and made the trip every afternoon. He didn’t mind putting in the time and effort needed. After all, $8 a month was a lot of money in 1907.

He did mind, however, two adult wildcats he encountered one day on his way to work. He saw them, dropped his oil can in the snow, fled home and got his father to fill in for him. Those wildcats caused my dad’s employment with the railroad to end abruptly. He did not hesitate to give it up for a less scary job, that of second cook for a lumber camp.

Vi Johnson
Fullerton, California

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.

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