Real Stories of the Lead Line

Discussion in 'Salem Branch' started by wpmoreland719, May 2, 2010.

  1. wpmoreland719

    wpmoreland719 Member Supporter

    I wanted to take a few minutes to share a couple of stories of the Lead Line from Cuba to Buick, as told from a police officer's perspective.

    I worked for the Crawford County Sheriff's Department from June 2001 to April 2007, and worked my way up from a detention officer (jailer) to road deputy, and finally patrol sergeant. Making that transition to a road deputy gave me a take-home car, as well the freedom to roam the county as I pleased, providing I wasn't answering a call for service. I worked a rotating schedule going from days to nights every month, and when I worked days, I had the opportunity to chase the once a week Friday train as it worked it's way south toward Viburnum. It usually came through Steelville between 7:00 am and 8:30 am during a time when I usually wasn't busy.

    One hot summer afternoon in 2002 I had just left a call down south off of Hwy 49 when I came across the train heading northbound crossing the highway. I don't remember much about the consist, except that it had a green BN unit with the white front logo up front (more on that logo later)and a blue and yellow Santa Fe trailing. Anyway, I decided to head back to Cherryville and wait for it to come through, hoping for an opportunity to maybe snap a photo of it.

    As I sat on the north side of the track on White River Loop Rd., I seen this car make a hard right turn off of Hwy 19 and head right toward me, fish-tailing and spinning gravel. I hit my overhead lights and put my hand out the window to motion him to stop, but he drove right past me. The chase was on. I chased that guy through all of the back-roads of the Mark Twain National Forest at speeds I don't want to admit to. We wound up heading toward Huzzah Creek on a road that I don't remember the name of, but I rounded a curve, way behind this guy by this point, and suddenly, there was no shoulder or embankment to my right, just an almost straight drop-off onto the track below. And there was the train. My tires were just hanging onto the edge of the road as I went around the curve sideways. That "BN" logo looked as big as a barn door and my knuckles were as white as a ghost. I was about an inch or two from tumbling down onto the track and getting closer to that train than I cared to.

    I terminated the pursuit at that point. I never caught that guy or even found out who he was. And I look back on that now and think, man, that was really stupid of me. I had everything to lose and very little to gain even if I would have caught him. But at least I got to see a train on the lead line, and it happened to be one of the last.

    I also had the fortune, or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, of seeing the last southbound revenue train through Steelville, day before Thanksgiving 2002. That same yellow and blue Santa Fe GP was in the consist. I'd get to see another one in April 2004, but it was just sent there to pick up some covered hoppers and a few gondolas that had been left at the mines. I remember very well one of the units being a "pumpkin", and the other a blue and white leased unit.

    The other incident didn't involve me, but was witnessed by my former Lieutenant several years before I started. He was at a crossing one day on one of the side streets in Steelville (I believe it was Oak Street). There was a lady in a car in front of him that wasn't known for being all that bright. Anyway, the train's heading southbound, horn blowing, and she starts to pull out in front of it when the lead unit clips the front of her car. The train's not traveling very fast and the impact is about as minimal as a collision with a train can be. But here's how the conversation went (to protect this lady's identity, I'll refer to her as "Jane Doe"):

    LT: "Jane, are you alright?"

    Jane: "(Screaming) Yeah!' 'You seen what happened, didn't you?"

    LT: "Yeah, you pulled out in front of the train."

    Jane: "No, it swerved at me!"

    People like this give me job security.

    Pat Moreland,
    Union Mo.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2010
    Karl likes this.
  2. Sirfoldalot

    Sirfoldalot Supporter Supporter

    That last story is definitely worth the price of admission! :D
  3. frisco1522

    frisco1522 Staff Member Staff Member

    What's more frightening is that they reproduce and they vote!
  4. frinyd

    frinyd Member

    That last story is a classic!!!!!!!
  5. Rizon

    Rizon Member

    wpmoreland719, thanks for your work - there are a lot of us who lurk and read these stories, but don't usually comment. It's people like you who keep history from being forgotten.
  6. Ozarktraveler

    Ozarktraveler Member

    Yes, thanks for these.
  7. w3hodoug (Doug Hughes RIP 03/24/2021)

    w3hodoug (Doug Hughes RIP 03/24/2021) 2008 Engineer of the Year Supporter

    One of the active HO guys with the Knoxville club is a retired trucker. I was discussing the lead mines with him this week. He said he once picked up a load in Buick. It didn't fill his trailer!!!!!
  8. meteor910

    meteor910 2009 Engineer of the Year Staff Member Supporter

    Great stories Pat. Thanks for posting them.

    As one who hung around Crawford County often when I was a kid (we did fishing trips on the Huzzah at least twice each summer, often three times), I got to know several of the local folks. Great people, and as nice and helpful as they could be, but sometimes they made you wonder!

    Ever read the book "Pioneers of the Ozarks" by Leonard Broadfoot?


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