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"I Like Railroading"

Locomotive Engineer Gilbert King

By Gordon Lloyd Swartz III

Mr. King's father, Robert "Bob" King, was with the B&O for 44 years. When 18-year-old Gilbert applied for a job on the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1942, his father was unhappy with that decision.

Gilbert King. He said, "My, my! You don't want no job with the Pennsylvania Railroad." He said, "They kill them up there like flies. They have a head-on collision up there every week on the Pennsylvania Railroad. ...If you want a job on the railroad, they're just now starting to hire men right out of Parkersburg here for the B&O. They haven't hired anybody since 1930, but I can get you a job on the railroad right here."

And he did.

GK. "I had to make five student trips. My first pay trip I made December 1, 1942, firing a shovel engine from Parkersburg to Kenova, 132 miles. Well, after I made that trip, I kind of wished I'd never thought of the railroad, because, I'll tell you, them was mankilling jobs. Of course, I was born and raised on a farm, and I was pretty tough for a young fellow. I had to be. ...You shoveled 15 ton of coal one way. That was all with a shovel, and buddy, when you got to Kenova, you know you done a day's work. ...(The fireman) had to coal the engine, sand the engine, put water in the tank, and put sand in the sandbox. ...I didn't make a trip that I didn't threaten to quit. ...It's unreal the work you had to do, I'll tell you. And my dad and a few other fellows in his class, they fired those engines for 20 years. I don't know how they ever stood it.

You can read the rest of this article in the Summer 1998 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.