Trains played a large role in my life growing up. Sometimes watching the trains was a form of entertainment. The words ‘switch engine’ and ’roundhouse’ were parts of our vocabulary at a young age. I’m sure this is because my grandfather, Leon Crawford, was a second generation railroad worker.
In our world, granddad worked for the Santa Fe. In adult terms, he was employed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. According to granddad’s railroad retirement records, he started work as a yard helper, switchman and engine foreman in December of 1916. However, his compensation record indicates he also worked for the railroad from April thru November of 1916.
The same compensation record indicates that he wasn’t working from May 1917 thru March 1919. This would coincide with granddad’s military service during World War I. Leon Crawford enlisted on 26 April 1917 in Dodge City, Kansas. He served in the 25th A. A. battery 1st A.A. Sector as a wagoner. He was discharged at Camp Funston, Kansas on 28 March 1919.
One of the stories my grandmother told me about my granddad’s career was about the need for a telephone during the depression. Because of the economic downturn, granddad had been laid off. Some days, the railroad would need the extra workers. On those days, they would call (as in phone call), the laid off employees asking them to come back in. Grandma said that even though they didn’t have much money, they had to have that telephone. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have known about the chance to earn money day to day. For grandma and granddad, that phone was a life line
One of my early memories of my grandfather and trains is of an opportunity that I missed out on. One Saturday morning, my brother(s) and I were promised a chance to ride on a train. Dad told us he had some errands to run and when he got back he would take us to the railyard where granddad would give us a ride. In the meantime, I was supposed to help mom with the laundry. When dad got home, I didn’t get to go with him since I hadn’t helped mom. My brother(s) got to go for a train ride that day.
Granddad retired from the railroad in May 1960. He was a member of Lodge No. 217 of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen and awarded his 50 year veteran’s pin in Feb 1967.