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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Is the romance gone?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mr. P. O. Freeman, an old-time locomotive engineer and Baptist preacher at Thayer, once said that he thought the "romance" of being an engineer went away with the demise of the steam engines.

The Frisco lines, no stranger to hard times, struggled through bankruptcies and grim years during the Depression.

It came out of a 14-year reorganization in 1947 when Clark Hungerford was elected president.

With a flourish, the Frisco unveiled streamlined, diesel-powered versions of it's Texas Special and Meteor passenger trains in 1947 (the first diesel powered train showed up at Thayer in 1948.).

Frisco passenger locomotives were named after famous horses, including Cavalcade, Count Fleet, Gallant Fox and Champion, the mount of movie star Gene Autry, a former Frisco telegrapher in Oklahoma.

The Frisco began ordering diesel freight locomotives in 1948, phasing them into service over the next four years.

Their last steam locomotive was operated on Feb. 28, 1952, making the Frisco the first major railroad to become exclusively diesel-powered.

Doing the math, you'd have to be in your 60s to actually remember the big steam engines at Thayer and in your 40s to have ridden on one of the passenger trains.

The last passenger train operated by the Frisco ended on Dec. 8, 1967, when trains 101 and 102 completed their runs between Kansas City and Birmingham.

Most of the old timers have heard one or more versions of how the six-sided Frisco Railroad Logo came about.

The most authentic story was published by the company back in the 1940s.

According to the story, George H. Nettleton, the Frisco's general manager, was on an inspection tour around 1901 and from the window of his private car noticed an animal hide nailed to the side of the depot when the train pulled into Neosho, Missouri.

Mr. Nettleton, according to the story, summoned the station agent and asked him what he was doing nailing hides onto the side of the company building.

The agent told him that it was impossible to make ends meet with the meager wages the company was paying him so he trapped animals and sold their skins to make additional money.

Everyone thought the local agent might be in trouble but in the ensuing conversation, Mr. Nettleton gave the man two bucks for the hide.

He took it back to his office in St. Louis and gave it to a draftsman to create a trademark for the new line.

The original coonskin was on display in a frame under glass for many years in the company offices in St. Louis.

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