Section Boss 37 Years

St. Lawrence Plain Dealer, Canton, N.Y., Feb. 8, 1920, entitled "Theron Fox Pensioned by Railroad And Becomes Flagman"

After Long Service and Seeing Many Changes He Will Now Guard The Main Street Crossing.

From 1883 to 1921 is a long time - 37 yeas. Theron Fox, who last week gave up the job of section-boss here in Canton after 37 years of constant service, says that it doesn't seem any time at all as he looks back on it. Yet in railroad history it is about one-third the life of the railroad in the United States. When Theron Fox came from Chaumont to Canton to be section-boss here there were but two switches in the Canton yard, one at Park street crossing and one at Miner street, and two side tracks, one the old "passing track," across from the station, and the "house" track where Oscar Brown and "Hank" Basset daily backed up their wagons to draw freight for Safford & Havens, J.B. Ellsworth, M.D. Packard, Bonney Brothers, J. VanBrocklin, G.H. Gilmore, and the other merchants of that early day. That was the period, too, when the waters of the Grasse River were plowed by the "Bessie K.," under the careful direction of Captain Gillett. The New York Central had not reached into this section then, and Canton was on the Norwood branch of the Rome, Watertown and Ogdensburg.

Mr. Fox began his work for the railroad at Chaumont in 1877, shoveling snow. No rotary plows traveled the line in those days and that winter the Cape branch was snowed under for 28 days.

"When I came to Canton," says Mr. Fox, "it wasn't the place it is now. I guess all the college students then could be put into one small room, with space to spare. I followed a man named Lubey, who had been here one month. Do you know Dan Cunningham? Well, he was working on the section then. J.D. Remington was the superintendent and E. Dennison was roadmaster. O.A. Hine and Henry Dick and Frank Cornish and Mr. Garrison and Alec Bews and Archie Dixon were the conductors. I remember well the time when the main line was changed to go to Norwood. Dav Pangborn was the conductor on the first train to come from Rome direct and Frank Smith was engineer. There was a postal clerk on the train and that was the first time a mail car had been seen here. "Fen" Everett was postal clerk. I read in the paper a little while ago about his retiring and going to Watertown to live.

"Iron rails and the block joint were all we had in those days. Rails were 24 feet long and weighed about 45 to 50 pounds. The steel we are using today weighs 80 pounds and is 33 feet long. The 80 pounds means for each yard. We don't have trackwalkers at night any more, but then we had to have them because the iron rails used to break and he had to keep watch of the track. I remember one rail that just broke in five pieces once. It was just below the Main street crossing. It broke on the inside of the curve and a train went over it. If it had been on the outside there would have been a wreck.

" The elevation on the Harrison curve was 9 inches then. I thought it was too high but I didn't know much of anything about curves. Over on the Cape branch where I worked we had just one little bend. I got a book on curves and figured out that about 3 1/2 inches was enough. I cut the elevation down and the first engineer that went over it, "Bi" Reynolds, told them down at Watertown that I was going to put some train in the ditch. The roadmaster came up here on the next train. Burt when I showed him my figures he said that it would be all right and that's all it is today.

"C.N. Thompson was station agent and I've seen a lot of them since. Hiram M. Britton was superintendent after J.W. Moak and then came W.S. Jones. The engines of those days weren't much in size besides the ones today, but those little ones were as powerful in proportion. The "Lewiston," the "Goliath" and the "Sampson" were moguls of that day. Ben Bachelder was running then and had the "Watertown," No. 1.

"The gang doesn't get pulled out to shovel snow all night and all day like they used to. Those were days of the freight wrecks on Jerusalem Hill and many a time we have had to streak it up there to lay track after a smash up. Those were the old days too of the link and pin and hand brakes and if the engineer wasn't mighty careful about taking up slack he broke in two. My gang went down to Clark's Crossing below Potsdam to help clean up the Barnum & Bailey wreck. That was along in the late eighties.

"My gang laid all the side tracks for the New Mill as we called it in those days, and my gang took them up again when it went out of business. H.d. Sackrider had a coal shed then across from the freight house. We used to "spot" three of the little old fashioned coal "jimmies" there to unload. George Schell and Cheney (he was brother- in-law to Station Agent Bixby) and William Bevins and Charley Vogel and Jeff Wells were some of the old time engineers.

"Jeff Wells was the fast runner of his day. They used to say that he couldn't keep a fireman. He frightened 'em off by running so fast. I remember Patrick E. Crowley well. He was operator, then despatcher at Waertown, then trainmaster, then superintendent, and today is a vice-president and general manager of the New York Central, and has offices in New York. The St. Lawrence division has turned out some pretty good men. J.H. Hustis, now President of the Boston and Maine, D.C. Moon, for a long time operating head of the Lake Shore, and a lot of men who are now division heads on the main line. When a man gets so he can handle this division up here, summer and winter, he is a pretty good railroad man.

"the section here runs from a mile west to five miles east, and in the old days we pumped it on a hand car. Now the boys have a gasoline motor to ride around in. Still I guess there is as much work as there ever was."

Mr. Fox can't leave the railroad. He is now flagman at the Main street crossing, and still keeps an eye on the track. He has received letters of commendation from a number of officials of the division, and expressing regret that he has seen fit to leave the service. For six years Theron Fox's section was the prize section of the St. Lawrence Division, though Mr. Fox had little to say about that himself.

Contributed by Richard Palmer
Russell Nelson
Last modified: Tue May 30 13:03:46 EDT 2006