Monday, June 27, 2011

Eldred B. Tresize Narative Part 4 - Leadville Railroads

This is a narrative that covers the history of the family of Edward John Tresize and their immigration to America from England. It was originally posted on but is not avail. May have been posted by his children.

I remember some of the people who were our friends and neighbors. To name a few, there was Dora Baker, Hazel Olds, Big Mary, Little Mary, Pollywog, Whiskey Smith, Bug House Pete, Whirley Gig, Maddy Harmon, Molly Tobin, Oxelburg, and Clara Bond.

There was a kid who lived on the corner just a block from us. He was an ornery little brat and his name was Jack Diamond. He finally ended up getting sent to reform school but got in trouble again when he got out. He got in a lot of trouble in Chicago and was
later sent to prison. We always considered ourselves to be the good kids on the hill on East 9th Street. Hazel Olds mother chopped off her finger while splitting kindling wood. She lived across the street from us and always called me "Eddle". One of her boys was named Ted. Hazel later moved to Sterling, Colorado where my sister Precie lived and she became a school teacher. Dora Baker was a chunky little girl who was a wonderful piano player.

Raymond Bond and Dora Bond lived next door to the east of us. We had daily play school where Dora was the teacher. We learned to read and write from her. Some of the other kids did not go to school so our play school taught them a lot. Johnny Spargo and his brother were good friends of ours. John became a preacher and lived in Denver. Molly Tobin was a waitress in a restaurant and a clerk in the store. She married Johnny Brown and moved to Denver.

There were six railroads in town when we lived there. They were the Colorado Midland, Union Pacific, Colorado Southern, Rio Grande Western and were all narrow gauge railroads. The cars had to be unloaded there and reloaded into the wider gauge rails. Later, three rails were laid and most of the railroads had three rail tracks and all the cars had 2 knuckle couplers on each end, one for the narrow gauge and one for the standard wide gauge. Sometimes, a train would haul both narrow gauge and standard gauge cars at the same time. Railroads seemed to run all over the place. One kid we knew had a father who was an engineer on a switch engine. One day the locomotive he was operating derailed and overturned on a sharp curve. The steam pipes burst open and he was scalded to death. All of us kids ran down there to see the wreck but it left us with bad memories.

All of the kids ran together in gangs like the 7th street gang, the 8th street gang, the 9th street gang and the 10th street gang. Some were good and some were not so good. We belonged to the 9th street gang and we considered ourselves to be the good guys. One of the kids was a section foreman. We could get the extra hand car from a shed and pump it up and down and ride up and down the railroad track. We thought that was the best time ever! Occasionally, we would come across another hand car parked along side the track. It would have a bunch of lunch pails on it. The men would be working around the bend out of sight. We would eat all of the pie, donuts and cookies out of the dinner buckets then pump the hand car back down the tracks.

They did not have a lot of safety rules in those days. If they did, us kids did not know about them. They did not lock the tool sheds along side the tracks. One day we found a lot of torpedoes in a shed. They were about the size of a hamburger with tin straps on the sides. These straps were used to hold the torpedo on the rail. They were full of black powder and when they exploded, it sounded like a clap of thunder. We strung out a whole string of them along the rails and hid behind a pile of railroad ties. They were not creosote ties, just plain yellow wood. When the train came along, the torpedoes went off like cannon fire. "Bang, bang, bang!" The engineer and fireman hung their heads out the cab windows to see what was going on. It is a wonder they didn't get their heads blown off. The train slowed down real slow but did not stop. We stayed hidden behind the ties until the train was out of sight. Johnny Wahl, my sister Polly's stepson, got both his arms blown off at the elbows because of playing with those torpedoes.

We took one of the torpedoes home and put it on a big rock in back of the wood shed in our back yard. We set the torpedo on the rock and put a big rock on the sloping roof of the house and rolled the rock off the house. The first time we rolled the rock off, nothing happened. The second time, it exploded and shook the whole house. It scared all the neighbors. My mother had washed clothes all morning with a wash board in a big wooden tub. The whole back yard was full of clean clothes hanging on the line to dry. White bed sheets, pillow cases, shirts, dresses, overalls, all sorts of things. All of the clean clothes were blown full of holes. We kids ran and hid under a barn for the rest of the afternoon. We did not escape mother's wrath when we finally came home, however.

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