ALLAN was on his feet, his eyes shining.
“That’s great!” he said. “That’s great.”
Mr. Round motioned him to sit down again.
“It isn’t altogether on high moral grounds I’m deciding this way,” he
said. “It’s because I don’t think a strike, starting from such a fool
cause, will hurt us. I think it will help us. We need public sympathy
and public confidence. The public has been weaned away from us by a lot
of muck-rakers. Here’s a chance to get it back. And now, Ed,” he added,
“you’ve got to make a grand-stand play.”
“All right,” agreed Mr. Schofield. “What is it?”
“You’ve got to bribe Nixon.”
“And show him up.”
A light broke over Mr. Schofield’s face.
“Oh!” he said. “I see.”
“You and I will talk it over,” said Mr. Round. “But it’s lunch time,” he
added, looking at his watch. “Of course you’re coming with me.”
So the three went out to lunch together, and for a time forgot the cares
of railroading. Only once was the road referred to.
“I’ve got to see Mr. Heywood before I go back,” Mr. Schofield remarked.
“There’s one or two little matters I want to take up with him.”
Mr. Round’s face darkened.
“You won’t see him to-day,” he said.
“Why not?” questioned Mr. Schofield.
“The fact of the matter is,” said Mr. Round, after a moment’s
hesitation, “Heywood hasn’t been at his office for three days.”
“Hum!” said Mr. Schofield, his face darkening too. “Has it got that bad?
I’d heard stories, of course, but I’d hoped they were exaggerated.”
“He’s been getting worse and worse, and I don’t believe he’ll hold his
job much longer. He may be let down easy, because he’s been a good
man—and he’d be a good man yet if he could let drink alone. But it’s
getting more and more hold on him all the time. He knows it and is
ashamed of it, but he don’t seem to have strength enough to break away
from it. It’s too bad.”
“Yes, it is,” agreed Mr. Schofield. “What I hate about it most is the
humiliation his daughter must suffer. I don’t know whether you knew her
or not—Betty Heywood—but she was a mighty nice girl.”
“No, I didn’t know her,” said Mr. Round. “But she seems to have saved
herself. I heard the other day that she was going to get married.”
Allan’s heart bounded suddenly, and his face reddened, but neither of
his companions noticed his agitation.
“That’s a good thing,” said Mr. Schofield. “Who’s the man?”
“I don’t remember his name,” answered Mr. Round. “I heard some of the
boys talking about it the other day—of course there may be nothing in
“Well, I hope it’s so,” remarked the other. “It would solve a mighty
unpleasant situation. Now, I’m going to turn you loose for the
afternoon, Allan,” he added. “Meet me in time to catch Number Two and
we’ll have dinner together on the diner.”
“Very well, sir,” said Allan, welcoming the opportunity to be alone with
his thoughts. “I’ll be there.”
He walked slowly up the street, seeing nothing of the busy life about
him, turning over and over in his mind the bit of gossip which Mr. Round
had repeated. Could it be true, he wondered. Suppose it were, what would
it mean to him? It had been years since he had seen Betty Heywood; it
was very probable that the girl whose image lived in his heart was very
different from the reality. At any rate, it was absurd to suppose that
she would have anything more than the faintest of remembrances of the
boy she had befriended in years gone by.
Shaking such thoughts away, at last, he considered for a moment where he
should spend the afternoon. He decided in favour of the Art Museum, and
boarding a car, started on the long, beautiful ride to Eden Park. The
route carried him up one of the long inclines, which are a unique
feature of Cincinnati’s street railway system. The city proper is built
in the valley along the river, and is surrounded by hills two or three
hundred feet in height, where the most exclusive residence sections are.
These are reached by inclines, where the cars are hoisted and lowered by
means of massive wire cables.
As the car rose slowly up the incline, Cincinnati lay spread below him,
a charming city, marred only by the haze of coal smoke which a
too-indulgent city government made little effort to suppress. Half an
hour later, he was at his destination and entered the museum, whose
collection of paintings, statuary and other works of art is one of the
most famous in the middle west. He spent a most enjoyable hour wandering
from room to room, and was about ready to go, when, in one of the far
galleries, he noticed a woman at work before an easel, and, strolling
nearer, saw that she was making a copy of one of the larger paintings.
He was about to turn away, fearing that he was intruding, when she
glanced up and saw him.
“Why, Allan West,” she cried, and started up, hand outstretched, and he
saw that it was Betty
Heywood. “It _is_ Allan West, isn’t it?” she asked, as he stood for an
instant chained to the spot.
“It certainly is,” he answered, clasping the welcoming hand. “But I
didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Nor I to see you,” she broke in. “What has a train dispatcher to do
with picture galleries?”
“Mighty little, I’m sorry to say. I didn’t know you were an artist!”
“I’m not,” she said, laughing merrily. “I’m only a copyist. What do you
think of it?” she added, with a gesture toward the picture on the easel.
Allan gazed at it with unfeigned admiration, though to a more critical
eye, its shortcomings would have been evident enough.
“It’s fine,” he said. “It’s splendid! Where did you learn how?”
Again she laughed, though her cheeks flushed a little at his praise.
“I’ve been working at it for a long time,” she said. “But don’t deceive
yourself—it isn’t a work of art—it’s merely a pot-boiler.”
“A pot-boiler—designed, in other words, not for fame, but to furnish
food and raiment. But, come,” she added, “I’ve worked enough for one day
and I need some fresh air. Will you come along?”
“I certainly will!” he said, his face lighting, and he watched her while
she stowed her paints away in a box, giving them, together with the
easel and the unfinished painting, into the care of one of the
“Now wait till I get my hat and coat,” she said, “and off we go.”
She was back in a few moments, her piquant face set off by a most
becoming toque, and her painting apron replaced by a long wrap.
“All right,” she said, and a moment later they were walking down the
Not till then did he have an opportunity to look at her, and he was
struck with a sudden sense of strangeness. This was not the Betty
Heywood he had known, but a woman brighter, more dashing, more
self-assured. He was surprised, in a way, to find that there was no
shadow of her father’s failure on her. He had expected to find her
labouring with that sorrow, or at least showing visible traces of it,
and he wondered how she had escaped so completely.
She glanced at him once or twice, as they turned together along one of
the paths of the park, and opened her lips to speak, but closed them
again, as though hesitating how to begin.
“You’re still at Wadsworth?” she asked, at last.
“In the dispatchers’ office?”
“Chief dispatcher now,” he said.
“Are you?” she said. “Isn’t that fine! But I knew you’d work your way
right up. Do you know, you’ve developed into just the sort of man that
you were a boy.”
“Oh, no indeed. Very few people do. Most of us grow crooked—there’s
always something in the path that throws us out of line. Sometimes it
throws us up and sometimes it throws us down, but you’ve grown right
straight ahead. Now I can tell by the way you look at me that I’m not at
all the kind of woman you expected I would be.”
He was a little disconcerted at this frankness.
“No,” he said, at last, “you’re right there. I can’t quite make you
“I’ve had obstacles, you see,” she said, her face clouding for an
instant. “I’ve grown crooked.”
“I heard of your mother’s death,” he said, gently. “I shall never forget
her, though I met her only once.”
“Yes—dear mother. She thought a great deal of you. So did father.”
“Your father was very kind to me,” he said.
She looked quickly into his face.
“Things have not been well with us,” she said, with a little catch in
her voice. “I had to go to work. I found I had some little artistic
talent, and I turned it to account. And I’ve made a lot of good friends
She looked at him again.
“You’ve heard that I’m going to be married?” she asked, suddenly.
“Yes,” he answered, as evenly as he could. “Mr. Round said something
about it to-day.”
“It’s going to be next month. His name’s Knowlton—Robert Underwood
Knowlton—he’s a lawyer, and the dearest fellow that ever was. I wish you
could meet him. I know you’d like him,” she went on, rapidly. Then she
stopped suddenly and looked at him.
“See here, Allan,” she said, her hand on his arm. “Don’t look like that.
It’s not I you’re in love with—you’re not in love with anybody. You
never have been with me. You happened to meet me when you were lonely,
and you gave me a little niche in your heart. But you don’t love
me—that’s not what love is. I’m not at all the kind of woman you
imagined—you’ve seen that already. Now you mustn’t be foolish—shake
hands, like a brother.”
He looked down into her face, and suddenly it seemed as though a veil
were swept away, and he saw that she was right. It wasn’t love he felt
for her—it was only affection. Her eyes, watching him anxiously,
brightened as she saw the change in his face.
“You’re the dearest girl that ever was,” he said, clasping her hand,
“and the bravest. I’m not sure that I’m not falling in love with you
“No, you’re not!” she cried, patting him on the arm. “I knew I was
right!” she added, her face beaming. “You’ve made me so happy—for I
couldn’t help worrying a little, sometimes. Will you come to the
wedding, if I ask you?”
“Ask me and see,” he retorted, laughing.
“Miss Elizabeth Heywood requests the favour of Mr. Allan West’s
attendance at her wedding, February 16th, at two o’clock P. M. R. S. V.
“Mr. Allan West acknowledges the receipt of Miss Heywood’s kind
invitation and accepts with pleasure.”
“Good!” she cried, clapping her hands. “Then you’ll meet Bob and you’ll
see what a lucky girl I am.”
“I think I’ll be more apt to see what a lucky fellow he is.”
“Well, we’re both lucky, and we’re going to be very, very happy.”
“I hope you will,” he said, heartily.
“Thank you, Allan; I know you do. And now here comes my car. Stop it for
me. Good-bye,” she added, as the car came to a stop opposite them. “And
I can’t tell you how glad I am I met you this afternoon. Good-bye!”
She waved her hand to him from the platform, and was gone.
He stood for a moment, watching the car, then turned slowly back toward
the museum. He, also, was glad that he had met Betty Heywood—glad that
she had been brave enough and clear-sighted enough to set him right with
her and with the world.
And yet he realized dimly that there was suddenly a place vacant in his
WITHOUT pausing at the museum, Allan boarded a car back to the city.
After all, he reflected, Betty Heywood was right—train-dispatching had
little to do with art and artists. He realized that he had looked at the
paintings and the statuary from the outside, as it were; he had been
interested in them, it is true, as he would have been interested in a
play or a novel. They had entertained him, they had helped him to pass a
pleasant hour, and that was all. He did not feel that they were vital to
him—vital in the sense that a thorough knowledge of railroading was.
In a word, he was narrowing into a specialist, as every man who really
accomplishes anything in the world must do. His work had become the only
really necessary and vital thing to him. He had found his groove, and
while he still possessed the power to climb out of his groove
occasionally and to look about the world and find amusement in it, it
was in his groove that he felt most at home, that he was strongest and
most efficient and most contented.
For his efficiency—the knowledge that he was really doing something in
the world—rejoiced him and moved him to stronger effort.
So his feet naturally led him back to the great depot which formed the
Union terminal for all the lines of railroad entering Cincinnati. It was
a place which might well be interesting to any one, so crowded was it
with life and well-directed skill. To any one looking at it
understandingly it was more than interesting. It was engrossing. Nowhere
else did the life-blood of traffic pulse quite so strongly; nowhere else
was there quite such an opportunity to study human nature; and nowhere
else was perfection of organization in railroading so necessary and so
It was this latter point which interested Allan most of all, and so,
with merely a fleeting glance at the crowds hurrying past him, he bent
his steps along one of the narrow cement platforms which ran out under
the train-shed like long, gray fingers. In the midst of the tangle of
tracks just beyond the train-shed, stood a tall, box-like structure, its
upper story entirely enclosed in glass. Dodging an outgoing train, Allan
hastened toward this queer tower, climbed the narrow stair which led to
its upper story, opened the door and looked in.
“Hello, Jim,” he said, to a man in shirt-sleeves who stood looking down
upon the busy yards. “May I come in?”
The man turned quickly and held out his hand.
“Sure, Mr. West,” he said. “Come in and sit down,” and he motioned
toward a chair.
Just then a bell overhead rang sharply.
“That’s the Pennsylvania limited,” he said. “Give her track number
There were two other shirt-sleeved men in the little room, standing
before a long board from which projected what appeared to be a series of
little handles like those one sees on water-cocks. At the words, one of
the men turned one of these little handles.
Again the bell rang.
“Number seventeen for the accommodation,” said the man Allan had
addressed as Jim, and another little handle was turned, while still a
third, which had been turned, sprang back to its original position.
“There goes that school-teachers’ special from eleven,” added Jim. “Fix
her, Nick,” and the third man turned a handle at his end of the board.
Allan, meanwhile, had taken a seat, and gazed down over the network of
tracks. Trains were arriving and departing almost every minute. Busy
little yard-engines were hustling strings of coaches about, pulling them
out from under the great train-shed or backing them up into it. Down the
long cement walks beneath the shed, arriving and departing passengers
were hurrying to and fro; trucks piled high with luggage or groaning
under a load of mail-sacks or express matter were being propelled back
and forth with almost superhuman skill; engineers were “oiling round,”
blue-coated conductors were reading their orders, hostlers with flaring
torches were taking a last look at wheels and connections—in a word, the
busy life of a great terminal was at full blast.
And above it all, controlling it, as it were, by a movement of a finger,
stood Jim—James Anderson Davis, if you care for his full name—gazing
down upon it nonchalantly, and giving a terse order now and then. For
Jim is the chief towerman, than whom, in his sphere, no autocrat is more
autocratic and no czar more absolute.
* * * * *
It is a fearful and wonderful thing, this controlling the trains that
arrive at and depart from a great terminal—almost too fearful and
wonderful to be put upon paper. But at least we will make the effort.
Most modern terminals resemble each other in general plan. Railroads
have found it not only convenient for the public but economical for
themselves to build “union stations” in the larger cities, wherever
possible. That is, a suitable site is selected, as near the business
centre of the city as it is possible to get, and the roads join together
in providing the money necessary to purchase it and erect the station
building, the cost being pro-rated in proportion to the amount of
traffic which each road gets from the station.
[Illustration: “CONTROLLING IT, AS IT WERE, BY A MOVEMENT OF FINGER,
The side fronting upon the street is usually handsomely embellished, for
it is this side which the public sees as it approaches, and all
railroads know that to make a good impression is to do good advertising.
So with the main waiting-room, which always lies directly behind the
street doors. Here marble, mosaic and gilding are always in evidence and
no opportunity is lost to impress the travelling public with the wealth
and magnificence of the road which it is using. On either side of the
main waiting-room are smaller waiting- and retiring-rooms, there is a
row of ticket-booths, a news-stand, telephone booths, baggage-rooms, a
dining- and lunch-room and, of course, inevitably, the long rows of
seats, back to back, where the waiting public spends so many weary
In the stories overhead are the executive offices of the various
roads—as many of them as there is room for—but to these the general
public seldom penetrates.
Beyond the swinging doors along the side of the waiting-room opposite
the entrance is the main platform or concourse, and from it, stretching
down between the tracks like long fingers, are the narrow cement
platforms upon which the passengers alight or from which they mount to
their trains. The tracks are laid in pairs, and a platform extends
between every pair, each platform thus serving two tracks, one on either
side. Overhead is the great echoing vault of the train-shed with its
mighty ribs of steel, stretching in one enormous arc across the tracks
beneath—a marvel of engineering skill, if not of architectural beauty.
This is what is known as the head-house plan, and is the ideal one for
the passenger, since it permits him to go to and from his train without
crossing any tracks or climbing to any overhead bridges. It is, however,
expensive for the railroads since, of course, all through trains must be
backed out and switched around until they are headed on their way
again—a process which requires no little expenditure of time and energy,
as well as money. However, in a great city, a right of way which would
enable the through trains to continue straight onward toward their
destination is frequently so expensive that it is cheaper to back them
out the way they came in, and send them by a detour around the city.
And upon no one is this backing-out process more wearing than on the
towerman, for the trains must be handled twice over the same track, and
of course the track must be kept clear until the train is out again and
safely on its way. Now there is never any surplusage of tracks in a
terminal. Indeed, as one sees the tracks narrow and narrow as the
terminal is approached, until they are merged into those which plunge
beneath the train-shed, one is apt to think they are all too few. Yet
their number has been calculated with the greatest care; there is not
one more than is needed by the nicest economy of operation—nor one less.
The number is just right for the station’s needs—so long as the towerman
knows his business and keeps his head.
And now to return to the glass-enclosed perch where, for eight hours of
every day, Jim Davis and his two assistants send the trains in and out
over the network of tracks. That long row of little handles is the last
word in switch-control. Time was—and is, in all but the most important
stations—when the towerman opened or closed the yard-switches by means
of great levers. To throw one of these levers was no small athletic
feat, especially if the switch it controlled was at some distance, and
to keep at it eight hours at a time reduced the strongest man to mental
and physical exhaustion. When the towerman left his work at the end of
his trick, he was, in the expressive parlance of the day, “all in.” Now
when men are “all in,” they are very apt to make mistakes, hence in a
busy terminal under the old system, accidents more or less serious were
of almost every-day occurrence. Besides which, the number of levers
which one man was physically able to operate was comparatively small, so
that there must be many men and a consequent divided responsibility and
opportunity for confusion.
The tower itself had been an evolution, for, at first, these
yard-switches had been controlled by a brigade of switchmen, each of
whom had two or three under his supervision, which he turned by hand
whenever he saw a train coming his way. Then the hand switchmen were
supplanted by a cluster of levers in a tower, operated by a single man.
The tower was so located that its occupant had a general view of the
yards, and the levers were connected by steel rods with the switches and
signals which protected them. For every switch must have its signal—that
is, a device by which the engineer of the approaching train may see
whether the switch is properly set—the old standards showing yellow when
the switch was open and red when it was closed—and since replaced by
arms, or semaphores, which hang down when the train may pass and bar the
way when it must stop.
This grouping of the levers in the tower simplified the control of the
yard and placed the responsibility upon a more intelligent and more
highly paid man than the average switchman, and consequently broadened
the margin of safety. But terminals grew and yards grew and switches
increased in number, until even this system was unable to meet the
demands made upon it.
It was at a time when this state of affairs seemed seriously to threaten
the safety of operation of great terminals that some genius invented the
pneumatic control. Instead of a row of great levers requiring the
strongest muscles, the towerman found himself confronting a battery of
tiny ones, operated by the touch of a finger. And that finger-touch
against the slender lever is instantly magnified to the pull of a giant
arm against a switch half a mile or more away.
How? By a bewildering intricacy of cogs and valves, by the aid of the
electric current and of compressed air, for, in order to perfect this
mechanism, man has harnessed the whirlwind and the lightning. That
finger-touch brings instantly an electric touch; the electric touch
raises a valve which releases the compressed air from a cylinder into
which it has been pumped; and the air thus withdrawn from the cylinder
in the tower basement is also in the same instant withdrawn from a
cylinder opposite the switch-point, by means of a slender pipe which
connects the two; and a plunger in the cylinder at the switch moves the
switch-point and the signals which protect it.
That seems enough for any mere machine to do—but it does much more. For,
by a series of interlocking devices, the switches are so controlled by
each other that no signal for a train to proceed can be given until all
the other switches over which the train will pass have been properly set
and locked, nor can any switch be moved as long as any signal is
displayed which gives right of way over it. Thus was the margin of
safety further broadened, and the control of a great terminal brought
down to three men on each eight hour trick, representing the very cream
of their profession.
Approaching trains announce their coming by ringing an electric gong,
the chief towerman, of course, knowing just which train is due at that
particular instant—knowing, too, if any train is late, and how late and
with what other trains it conflicts. He must know the precise second of
departure of each train from the shed, and every train must glide
smoothly in and out without let or hindrance. He must _know_; he mustn’t
merely think he knows, for this is one of the positions in which a man
never has a chance to make two mistakes. For, while the tower machinery
is wonderfully adapted to its purpose, it is, after all, the mind of the
chief towerman which controls and directs it.
* * * * *
It was not by any means the first time that Allan West had sat watching
this fascinating scene, but it had never grown uninteresting and he had
never ceased to wonder at it.
“I used to think train-dispatching was a pretty nerve-racking business,”
he remarked, after a while, “but it’s child’s play compared with this.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Jim, his eyes on a through train threading
its way cautiously out of the terminal and over the network of switches.
“We don’t have to worry about big accidents up here—the interlocking
takes care of that. We can’t have a head-end collision, for instance—at
least, not while the signals are working properly. What we’ve got to
look out for is tangles. If we have to hold one train two or three
minutes, that means that two or three other trains will be held up, and
before you know it, you’ve got a block ten miles long. Then’s when
somebody up here has to do some tall thinking and do it quick. The only
way to keep things straight is to keep ’em moving. Sixteen,” he added to
his assistants, as the overhead bell rang.
They watched the train as it rolled in, saw it disgorge its load of
passengers, saw the baggage and express and mail matter hustled off, saw
the yard-engine back up and couple on to the rear coach, and slowly drag
the train out from under the train-shed.
“I never watch that done,” added Jim, as the train disappeared down the
yards, “but what my heart gets right up in my throat. You don’t know
what a way those pesky little yard-engines have of jumping switches.
Open sixteen, Sam,” he added, as the big engine which had brought the
train in rolled sedately down the yards on the way to the round-house,
to be washed out and raked down and coaled up. “Ring off thirteen,
Nick,” he said, and Nick touches one of the little handles, a blade on a
signal bridge opposite the end of the train-shed drops, there is a sharp
puff, puff, of a locomotive, and another train starts slowly from the
train-shed on its journey east or west, north or south, as the case may
Meanwhile, the little switch-engine has set its train of coaches in upon
one of the innumerable sidings away down the yards where passenger cars
are stored—and one would scarcely believe how many miles of such storage
track every great terminal requires—has uncoupled and started back
toward the train-shed for another load—her movements, by the way, as
well-known to and thoroughly understood by the chief towerman as are
those of the most glittering through train. Already the train of coaches
is in the hands of the cleaners and stockers, for it will start out
again presently upon another trip. Modern passenger cars represent too
much money to be allowed to repose on a siding a minute longer than
The cleaners swarm into the coaches, dusty and dirty and foul after the
long journey, dragging behind them long lines of hose. The hose carries
compressed air, and in half an hour those cars are sucked clean of dirt
and are as fresh and sweet as when they first came from the shops. Other
cleaners are washing the windows and polishing the metal fittings.
Trucks pull up loaded with ice, with clean linen, and the stockers see
that every car is supplied. Farther along is the diner, and to it come
the butcher’s cart, the baker’s cart, the grocer’s cart; dozens and
dozens of napkins and table-cloths are taken aboard, and already the
chef is making out the menu for the dinner which will be served in an
hour or two somewhere out on the road. It is all wonderful—fearful and
wonderful, when one stops to think of it—impossible to set on paper
except in broad suggestive splashes, as an impressionist paints a
* * * * *
“Are you going back on Two?” asked Jim.
“Yes,” said Allan, glancing at the tower clock.
“Well, there she comes,” said Jim, and motioned toward a cut of coaches
being backed into the train-shed by one of the ever-present
“All right,” said Allan. “I’ll go down and hunt up Mr. Schofield. He’s
going back with me. This is a great place, Jim.”
“Come again,” said Jim heartily. “You’re always welcome. He’s a fine
young fellow,” he continued, as Allan went down the stairs. “He’ll have
his office up yonder one of these days,” and he motioned toward the
towering stories of the terminal building. “Number eight, Sam,” he
added, as the bell rang. “There comes the St. Louis express.”