Article: The Carnation Show Train
Article: The Carnation Show Train
Misbehavior by folks tending prized milk cows in transit.
Railway Bull Shippers Group
With the feed order figured out, a few changes to the ration
calculated, I leaned against the pick-up and watched Darryl Ricci
light one of his trade mark Tiparillos. Darryl has spent the last 50
years breeding one of the finest herds of Holstein cattle in the
nation. The Ricciville prefix is well known amongst cattle breeders
all over the world.
"You know Martin, you shoulda been with me and George Magnochi
back in the fall of 1956. You would have gone nuts with that camera
of yours. We were hired by Carnation Farms to take the state show
herd down to the Pacific International in Portland and the Western
National (both cattle cows) at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Took
the whole damned trip by train in a stock car."
Just the route taken by the cars was a flash back to bygone days.
In 1956, the Milwaukee Road was still operating its line north down
the Snoqualmie Valley. Branching off at Cedar Falls, the tracks went
through the rural towns of Carnation, Duvall and then out to Monroe
where they essentially followed the Great Northern line across the
Snohomish Valley into Everett.
Carnation Farms, being a part of the Carnation Milk Company and
Albers Feed Mills had the advantage of being well capitalized and also
had some pull with the railroads. About a week before departure, the
Milwaukee would spot two Northern Pacific stock cars on a spur track
at the Carnation, WA depot. Carnation Farms had the cars tied up for
over a month and was also allowed to amend the interior for show
cattle. In each car a loft was constructed where hay, grain and bales
of straw for bedding were stored. Placed on one end of the loft was a
large metal water tank with a hinged hatch put in the roof of the car.
As Darryl remembered, "We'd pull up to one of those water plugs they
used on the steam engines to fill our stock tank." The water was then
gravity fed through a garden hose and used to water the cattle. Room
was also made in the loft for Darryl, George, and Carnation herdsman
Al Mettler to lay out their bedrolls.
"We left Carnation in the evening. We milked then up at the farm
then brought them down and loaded them up. We had 14 milking cows in
our car, and old Clarence Okerlund was in the second car with about 20
heifers. He traveled alone 'cause with the young stock you really
didn't have to do much. Me, George and Al had to milk the 14 we had.
Some of those Carnation cows were going for records so they were being
milked four times a day. Christ-a-mighty Martin, I know you've milked
your fare share of cows, but try doing it by hand in a rocking cattle
car doing about 40. About all I could get was half a bucket before it
would start slopping all over hell. One nice thing, with Carnation's
pull, out car was always the first one behind the engine so we didn't
have to put up with that slam banging when they started and stopped."
"That goddamned Milwaukee, it took us all night to get from
Carnation to Renton. We sat up at Cedar Falls half the night waiting
for another train to take us on down to the NP line at Renton."
(I'm guessing here that by Renton, Darryl is referring to Black River
Junction.) "Once we got on the NP it was a pretty quick trip to
Portland, although we stopped a few times and picked up some more cars
of show cattle. We were in Portland by early evening."
The Pacific International Livestock Exposition was a giant cattle
show drawing the best breeding stock of all breeds, beef and dairy,
from all over the west. It was not uncommon to have 1000 cattle
competing for the best in their class. All had arrived at different
times prior, from different points of origin, but when the "PI" was
over, all were headed south to the same destination, the Cow Palace in
San Francisco for the Western National.
"You would have loved it Martin. To move all those cattle south,
the Southern Pacific put together an 88 car stock train. Why if that
goddamned train had got in a wreck, it would have set cattle breeding
back 100 years!"
Here again, the influence of the Carnation name allowed Darryl's
car, loaded with Washington State's finest black and whites to be
coupled to the engine.
"Once we got our cattle in and settled, that son-of-a-@#$%& Al
grabbed a whiskey bottle, headed up to the loft and told George and I
not to @#$%& with him until the train stopped in San Francisco.
"It took forever to get the train loaded and out of Portland,
most of the day as I remember. Just before we left, some guy from the
railroad, thought he was a real bad ass, gave us hell about not
pitching any of the cow @#$%& out the door unless the train was going
by some field or in the mountains. Hell, we knew that, all the while
we were coming south through Washington we were real careful where we
threw the @#$%& and the milk. But that @#$%& kinda pissed me off.
"As soon as we got going good out of Portland, me and George
started having contests as to who could hit what going by with a fork
full. We started with some of the railroad buildings, then tried our
luck at the power poles. If you looked back on the rest of the train,
you could see the rest of the kids tending cattle had caught on and
were doing the same damned thing.
"Christ-a-mighty Martin, I remember this poor bastard had a brand
new Buick stopped at a railroad crossing. I had a big pie on my fork
with just enough straw to hold it together. When we passed that car I
let her fly. It hit square on the hood and slid up over the
windshield and onto the roof. I think goddamned near every kid on the
train nailed that car. Hell, by the time the caboose went by, that
guy's Buick musta looked like the @#$%& pile behind the old man's barn.
"I remember that night going through some little railroad town.
We'd been whitewashing most of the stations along the way with the
milk from the cows. I could see some guy in a big overcoat trying to
flag down the train. I figured he was gonna chew our asses out, but
the train just kept going. God we nailed him good. I saw him running
for his life with his coat up over his head.
"They finally stopped us in some little mountain town in
California. (Dunsmuir is my guess) This little bad ass comes outta the
station, so I quick go up in the loft and wake up Al. This little
railroad guy jumps up in our car and starts reaming Al's ass out about
us throwing @#$%&. Christ I thought Al was gonna kill him. He told
that little @#$%& that this was the Carnation show herd, that me and
George were employed by Carnation Farms and unless he wants his
railroad to quit hauling Carnation and Albers products he'd better go
looking for trouble someplace else. I can remember Al telling him,
'No goddamned @#$%& has left this car without my say so.' Jesus
Martin, we hadn't seen Al since Portland and hell, we started the
whole thing. The railroad guy took off and Al gave us a dirty look
and headed back to the loft and his whiskey. That railroad guy went
towards the back of the train and tried reeming out a bunch of cowboys
from Montana. No telling what those crazy @#$%& did to him. He still
might be tied up in some old stock car someplace. Soon as the train
started again, we left our calling card on the station.
"I remember coming into San Francisco along one of the bays. It
was raining and this old guy had a bright yellow slicker on and was
sitting on a rock just below the tracks fishing. He had is back to us
and looked up just in time to catch his breakfast right in the face.
Goddamn, the impact of that @#$%& hitting his face knocked right in the
water. Poor bastard about drowned. Every time he'd come up for air,
another car would pass and he'd get another face full of @#$%&."
"The funniest part was when we finally stopped. I was hanging
out the door when the brakeman came off the engine to uncouple. He
told me he was never so glad to be done with run in his life and hoped
he didn't have to pull our sorry asses back north. He told me all the
way down all he heard on the radio was 'Run for cover boys, here comes
the @#$%& train!'"
I've said it many times on this list and I will continue to say
it. As a group we are failing miserablely at recording these great
stories of vanishing eras in railroading. We are not writing the
stories, publishers refuse to give these great tales a place in
history, and that my friends is a shitty deal.
Martin (who's rambled thru his fair share of cow @#$%&)Burwash
PS...The numbers represented in this story are staggering. 1000
cattle, even with varied ages will each produce about 40 pounds of
solid manure in 24 hours, conservatively. Simple math tells you about
20 tons of cow @#$%& was launched from that train between Portland and
San Francisco. Add to that, 250 of those animals produced about 6
gallons of milk each in that 24 hour period and you will come to the
conclusion that the Southern Pacific stations were painted with about
1500 gallons of milk.