Article: The Carnation Show Train

Bob Chaparro

Article: The Carnation Show Train
Since the subject of milk cows has been broached, here is an a
rticle courtesy of Paul Koehler.

Misbehavior by folks tending prized milk cows in transit.

Bob Chaparro


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.