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The Dummy

(excerpt)

 

Example of a 'Dummy' engine
An example of a 'Dummy.'

In the 1870s a Dummy engine operated between Branchville and Newton on the Branchville line of the Sussex Railroad. While little is known of this operation, this story portrays a fictional tale of what might have happened if...


by David E. Rutan

Copyright © 2007 David E. Rutan


Conductor Fountain folded the newspaper closed and flipped it to read the headline once more. "RARE FIND - INDIAN RELICS TO BE TAKEN TO NEWTON BY TRAIN"

"Bad idea, I still say," he muttered, shaking his head, "all this advertising."

Professor Pierce came up behind him. "It's a major find for us. No reason the public shouldn't know about it." Pierce removed his brimmed hat, brushed the hair out of his eyes, and adjusted his pince-nez eyeglasses. "Besides, my sponsor wants these kept safe," he indicated a sturdy wooden crate on the nearby horse-drawn wagon, "Some of the pieces are fragile."

"I can assure you we can keep them safe. Rail travel is smoother and faster than by wagon." Conductor Fountain regarded his pocket watch and adjusted his cap. "We'd better load them on the Dummy."

The Dummy looked like a small coach. It was actually a little steam engine enclosed by windows and a roof. The smoke pipe extended through the roof and was accompanied by the pressure relief valve and the whistle.

Professor Pierce waved his companions over to the wagon and they hefted the crate towards the train. It was brought into the passenger compartment of the dummy and deftly nailed to the floor with leather strapping. "There, now that's secure," Pierce said as the workmen returned to the wagon.

Conductor Fountain adjusted his cap and looked down the aisle through the front window. Then he turned to the Professor. "If you're ready, we'll leave then."

Professor Pierce stepped to the bench nearest the crate and sat down. "I'm ready when you are. Let's get this to Newton. You've promised a smooth ride."

Conductor Fountain nodded and gave a signal to the engineer. The Dummy gently started down the track, the wheels slowly clickety-clacking over the joints in the rails as it chuffed along. It gained speed as they passed through fields of wheat and corn.

Professor Pierce glanced down at the secure box of artifacts when suddenly he was jolted out of his seat. The Dummy had stopped abruptly. He rushed to the chest and touched the lid as if to feel any broken artifacts through the wood. He sprang to the front of the car to face Conductor Fountain. "What happened?"

"Bull on the track," said Fountain. "He ran off just before we would have hit…"

Pierce adjusted his glasses on his nose and took his place on the bench as the Dummy slowly started again. "If any of these are damaged you'll never hear the end of it from our collector in Newton."

"Shouldn't be any more problems," said Fountain, looking at his pocket watch.

The Dummy continued down the line. Pierce noted the whistle's shrill cry as they crossed the dirt roads between the stations at Augusta and Lafayette. In Lafayette a horse and buggy stood waiting for them to pass. About halfway between Lafayette and Branchville Junction, the Dummy jolted abruptly enough to throw Professor Pierce right out of his seat, his glasses clinking to the floor.

Before he could say anything three armed men stormed into the Dummy. "Don't anyone move or we shoot," yelled the man with a dirty felt hat. "All we want is the box."

Pierce was standing up and dusting his pants. "I said STOP," said Dusty Hat.

"That chest belongs to my client," said Pierce.

"Not any more." Dusty Hat's two companions quickly sliced through the leather straps and carried the chest away. Dusty himself remained on the Dummy keeping the Professor, Conductor and the Engineer from doing anything. "It's ours now. You tell your friend if he wants it back, he'll have to deal with me.

And with that, Dusty pulled a lever by the fire box of the Dummy, dropping its wood coals to the ground. The Engineer made a motion to protest, but the motion of the pistol was enough to stop him. Next Dusty released all the steam pressure from the boiler. "That'll keep ya still for a while," he mumbled.

After he climbed out of the Dummy, Pierce watched as Dusty walked up the tracks to his companions. A tree had been axed and now lay across the track to stop the train. Now Dusty and company were pushing a small flat trailer up the tracks, the kind which was usually towed behind a hand powered pump car. They were pushing it along with poles, like a Venetian gondola.

Conductor Fountain stood next to the Engineer, shaking his head. "Why are you just standing there?" asked Pierce.

Fountain turned to him, his brow furrowed. "What's to be done? The chest is gone and they're armed."

(end of excerpt)


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