An example of a 'Dummy.'
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
by David E. Rutan
2007 David E. Rutan
folded the newspaper closed and flipped it to read the headline once
more. "RARE FIND - INDIAN RELICS TO BE TAKEN TO NEWTON BY TRAIN"
I still say," he muttered, shaking his head, "all this advertising."
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
"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.
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
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
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."
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.
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
"Bull on the
track," said Fountain. "He ran off just before we would have
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."
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.
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
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.
stood next to the Engineer, shaking his head. "Why are you just
standing there?" asked Pierce.
to him, his brow furrowed. "What's to be done? The chest is gone
and they're armed."