"I'm cold," said Jonathan, stretching his coat tighter
across his chest.
son," said his father. "I'm cold too, but this is very
out to the cleared area where weeks before laborers had laid the
ties and the iron rails. A large pit had been dug and a turning
bridge installed. Nearby, the timbers were being put up to enclose
what would be Newton's train depot.
He spied the
town cannon positioned at the edge of the clearing near the future-depot
and the squad of students from the Academy attending it. It seemed
like the whole town had turned out for this event. "Why didn't
Ma come?" he asked.
has to take care of your baby sister. Besides, She doesn't like
bell began ringing the twelve o'clock hour and the murmur of the
crowd became noticeably louder. They edged closer to the pair of
tracks that led to the unfinished depot and seemed to lean to the
It was then
that a faint whistle was heard. "She's comin'! I hear her now!"
cried several in the front. They jumped as they yelled.
was heard and the crowd became louder as they peered down the curving
track in an attempt to witness the coming of the technological marvel.
view was soon blocked by the taller adults pressing together. It
was warmer here, but he valiantly tried to peek between the bodies
for a view.
strong arms picked him up and hoisted him onto his tall shoulders.
you go, Johnny. I want you to see this and remember what's happening."
The view now
open, Jonathan could see a plume of white smoke rising above the
trees to the south.
blew again, louder than ever and the chuffing of the engine became
evident. The town cannon was fired in answer to the whistle. As
the engine, pulling a pair of cars, appeared around the bend, someone
cried out, "Three cheers for Tom Hewitt and the Sussex Railroad!
hats sail high into the air as the train slowed down before the
gathering. Music erupted as several people broke out instruments
and began playing a jig. The crowd began jumping and dancing. He
even spotted several in tears.
they crying? Are they sad?"
His father smiled a toothy grin. "Everyone's happy."
the railroad is here, and that means we're connected to the rest
of the state by rail."
don't understand, Pa..."
"Remember the road we took to get here, how narrow it is?"
in the Spring when we came to town, how muddy it was."
"We got stuck in the ruts when we pulled over to let the other
don't have that problem. They don't even freeze up in winter like
the canal at Waterloo. Us farmers can ship out goods whenever we
want over the rails."
again, but his attention was caught by the people moving toward
the station still under construction. A man was climbing onto a
railroad handcar to give a speech. Jonathan looked to the engine
moving onto the turntable.
go see the train?"
smiled, turning away from the speechmaker. "Sure we can,"
and he moved towards the area of activity. Steadying Jonathan on
his shoulders, he made his way through the crowd.
at the turning bridge were other young boys come to watch the train.
Several of them stood near the long lever which moved the bridge
around in the pit to turn the engine. Jonathan was let down from
his father's shoulders. "Go take a look son. Today is history."
stepped in front of the group, smiling as he gathered his coat closer
in the December chill. Time to turn the engine, Joey. Ya wanna pick
some helpers?" A tall boy in a long gray cloth coat motioned
to all of them.
a big lever on both ends of the bridge." he yelled. "Half
of you help me on this one and half take the other one."
his father's nod, went to the one with the tall boy in charge. He
stood with his feet on the outside of the pit, like the others and
put his hands on the wooden lever. "Now," said Joey, "On
the count of three we all push. One... two... three!" The levers
creaked, but nothing moved.
Joey gave a
loud sigh and stood up straight, looking at the boys on the other
lever. "You lot are pushin' the wrong way!" A wave of
chuckles went through nearby onlookers. Jonathan saw Joey brace
against the lever and set his feet again.
two... three!" all the boys finished together. The levers creaked
and this time Jonathan felt the bridge move. He braced his arms
and pushed with all his might as did the other boys. The engine
was being turned for the trip back to Waterloo.
up! Hold up! shouted Joey. His helpers let go of the levers and
stepped back. The bridge slowed and stopped just short of the mark.
"I need just two on each." yelled Joey. He pointed to
Jonathan. "You, come give a hand on this one."
me?" he asked, pointing a finger to his chest.
you. Get over here."
lighter crew gently pushed the bridge into alignment with the track.
as he straightened up, only to have Joey's hand placed firmly on
his shoulder. Joey held out his hand to him. "Thankee for the
help. Name's Joey Quackenbush."
he replied, shaking Joey's hand. "I'm Jonathan." His father's
smile summoned him back, and they walked toward the crowd listening
to the speaker on the handcar. The two wooden, red painted coaches
were on the track, awaiting the engine to be hooked back on for
the return to Waterloo.
While his father
listened to the speaker, Jonathan quietly wandered away to join
a few boys near the far end of the coaches. They were climbing up
the stairs and into the car where they warmed themselves in front
of the stove, it's base glowing cherry red.
said Jonathan, "won't we get in trouble being in here?"
said one of the older boys. "Everyone's watching that old windbag
was welcome on his hands. So welcome that none of them noticed the
engine backing up to hook up to the cars. Suddenly the car jarred
with a clank and the boys all fell over each other as the car lurched.
The conductor's voice was heard saying that the pin was in and the
train was ready to go.
around furtively to see if anyone was coming in to find them.
said a boy gesturing for him. He followed the boy as each hid behind
a seat. After a few minutes, no voices were heard so the others
got up and left the coach.
Just as Jonathan
rose to do likewise, people began coming into the coach, each one
pausing by the stove to warm their hands. He froze in place, not
knowing what to do. Finally, he simply sat down by the window, looking
for his father.
A man took
the seat next to him. He wore a very nice overcoat and a top hat,
and he looked older than Pa. The man kept looking straight, as if
he hadn't seen Jonathan.
bell began ringing. As the train lurched forward, he spotted his
father in the crowd. "Pa!" he said, pressing his hands
against the cold glass of the window. "Pa!"
as his father saw him, ran a few steps towards the moving train,
then stopped. Pa's arm shot up as he called out, but he couldn't
hear him. Then he ran off in another direction.