Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns
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Thursday, January 4, 2007

A Funeral in Dundalk Of Sorts

I was planning on starting a story here but realized I had not told these little pieces of history so I'll get these out of the way first. Picture this as you read it.

Don't know the years for sure but I think it was 1942. There was an article in The Baltimore news post that there would be a train coming through Baltimore to Sparrows point. There would be a brand new diesel locomotive pulling a line of old steam engines to be scrapped for the war effort. They were to be cut apart and melted down. The implication was that it was the end of the era of steam. There was a lot of sentiment attached to these old engines. The numbers of each was listed in the article and one of them was an engine that had run down Dundalk avenue early on an had run the line through Fort Holabird, Dundalk ,across Sollers Point Road and down across the Railroad bridge on Bear creek to Bethlehem Steel Co. for many years.

My father said, “That must be old number 404 (I think that was the number) You could tell her apart from the other engines from the sound of her driving rods clanking. That's a shame she has been running these lines for 30 years. they only built a few of those engines so she is almost one of a kind. We have to go and watch tomorrow. When those old engines all are gone there won't be any more because they will never build them again.

The Next day we went to the rail crossing at Sollers point road to wait.. Almost everyone in our neighborhood was there. A hundred more stood on the other side of the tracks. Most lived along Dunmanway, Yorkway and Admiral boulevard I suspect . We all stood and waited and in about an hour we saw the trains headlight way off in the distance coming slowly about 15 miles per hour as befitted a funeral prepossession. By the time it got to the intersection there was probably 500 people standing and watching. Cars were backed up in all directions and people got out and walked to the tracks.

When the procession got close, it was plain to see the numbers , bells and all the brass gear had been removed and the windows, number boards and across the cow catchers was covered with Black crepe.. The driving rods had been removed so the engines rolled along in complete silence except for the noisy clatter of the diesel Engine.

The whole crowd stood in silence, and no one and I mean no one speaking at all. There was very few dry eyes in the bunch. At the time it all seemed quite natural that people would feel that way. Today it seems strange, we are now in a time when the only thing we have that lasts long enough to become attached to is buildings and Aircraft carriers. Maybe a little bit the family car.

The newspapers said that, “Thousands had gathered along the route to watch the procession.”

I guess for years after I heard and said myself, “I sure do miss the sound of those old steam locomotives.” I also remember some women saying, “Well I don't miss'em with all that soot they belched out all over my clean cloths.”

About two years later there was a similar kind of thing on the number twenty six street car line up on Dundalk Ave.. It again, was in the newspapers that the Black Maria would be coming through Dundalk The Black Maria was a black streetcar that belonged to Bethlehem Steel co. I was a funeral streetcar that hadn't been used in a lot of years. It was a funeral hearse used by Sparrows Point residents to carry the funeral with coffin and corpse to the grave yard. Way back the family rode with the coffin and then returned to Sparrows point after the funeral. I guess there was no Graveyard in Sparrows Point. The old streetcar had been sold to the Baltimore Transit co and was on it's way to the cow barn as it was called in Highland town. The cow barn was where they worked on the cars when they broke down.

My sister and I and a lot of other people who had the same morbid curiosity had, stood waiting for the streetcar. When it came up the tracks there was a sudden murmur among the crowd. My sister broke out crying. One lady screamed out,”Oh My god Jesus,” spun on one heel and ran away. The black car was again dressed in black crepe. I don't remember being frightened of it and I sure did think it was neat.

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