KCS Remembrances

Leland C. Stanford (born July 17th, 1914 in Booneville, Arkansas).  Worked for the Kansas City Southern during World War II.

Interviewed by Matt Hutson in Crystal City, Colorado on 9/5/99


"I had a friend that had gone to work for the KCS Railroad down at Heavener (Arkansas).  Lessee, he went to work for them in 1940….and he took me to the roundhouse and introduced me to ol' W.D. Caileff  who was the father of this Caileff that wrote this book on the Kansas City Southern (KCS: Route of the Southern Belle).   We talked for a long time and before I left there ol' Caileff had hired me to run student trips on the railroad.  Well, student trips meant that you made the trips, shoveled the coal there and back, which was 100 miles between stations and you had to make several trips without any pay until you had learned to fire that locomotive good.  So, I think I spent about 16 or 18 days before I finally got on the board and had been on the board about (a) couple of weeks when a job came up to be bid on.  The engineer that was assigned to this job, he was an eccentric ol' boy who didn't believe anything except what he came up with; he didn't believe anybody else.  My friend told me, 'Stanford, nobody else will bid on that job.  Nobody likes to work with that ol' sucker'.


"Anyway, I bid on the job and I got it and I worked for him until I was in a bad wreck just this side of DeQueen, Arkansas.  I got on regular with him and I double headed troop trains and local trains and extras.  We got all of 'em along the way.  I'd learned to fire pretty good and at times why I'd get kinda bedraggled with my firekeeping.  I had to work like a son-of-a-gun going up Rich Mountain which was 30 miles right straight up out of Heavener.  And boy, you shoveled all the way up that mountain.  When I got on the other side of the mountain I'd sit up on the seatbox and get my breath, you know.  Well, a lot of times I'd sit up there too quick and going down the mountain you know, shakin', would shake my fire down and I'd wind up with not enough steam for him to couple up when he got ready to go.  And he was the kind that went whether he had no steam or not, one way or another!


I'd been working with him quite a while and this was on the South Local, which worked from DeQueen to Heavener, Oklahoma.  And we was doin' just fine when we come through Mena headin' toward Rich Mountain, the south side of Rich Mountain.  And I had set on the seatbox too long and let my fire get down.  And I got down and started fightin' it, you know.  When you get in a hurry, why you always goof up.  And my fire wasn't doin' any good so he got down there and was gonna help me.  Well, the more he worked on it the worse it got.  I said, 'Uncle Billy (Hartman), if you don't get back up on that seatbox and run this engine and let me do your firin' I'm gonna throw this hickory handled stoker in on this fire and let you have this durned thing'.    'Oh, by Jiminy God, Stanford!  You cain't do that' he sez 'they'll fire both of us'.  I sez, 'No, they won't fire me 'cause I will have thrown the shovel in and quit when I throw the shovel in.  You'll be the guy they'll fire.'  'Oh, by Jiminy' he sez, 'You cain't do that to me'.  I said, "f you don't stay up there on your side of the engine and run this engine and leave my fire alone, you're gonna find out'.  And I never did have any more problems with that ol' boy,  why everything was just lovely.  And my firin' even got better.


"We stopped at Mena, which was one of the main towns on the railroad.  It was named after Queen Mena from Sweden (actually Holland).  She had helped finance building the Kansas City Southern, and Captain Stillwell had named a lot of the towns along the way in honor of her, even though he only just used part of her name.  And on top of Rich Mountain why, he built a real pretty hotel and he put it right up on top of Rich Mountain, which was in the wild.  But, it really took because they had called it 'Queen Wilhelmina Lodge' and it's still operating today.


"Down there at Mena, we stopped to get water - we had to stop at least two times in the hundred miles with those bigger engines, and sometimes three times.  So at Mena, we stopped to get water and I crawled back on the water reservoir and climbed up on the water spout that came out of the water tank, which was the kind of water tanks they used throughout railroadin' back then.  The spout….you had to pull it down with a rope.  And then you had to climb up on it and set on the spout in a certain place and then pull another rope to cause the water to go into the water tender.


"Well, I pulled the rope to get the water to come out, but I wasn't in the right position on the spout and when I turned it on why, the spout just went right straight up, and here I am up there, helpless as all get out with water runnin' everywhere!  At the same time I was hollerin' for the ol' engineer's attention.  'Course the steam and all the noise, he didn't hear me.  After I set up there, seemed like 30 minutes or more, he came back there and give me a cussin' out again.  He wanted to know, 'What in the world are you doin' up there?'.  I said, 'You're gonna find out when I get down from here'.  So he pulled me on down and let me get off of it.  Oh boy.


"I used to, even after I quit the railroad and went to the Navy, when I got back home why I'd go down  to see my friend at Heavener who had got me the job……..I'd always go on down on to Mena from Rich Mountain which was oh, 30 miles and visit with him (Hartmann).  He had a little house he'd bought somewhere along his career and that's where he lived.  In fact, I think he was raised in Heavener.  Uncle Billy (Hartmann).  Anyway, I visited him as long as he lived.


"I've got to tell you about the wreck we had.  We were called on what was called an 'Extra', carried two white flags, you know.  We were goin' from Heavener up over Rich Mountain and down through Mena.   Just this side of DeQueen there was a local who had backed into a sawmill to pick up lumber and had left about half of their train out on the main track.  And we were comin' down the mountain there at 55 miles an hour around a curve, why, here was the flagman.  He hadn't gotten back toward our unit very far.  There he was, flaggin' us down, and we went through 9 box cars, one oil tanker and a caboose, just lickety brindle.  And we put the brakes on so hard, that they locked.  But we scooted until we put between 9 and 10 inches of flat spots on all the drivers, and that's a pretty good piece of flat spot!  Anyway, we just went scootin'.  We probably would've been able to slow down a little bit but in the middle of (our) train was 9 cars of steel.  And I still can see the boards a-flyin' from those wooden boxcars.  'Course they're all steel now, but back then there was still lots of wood. 

"The ol' engineer and I had to ride that engine back with those flat spots on those drivers a hundred miles.  Took us 16 hours to go a hundred miles.  And boy, you talk about beat when we got to Heavener!  My railroadin' was somethin' else!


"After the wreck, they put me up in a hotel down in Mena there for two-three days after the wreck and wouldn't let me go home.  The railroad had me up in the investigation and tried to get me to testify that the old man was at fault, you know, that he caused it all.  But even as far back as that was in the forties, they had black boxes on those engines that they could lay that tape and tell just how fast you was goin' around a certain curve.  Well they tried to get me to testify against him in all parts of the investigation.  Well I wasn't gonna do that 'cause the old man tried to stop the engine.  He didn't deserve to be trumpled (?).  Anyway, I held up for him and saved his job until he made it into retirement."


Leland died in July the summer after this recording was made.