My Blog

April 7, 2017

Visiting the Wobbly

And now I know why they call it the “Wobbly, Bobbly, Turnover and Stop.”
Last Saturday, a group of 7 of us led by the irrepressible Trinityites Donna Coffen and Susan Madeley, ventured down I-45 to the Railroad Museum in Galveston. Our design was to visit the new display that focuses on the life and times of the Waco, Beaumont, Trinity and Sabine Railroad.

The railroad was first chartered on June 22, 1905 as the Beaumont and Great Northern. That rail line didn’t get off the ground and was reestablished in 1923 under its new name: the Waco, Beaumont, Trinity and Sabine with the main office in Trinity.

The WBTS name became a bit of a misnomer. From Trinity, a rail line ran to Livingston. It never connected Waco or Beaumont or the Sabine. However, the railroad became an important part of the town of Trinity. It ran regularly carrying wood products between the two towns and then connected to other, more distant lines.

For the three brave Trinityites, Donna, Susan and Joyce, who made the long and exhausting journey to Galveston (the traffic, of course, was horrendous) , it was a wonderful trip down memory lane. Seeing the old train and hearing the train whistles that echo around the museum brought back their youth.

What a thrill to remember standing alongside the railroad tracks as the big locomotive pulled into Trinity, puffing and snorting and blowing steam. Even now, the three women admit they still feel a tingle, a shiver runs down their backs, a few moist tears spring to their eyes, and their hearts beat a little faster at the old memories.

The train ran for years, while the lumber lasted. When the lumber industry began to shut down sometime around mid-century, the old train was abandoned and left on a siding, weeds and vines nearly hiding it. A rusting and sad reminder of the “good old days.”

Fortunately, led by loyal people from Trinity, the old train was rescued from oblivion. When Mary Moody Northern helped provide funding for the Railroad Museum in Galveston, the museum seemed like the ideal place to save old WBTS Engine Number 1.

With giant cranes, the engine was loaded onto flatbed trucks and hauled to Galveston. That must have been a truly impressive sight as the old train trundled down the highway, piggy-back on the “modern” transportation.

Which leads me to wonder why don’t we use trains more today. We see trucks loaded with one or at most two of those giant containers that come in on the ships from China. And yet, occasionally we get to see a train carrying hundreds if not thousands of those same containers. So much more efficient. So much more sensible. Why are we not making better use of our rail lines?

But, back to the Wobbly. The old engine was cleaned up, painted and placed on display on its own huge turn-table. Underneath, in the under carriage and around the wheels, you can still see the signs of rust and disuse, but above, the old engine proudly gleams with black paint and bright white lettering.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Jason Rose, along with contributions and information from Mary Goodwin, Virginia Buckle Arnold, Susan Madeley, Donna Coffen, Murry Hammond, Jessica Parrish, and Ralph Stenzel, the Railroad Museum now houses a wonderful display on the history of the Wobbly. It’s well worth a visit.

And you wanted to know why it has the nickname? It seems that the rail lines into Trinity had not been laid quite as carefully as they should have. Almost invariably, when the train came around the bend into town just a trifle too fast, the engine would tip off the rails. This became such a common occurrence that the railroad men had giant logs ready to heave, lever and hoist the train back onto the tracks.

Hence, “Wobbly, Bobbly, Turnover and Stop.”

General
About Caroline Castillo Crimm

Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!

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