A SPECIAL DAY FOR A SPECIAL AGENT by John Hubert

Sometime ago- maybe in the late 30’s or early 40’s, a incident happened that should be recorded for all time. At that time, the Special Agent as the railroads policemen were called, checked the trains for hobos, broken seals on the car doors or anything that might not be acceptable to the railroad company policy. This included drinking by the employees, loafing on the job, trespassing by non-employees or just about anything the agent wanted to make his business. The special agent usually carried a gun just as any policeman did.

 

Now, the agent I am referring to carried an “almost new” large caliber pistol. He was a good size man, somewhat overweight and a personality that fits a character that everyone dislikes. He taught a few sessions on safety, mostly about handguns so he was well versed on that subject.

 

About fifty yards east of where the present BNSF depot is now, was a building called the yard office and switchman’s shanty. The west-end housed the yard office where the yard clerk kept track of the cars in this station and the yard master also had his office here. The yard-clerk was the crew caller too and maintained the order of train crews in and out on the road.

 

Next to the yard office, but in the same building was the switchmen’s lunch and locker room. It was about 10 feet wide and 24 feet long. Lockers were on one side of the room and a shelf and benches along the other side. The switch crews ate their lunch and did their book work on the table high shelf. Nothing fancy about the place, the door was open in nice weather and the cinders and coal dust could blow in with the wind. The place was kept as clean as could be expected by those that ate and worked there. Near the back of this room was an area partitioned off for a restroom. It consisted of a wall-hung lavatory and a toilet in an enclosed area.

 

The special agent had been conducting gun safety classes in the community and had bragged on the job about his new, big gun. He had shown quite a few employees the big gun, perhaps to instill some fear of him, in them. He did not make any friends with his arrogant attitude.

 

One day, about noon, after the agent had made his rounds of checking the yards and snooping on as many employees as he could, he found it necessary to use the restroom facilities in the switchmen’s room. The switchmen weren’t too happy with this, but it was company property and he could go wherever he wanted to.

 

Being a large man and wearing a heavy coat on the cold day that it was, the big fellow crowded into the toilet stall. He hung up his coat on the door hook, took off his shoulder holster with the gun in it and hung it on the door also. He had just settled down on the throne and we assume with a look of contentment on his face when the big new pistol, that didn’t quite fit his old holster, slipped out and fell to the floor. And would you believe it, the safety expert’s gun discharged with a loud bang when it hit the floor. It was this mans unlucky lucky day. The bullet went right between his legs and hit the porcelain bowl of the toilet, causing it to break into hundreds of pieces and water to gush out under the restroom partition. The sound was deafening, the surprise was without description and the embarrassment, overwhelming.

 

As he emerged from the stall, not quite fully attired, somewhat wet and stunned, the laughter that met him was almost unbearable. He did recover from the incident but was never allowed to forget it. He was transferred to another railroad town, but the tale followed him. It could have been a very serious accident, but it did keep the man from bragging about his big gun and his safe ways for the remainder of his career.