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Birth of an NC&StL nickname

From stuffed shirt to mussed shirt
Bruceton was a busy junction in west Tennessee on the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. One engineer who worked out of there was known for his pompous, stuffed-shirt manner and lordly bearing which often grated upon others.

Drawing a hotshot run out of Bruceton, this engineer put his 2-8-2 to serious work and was highballing in earnest near Murray, Ky., with his engine’s ears pinned back. Weaving in and out of curves, neither the engineer nor the fireman could see many of the grade crossings until they were almost on top of them. Whistle screaming, the freight was popping it at about 50 mph when it met a blind curve, occupied by a stalled semi-trailer rig! The driver had bailed out, leaving the cargo—a load of yearling steers—to their fate. Unable to stop, the 2-8-2 sliced through the flimsy truck, ripping it apart and scattering it all along the right of way.

Not only did pieces of steel sail through the air in every direction, debris in the form of straw, pieces of livestock, and manure splattered all over the locomotive. Wind whipping back along the boiler carried the detritus to the cab where the engineer, leaning out in the classic pose, was liberally covered by bits of “cow” and “fertilizer.”

Once the train got stopped, the rear-end crew hit the ground and ran forward to see what had happened. Reaching the engine, they saw the engineer staggering down the track, desperately wiping cow guts and other material from his face and goggles, cursing loudly. Instantly, the conductor and brakeman doubled over in laughter, making the engineer’s remarks all the hotter.

Word of the accident reached Bruceton. The scene was described in vivid detail to eager listeners, complete with hand gestures and facial expressions. Riotous laughter ensued, and the story was soon carried all over the NC&StL. Ever afterward, whenever the engineer was seen by other employees, he often got displays of men wiping their eyes and faces and having a rich laugh at his expense.

The incident even earned him a nickname, along the lines of “Old Fertilizer Face,” though the actual monicker was a bit shorter—and coarser!

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Three stories written and photographed by Jim Shaughnessy.


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