Riding on Top of Trains – 1918 – Day 127

Day 127
Listening to:  Greatest American Hero
Thought for the day: “I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early.”  ~Yogi Berra

This is a special (and long) historical post for my Old Hickory peeps, especially Jerry Barnes who has been a good friend to me.  I’m taking this information directly from the 1971  thesis of David E. Brand.  I can’t write it better than him!

Trains – 1918

Photo:  One of the many trains in Old Hickory, Tennessee during the 1918 effort to construct a munitions plant during WWI.

In many ways, the Old Hickory community extended far beyond the reservation boundaries.  Fewer than half of the employees were residents of the village; especially in the early days of the project, the majority of the workers lived in Nashville. For them, commuting to the plant site was a lengthy and often uncomfortable chore.

Workers could board a special train in downtown Nashville at Union Station and travel from there the seventeen miles to the plant.   Workers who had to travel great distances to get to Union Station often spent as much as four hours daily getting to work and home again (on top of a 10 hour shift).  As early as April, 1918, nearly 10,000 workers traveled to work via railroad

By June and July, when the construction was at its peak, trains hauling building materials and equipment clogged the railroad lines and spur tracks running to the plant.  By that time there were nine passenger trains with a total of nearly 160 cars running daily to the plant.

On at least two occasions there were riots or near riots at Old Hickory.  Both of the incidents were related to commuter trains returning workers to Nashville in the evening.  Because of the long work day and the length of time it took to get back to Nashville, there was always competition to get out of work rapidly and onto the first train heading for Nashville.  In the summer the trains were very hot ad some men began riding on top of the cars.  DuPont officials decide this was unsafe and ordered the guards to forbid any train to depart while men were riding.  One evening approximately a hundred men refused to move inside the cars.  They threw stones at the guards and attempted to take over the engine and operate the train themselves.  The guards arrested twenty-three men for their participation in the fracas.

Kris’s comment?  AND YOU THOUGHT YOUR COMMUTE WAS BAD………….. says the woman who only drives a mile to work every day!   AND CAN YOU IMAGINE the train whistles?

David E. Brand
Thesis  – Vanderbilt University – May, 1971 – READ THIS IF YOU CAN!  It is excellent.  I really want to find this guy.

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