After almost 65 years of faithful service during which a sparsely settled village grew into a city-sized community, the
"goat train" made its final passenger trip from "Cheneyville" to the "North Manchester" station late yesterday afternoon.
Decreased business has forced economies which make it necessary to withdraw the "Goat" from active service. No more will
blasts from the little train's whistle serve as a monitor by which hundreds of Manchester people checked their morning and
evening activities. Hereafter, only freight will be hauled over the line, which is the shortest independently-organized
railroad in the world, having a main line less than two miles long.
Scores of mill workers stood around to watch the train - engine and one coach - pull away from the silk mill's station on its final journey. In addition to the greatly reduced number of regular commuters, several elderly men who either worked on the train or were passengers in ye olden days, were aboard for the historic event. Heading the list was A. W. Hyde, conductor on the line for almost 55 years. Mr. Hyde was retired by Cheney Brothers on a pension about 5 years ago and will soon observe his 81st birthday.
Through the courtesy of Robert Kerr, Jr., present conductor - who loses his job with the train's discontinuation - Mr.
Hyde was allowed to punch the tickets for half of the passengers. The privilege greatly pleased the former conductor.
Another notable passenger on board was Miss Mary Cheney, a stockholder in the South Manchester Railroad. Miss Cheney made
the first trip over the road back in June of 1869, returning south on a hand-car. Frank Cheney, Jr., her brother also a
stockholder, rode with Miss Cheney.
Walter Saunders, who was a mechanic in the old machine shop and worked on every engine owned by the company before retiring from active service, was also present. He was privileged to ride in the cab of the locomotive with Engineer Joseph J. Kennedy, Fireman George M. McCreedy and Seth Leslie Cheney. In the coach were also Mrs. Louise M. Rowland, widow of James E. Rowland who was traffic manager of the road for many years; Thomas Benson of Elm Terrace, who came to Manchester on the "Goat" in 1884, and Edwin Ferris who arrived here in the same manner sixty years ago. In addition there were a dozen or more children who begged "dimes" from their parents to ride on the train's farewell trip. In all about 75 passengers were aboard, almost fifty more than normal. Traffic Manager Hubert Hemingway was among them.
The crowd gathered to watch the train depart soon after the clock atop the old Spinning Mill tolled 5, signaling the end of another day's work. A Herald photographer took pictures of the train and its crew and of Miss Cheney, Mr. Hyde and Mr. Saunders standing at the rear of the train. Throughout the ten minute ride to the north end, the passengers kept up a hub-bub of chatter. Many greeted Ex-Conductor Hyde with handshakes. Some of the passengers asked the Herald reporter to mention that Conductor Kerr would be missed almost as much as the train. During his five years as conductor succeeding Mr. Hyde, Conductor Kerr has become very popular with the passengers.
The railroad depot at the north end was the scene of another gathering to greet the "Goat." Former commuters who rode
the train in years gone by came up to shake hands with Mr. Hyde as he stepped off. A Hartford newspaper photographer took a
flashlight picture of the engine, its crew and some other officials.
On the trip back to the roundhouse, where the "Goat" completed its work of two-thirds of a century, as well as on the journey north, people peered out of windows and waved to the crew and passengers. As the train neared the completion of its final trip, Engineer Joseph Kennedy blew several blasts as he passed the home of his brother, William Kennedy, a former engineer of the train who is now ill. Engineer Kennedy and a brakeman will remain on duty to take care of freight shipments. The three employees who finished their work yesterday are Conductor Kerr, Fireman McCreedy and Trackman Thomas P. Graham.
The New York New Haven & Hartord Railroad Company is expected to take over the road but as yet the sale has not been transacted.
The South Manchester Railroad was constructed by the Jarvis Construction Company of Providence, R. I., and was first
operated in 1869 by the Hartford, Providence and Fishkill Company until the New York and New England Company took it over
a few years later. Cheney Brothers began operating the road in 1879. The main line measures exactly 1.94 miles from station
to station and there is additional side trackage. The total is 3.21 miles. The railroad was heavily patronized prior to the
advent of the trolley about forty years ago. In those days it was the only means of public transportation linking the two
ends of the town.
The first conductor on the road was George Schofield. Others have been Walter Marsh, Daniel Ewell, WIlliam Yeomans, A. L. Greer, A. W. Hyde and Robert Kerr, Jr. The engineers have been Albert Clarke, Charles Gates, Henry Skillings, William Johnson, George Reed, Fred Boughton, William Kennedy and Joseph Kennedy. Richard O. Cheney, James E. Rowland and Charles H. Cheney were traffic superintendents. The former freight manager was C. S. Cheney.
Starting next Monday the silk mill workers will be transported to "Cheneyville" by bus on the extended Connecticut Company line.
Ex-conductor Hyde was in a reminiscent mood as he journeyed home for supper after making the final trip and he recalled many incidents, humorous and otherwise, which occurred during his 55 years service on the road. "Late as usual," was his wife's comment as he walked into his Bow Street home for the evening meal. Broad smiles lit up the faces of both as they greeted each other.
Mr. Hyde has been on Cheney Borthers' pension list for about five years but previously served more than half a century
on the South Manchester railroad. He began as a brakeman and conductor of freight in 1871 and later became passenger
conductor. His debut was back in the days when Manchester was sparsely settled. The town had only one store at the south
end, and no trolley or bus service.
People traveling between the north and south ends of the town who did not have a horse and buggy at their command, traveled on the "Goat", which was the name attached to the train because of the dinky little engine which proudly puffed its way back and forth between the two ends of town. Like the "Toonerville trolley that meets all trains," the "Goat" served the people of South Manchester on all occasions with never a thought for anything but service.
It was not uncommon for the train to make a dozen passenger trips daily, not to mention from three to five additional journeys for freight. Trains on the main trunk line from Hartford to Boston were far more numerous in those days and the "Goat" was always on hand to make connections.
"Trainmen today don't know what it means to work," Mr. Hyde asserted as he recalled the long hours he and his companions
worked. In those days automatic air brakes had not been perfected and all braking, as well as coupling, had to be done by
hand. The engines used wood for fuel and it took about three solid cords a day to keep up the necessary steam pressure.
Coal was not used until about 1876.
The biggest number of passengers ever carried on the road in any one day was about 3,500. This was before the trolleys came into existence and was on a day when "boys in blue" were marching here and the "boys in white" were in New Britain in a political demonstration during the Cleveland-Harrison campaign. On other special occasions the daily total of passengers reached 3,000. When the trolley lines were opened, the train passenger service decreased substantially. In later years the average number of daily commuters was close to 200.
"Did you ever have any accidents or unusual happenings," the reporter inquired. Mr. Hyde stopped a minute to think and
then told of several. Once when the train stopped at the north end, a man got off near the Hilliard street bridge and
walked off the trestle, falling to the road beneath. Conductor Hyde hastened to his assistance only to have the man get up
uninjured and exclaim, "Where am I, anyway?" On another occasion a man flagged the train at Middle Turnpike and asked that
R. O. Cheney be notified that his bull had broken away from pasture and was on another man's property.
Only two fatal accidents occurred while Mr. Hyde was in charge of the train. Both men were under the influence of liquor. The first was struck near the Middle Turnpike crossing but the engineer did not realize he had struck anyone until the return trip. The man died shortly afterward. A pint bottle of liquor resting against the track was not even broken. The other man was killed on the embankment near the Center Springs pond.
Another man who was hit by the train was taken to his home in a sleigh and when R. O. Cheney called at his home later in
the day the man apologized for getting in the way of the train. He recovered, and, incidentally, never drank another drop
of intoxicating liquor. The blizzard of 1888 tied up the traffic for four or five days. On another occasion a wheel came
off the train ditching one of the coaches in which members of an orchestra were riding. In the tangle one of the members
became caught in the bass fiddle. The "Goat" also ran on Sundays taking people to the Catholic church at the north end and
the schedule was irregular, depending on the time the priest set for masses.
Mrs. Hyde interrupted to ask if the reporter wouldn't like to hear about some of the trials of a trainman's wife. Assured of the welcome of such facts, she proceeded to "tell on" her hubby. It seems that throughout his work on the railroad, Mr. Hyde was seldom on time for his meals, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners being no exceptions. "My husband was often up at 5:30 and finishing his work as late as midnight before the trolleys came into use," she said.
"Only three times in the 55 years was William late for work and each time, he ignored his breakfast and started for work shoes in hand," she continued. Mr. Hyde's face brightened but he did not dispute the statements. "But now we don't have to worry about all that anymore and William is always on time for his meals," she sighed in relief, adding, "But we're going to miss that train just the same. It was part of our lives."
Webmaster's Note: The following letter was submitted to the Manchester Evening Hearald's "Open Forum" in response to the above article, and relates memories associated with the "goat train."
To the Editor of The Herald:
To you Mr. Editor, this may be Thursday, January 26th, but, to me and a lot of the "kids" of yesterday, who were kids when we called the principal of the school "Zip"* and when Sweet Caporal was the only kind of a cigarette that could be had for two for a cent, and when the Police Gazette was a big thing, well to them kids this last trip of the Cheney's train is the passing of one of our greatest friends.
What that old friend didn't do for us kids! Why, it brought Uncle Tom, Little Eva and Topsy, the dogs we used to lead in the parade, the minstrel car that had the troupe that gave a street parade and played music when they marched; and it brought the box of soap and our premium - maybe a washing machine for our mothers.
In '98 when the soldiers had to go to war, it carried them away, and when the war was over it brought them home again; and when the excursions that went to Boston and New York stopped Over North, it went over there and brought the people home. When the Military Ball was the big event it brought all the generals, colonels and majors to town. Do some of us kids remember the bales of waste paper, where we could find rings, pictures of fighters, when we used to poke through them on Sunday - why we could not forget!
It brought bicycles for Madden Bros., who sold them for fifty dollars, more, maybe less, to the fellows who kept them in racks at the mills, where us kids ride to the armory on Wells street and get a job holding a dog in a parade that went down through the mills, and by the train that carried them to town and would take them away in the morning.
So January 26 means good-bye to an old and good friend. I thank you.
ONE OF THEM "KIDS"
*Webmaster's Note: "Zip" (referenced in the letter above) was the nickname of Fred Ayer Verplanck, the formidable principal and, later, superintendent of schools in Manchester. You can read about Mr. Verplanck on this web site by clicking Fred Ayer Verplanck.