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SNOW ON THE HEADLIGHT


BY CY WARMAN

_A Story of the Great Burlington Strike_
12mo. Cloth, $1.25


THE STORY OF THE RAILROAD
(_The Story of the West Series._)
Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50


D. APPLETON & COMPANY
NEW YORK




SNOW ON THE
HEADLIGHT

A Story of the Great
Burlington Strike


BY CY WARMAN

AUTHOR OF THE STORY OF THE RAILROAD, THE
EXPRESS MESSENGER, TALES OF AN ENGINEER,
FRONTIER STORIES, ETC.


NEW YORK
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
MDCCCXCIX




Copyright, 1899, by D. Appleton & Co.




PREFACE


_Here is a Decoy Duck stuffed with Oysters.
The Duck is mere Fiction:
The Oysters are Facts._

_If you find the Duck wholesome, and the Oysters hurt you, it is
probably because you had a hand in the making of this bit of History,
and in the creation of these Facts._


THE AUTHOR




SNOW ON THE HEADLIGHT




CHAPTER FIRST


Good managers are made from messenger boys, brakemen, wipers and
telegraphers; just as brave admirals are produced in due time by
planting a cadet in a naval school. From two branches of the service
come the best equipped men in the railroad world--from the motive-power
department and from the train service. This one came from the mechanical
department, and he spent his official life trying to conceal the
fact--striving to be just to all his employees and to show no partiality
towards the department from whence he sprang--but always failing.

"These men will not strike," he contended: "The brains of the train are
in the engine."

"O, I don't think," Mr. Josler, the general superintendent, would say;
and if you followed his accent it would take you right back to the heart
of Germany: "Giff me a goot conductor, an' I git over the roat."

No need to ask where he came from.

As the grievance grew in the hands of the "grief" committee, and the
belief became fixed in the minds of the officials that the employees
were looking for trouble, the situation waxed critical. "Might as well
make a clean job of it," the men would say; and then every man who had a
grievance, a wound where there had been a grievance or a fear that he
might have something to complain of in the future, contributed to the
real original grievance until the trouble grew so that it appalled the
officials and caused them to stiffen their necks. In this way the men
and the management were being wedged farther and farther apart. Finally,
the general manager, foreseeing what war would cost the company and the
employees, made an effort to reach a settlement, but the very effort was
taken as evidence of weakness, and instead of yielding something the
men took courage, and lengthened the list of grievances. His predecessor
had said to the president of the company when the last settlement was
effected: "This is our last compromise. The next time we shall have to
fight--my back is to the wall." But, when the time came for the
struggle, he had not the heart to make the fight, and so resigned and
went west, where he died shortly afterwards, and dying, escaped the
sorrow that must have been his had he lived to see how his old,
much-loved employees were made to suffer.

Now the grievance committee came with an ultimatum to the management.
"Yes, or No?" demanded the chairman with a Napoleonic pose. But the
general superintendent was loth to answer.

"Yes, or No?"

Mr. Josler hesitated, equivocated, and asked to be allowed to confer
with his chief.

"Yes, or No?" demanded the fearless leader, lifting his hand like an
auctioneer.

"Vell, eef you put it so, I must say No," said the superintendent and
instantly the leader turned on his heel. He did not take the trouble to
say good-day, but snapped his finger and strode away.

Now the other members of the committee got up and went out, pausing to
say good morning to the superintendent who stood up to watch the
procession pass out into the wide hall. One man, who confirmed the
general manager's belief that there were brains among the engine-men,
lingered to express his regrets that the conference should have ended so
abruptly.

The news of this man's audacity spread among the higher officials, so
that when the heads of the brotherhoods came--which is a last
resort--the company were almost as haughty and remote as the head of the
grievance committee had been.

From that moment the men and the management lost faith in each other.
More, they refused even to understand each other. Whichever side made a
slight concession it was made to suffer for it, for such an act was sure
to be interpreted by the other side as a sign of weakening. In vain did
the heads of the two organizations, representing the engine-men, strive
to overcome the mischief done by the local committee, and to reach a
settlement. They showed, by comparison, that this, the smartest road in
the West, was paying a lower rate of wages to its engine-men than was
paid by a majority of the railroads of the country. They urged the
injustice of the classification of engineers, but the management claimed
that the system was just, and later received the indorsement, on this
point, of eight-tenths of the daily press. Eight out of ten of these
editors knew nothing of the real merits or demerits of the system, but
they thought they knew, and so they wrote about it, the people read
about it and gave or withheld their sympathy as the news affected them.

When the heads of the brotherhoods announced their inability to reach
an agreement they were allowed to return to their respective homes,
beyond the borders of the big state, and out of reach of the Illinois
conspiracy law. A local man "with sand to fight" was chosen
commander-in-chief, and after one more formal effort to reach a
settlement he called the men out.

On a blowy Sunday afternoon in February the chief clerk received a wire
calling him to the office of the general manager. He found his chief
pacing the floor. As the secretary entered, the general manager turned,
faced him, and then, waving a hand over the big flat-topped desk that
stood in the centre of his private office, said: "Take this all away,
John. The engineers are going to strike and I want nothing to come to my
desk that does not relate to that, until this fight is over."

Noting the troubled, surprised look upon the secretary's face the
manager called him.

"Come here John. Are you afraid? Does the magnitude of it all appal
you--do you want to quit? If you do say so now."

As he spoke the piercing, searching eyes of the general manager swept
the very soul of his secretary. The two men looked at each other.
Instantly the shadow passed from the long, sad face of the clerk, and in
its place sat an expression of calm determination. Now the manager spoke
not a word, but reaching for the hand of his faithful assistant, pressed
it firmly, and turned away.

There was no spoken pledge, no vow, no promise of loyalty, but in that
mute handclasp there was an oath of allegiance.

At four o'clock on the following morning--Monday, February the 27th,
1888,--every locomotive engineer and fireman in the service of the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company quit work. The fact that
not one man remained in the service an hour after the order went out,
shows how firmly fixed was the faith of the men in the ability of the
"Twin Brotherhoods" to beat the company, and how universal was the
belief that their cause was just. All trains in motion at the moment
when the strike was to take effect were run to their destination, or to
divisional stations, rather, and there abandoned by the crew.

The conductors, brakemen and baggagemen were not in the fight, and when
directed by the officials to take the engines and try to run them or
fire them, they found it hard to refuse to obey the order. Some of them
had no thought of refusing, but cheerfully took the engines out,
and--drowned them. That was a wild, exciting day for the officials, but
it was soon forgotten in days that made that one seem like a pleasant
dream.

The long struggle that had been going on openly between the officials
and the employees was now enacted privately, silently, deep in the souls
of men. Each individual must face the situation and decide for himself
upon which side he would enlist. Hundreds of men who had good positions
and had, personally, no grievance, felt in honor bound to stand by their
brothers, and these men were the heroes of the strike, for it is
infinitely finer to fight for others than for one's self. When a man has
toiled for a quarter of a century to gain a comfortable place it is not
without a struggle that he throws it all over, in an unselfish effort to
help a brother on. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers had grown to
be respected by the public because of almost countless deeds of
individual heroism. It was deferred to--and often encouraged by railway
officials, because it had improved the service a thousand per cent. The
man who climbed down from the cab that morning on the "Q" was as far
ahead of the man who held the seat twenty years earlier, as an English
captain is ahead of the naked savage whose bare feet beat the sands of
the Soudan. By keeping clear of entangling alliances and carefully
avoiding serious trouble, the Brotherhood had, in the past ten years,
piled up hundreds of thousands of dollars. This big roll of the root of
all evil served now to increase the confidence of the leaders, and to
encourage the men to strike.

At each annual convention mayors, governors and prominent public men
paraded the virtues of the Brotherhood until its members came to regard
themselves as just a little bit bigger, braver and better than ordinary
mortals. Public speakers and writers were for ever predicting that in a
little while the Brotherhood would be invincible.[1] And so, hearing
only good report of itself the Brotherhood grew over-confident, and
entered this great fight top-heavy because of an exaggerated idea of its
own greatness.

[1] "_I dare say that the engineers' strike will end, as all strikes
have hitherto ended, in disaster to the strikers.



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