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Kansas Family History

The SWITZER Family of Chanute, Kansas

The following article dated April 26, 1994 is from a recollection of Rudolph Switzer rud123@freenet.scri.fsu.edu.

My GGrandfather, John Conrad Switzer, died in Larned, Kansas on March 3, 1887. He had two sons living in Chanute at the time.

My Grandfather, Charles Allen Switzer worked for the Santa Fe for 47 years and nine months. His entire career was spent as a locomotive fireman and engineer for the Santa Fe in Chanute. Until the last year before he retired he could not have any run he chose because his brother John had one years seniority on him. However, this was never a problem because John preferred the passenger service and Grandpa Charlie always liked the freight service. When he started working the only means of communication on the railroad was the telegraph and when a train left the station it was out of pocket until it arrived at the next station. The freight locomotives all carried a large gin pole on the side of the locomotive and this was used to attempt to get a derailed car back on the track. Each freight car had an indentation on each corner of the frame for the gin pole to fit into. In order to avoid stopping the train as it passed the station the telegrapher would pass orders to the engineer and conductor by means of paper orders fastened to a hoop which they caught on their arm as the train passed the station. This would advise them as to where they would take a siding to meet a train going in the opposite direction or other instructions. A train crew consisted of a conductor, two brakemen an engineer and a fireman. The conductor was responsible for setting off and picking up freight cars at the proper place. The engineer was responsible for the engine.

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