Taylor Spink and Ann Rutledge (Alton Railroad), Published 22 September 1944Certainly the most interesting man I saw in old St. Louis, and by far the most remarkable, was Taylor Spink, who gets out the Sporting News. Not without reason is he called Mr. Baseball, since he publishes the only sizable baseball newspaper in the world. Every baseball writer has to have it. Since he and I met on the Cunard Pier at Montreal half a dozen years ago, we have maintained a sporadic but to me a satisfactory correspondence. I felt therefore, that no trip to St. Loo would be complete without a visit to Taylor Spink.
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There he sat in the big bay window of his office, four floors high. It was a typical newspaper city room that he looked out to, only it was a much warmer one than most people in Canada experience. Spink is himself a dynamo. He was two dynamos that day, since it was press day, and he was rushing out to the world the latest inside baseball information. I think what surprised him was that I should make as one of my primary objectives, in coming to St. Louis, the riding of a train. He confessed that he had never heard of the Gulf Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and I think he was a little bewildered that anybody would want to spend the better part of a day riding a pair of obscure rails.
We had little time for fanning) since he was working on a split second schedule, but when I came back, I managed to interrupt him during his dictaphone exercises, and we had a brief session. Taylor Spink answers all his correspondence personally, and people from all over the world write to him. If Spnk says it, then that's the last word. The Privy Council of baseball has spoken.
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He was whipping together a broadcast as well as dictating a dozen letters, so we had barely got round to a cultured discussion of the league-leading Browns, and why they aren't turning the turnstiles, when I decided to let the man get caught up with his work, and left.
I make one more note; he is tremendously proud of his son, now going through the tropical hell of the South Pacific.
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I wish I had time to tell of the glories of the St. Louis Station, where 30 tracks face the travellers. They extended, it would seem, all the way from Bank street to the Citizen Building and it is a wonderful thing to look over the Frisco's Meteor, the Katy's Texas Special, the blue of the Baltimore and Ohio's National Limited, the maroon of a snooty Pennsylvania train. Then you see futuristic dreams on rails like the Mountain Eagle of the Missouri Pacific, staid items like the Cotton Belt's Evening Star, the dingy Nickel Plate express to Buffalo. You can gape at The Green Diamond of the I.C. or the Eastern Illinois crack train The Zipper, or step inside to see the decoration scheme of the Mark Twain Zephyr.
But my particular goal was the Ann Rutledge. This is the counterpart to the Alton Railroad's Abraham Lincoln, and a snappy number it is. Ann Rutledge was Abe Lincoln's boyhood sweetheart.) Powered by twin Diesels, you only have to go round the bend as you roll out of the station, and count the 16 cars, to see you are really travelling on a de luxe unit.
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The back car is rounded glass, bay window style, with fancy curtains, fancier couches. You sink deep in seats while you watch the Mississippi sweep beneath you. as you rip through the East St. Louis yards. Then whether you are taking your cushioned ease in the svelte club car. or are cuddled into your swivel chair, in car 181, the landscape takes on a thrilling appearance as the speedometer flirts with the mile-and-a-hallf a minute mark.
We snaked in silently under the very base of the capitol at Springfield, a good movie shot if I had brought my camera. Here was Lincoln's home town, although actually he had made his headquarters in a structure that is now a court house. We visited it in these columns in 1940, so there's no need to repeat ourselves.
Funnily enough, I was riding the same railroad Lincoln used to ride, when he went up to Chicago. But funnier still. If you ar e to believe Carl Sandburg. Lincoln's biographer, I was riding a part of the track Lincoln couldn't ride. Because Lincoln was the Alton road's solicitor, he had a pass and had to take the slow train by a more devious route. I was paying the cash and riding the main line plush.
So the train rushed on, southern Illinois gave place to northern Illinois, neon-lighted, commercialized Joliet swung into view, dropped behind. Finally, the endless streets of Chicago began, and the Ann Rutledge deposited us in Chicago, a minute or so early. It seemed a long way from the sixteenth car to the head end when finally I came abreast of the big power, instead of panting like a locomotive would, the diesels purred, or perhaps whirred, complacently. They've got the speed, but not the personality that steam has.
Next, Twentieth Century Limited, tha class of them all.