Deep In The Heart Of Texas, Published 11 June 1945What happened to me on my way acrossTexas shouldn't happen to the Bloc Pop-laire. My theme song for this part of the trip should be "Deep in the Heart of Texas," or They Fenced Me In.
To begin with, I had to argue with C.P.R.'s Mr. Dewan to get a Texas and Pacific ticket, he arguing, with Leo Sauve, that most people took the Southern Pacific out of New Orleans. I let that pass, and held out for T & P, which they gave me. All I've got to say is that I asked for trouble, and I got it.
It so happened that the Red River had been on a rampage, but it didn't know that the T & P was washed out till I got on the train. Then it was too late to do anything else. Anyway, I reasoned, we'd make up the lost time. Dumb Thought No. 1.
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I got in my train, and from my sleeper window watched the Louisiana Limited crawl through the sky over the Huey Long bridge. For almost 20 minutes, you see no solid land beneath you. Eerie it is too, to look down through the tops of trees, and see the moon gleaming on the flood water beneath them where earth should be. It was a foretaste of what was to come.
Unfortunately, I fell asleep, and did not know what they did with our train. I slumbered like a night watchman, and noxt thing I knew, it was daylight. Only, instead of being in Shreveport, Louisiana, we were six or seven hours late.
We detoured all night, and passengers said they could hear the water gurgle as we swished through floodlands, up to the top of our wheels.
From the porter, I pieced together what had happened to us. Here it is: we rode the Texas and Pacific to Livonia. Then we travelled Gulf Coast Lines to Opelousas. Next came a turn on the Southern Pacific to Chenneville. After that, we got back on the T & P to Alexandria. But they were still under water north and west, so we detoured anew to the Louisiana and Arkansas. I laughed then, to myself, as I realized how I had taken my little ride the night before on the L & A, just to get on the line, and here I was, for six hours, unwillingly a passenger on their tracks.
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Ours was an old logging line, and we didn't exactly break any speed records to Shreveport. Then followed what I think was a crime. Our train reached the outskirts of Shreveport at 12 noon. Yet it was one o'clock before we pulled into the depot. If that isn't lousy despatching, then what is? We crawled finally to Shreveport station, then stalled around there for an hour. Thus, it took us two hours to get in and out of Shreveport. Give a guess what I think of the T & P.
It was here at Shreveport, however, that I really got the bad news. As it turns out, our train was not a solid train, but only a Pullman connection west of Forth Worth. That is to say, I had counted on my train going right through to El Paso, and perhaps making up time during the night. Instead, they told me that ours was not a solid train, than our connection at Fort Worth would not wait, and that I might even be thrown out of my sleeper. How right you were, Messrs. Dewan and Sauve!
So then, I was really behind the sable spheroid. All my connections, and Pullman space, elaborately lined up a month ahead, was gone. Since hen's teeth are rather more plentiful than berths these days, you can imagine the depressing thoughts I had as I realized my whole trip was thrown out of gear, that I would be delayed. I groaned inwardly too, as I thought of the string of wires I should have to send, cancelling space on one hand, humbly supplicating new space on the other. And all because I wouldn't take the Southern Pacific. The S & P, as it turned out. had no flood trouble. Infinitely more important, it goes through as a solid train, so if it were seven hours late, so what? I would be on it, and not trying to connect with it.
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They gave us T & P 720 at Marshall, an engine comparable to our older 2300's. but not able to handle 19 cars. I remember once, she tried four times in one Texas town before she got the varnish moving again.
I suppose I should mention that I had only one meal. I ate breakfast, couldn't get in the diner for lunch, and the steward refused to serve me an evening meal.
I tried to find out whether I was to be ousted from my berth at Forth Worth. I knew of course, that I would have a layover there, and go out as part of the night train. No. 7, which would make me half a day late at El Paso. But only when I got to Fort Worth was I dumped on the platform, with a fellow passenger, a colonel, and told my Pullman was being "cut out" there, . . .
To get down my saga of sorrow a trifle, I can say that by hanging around till near 1 a.m. in the Pullman smoker, I finally managed to get an upper, when I had a ticket for a lower in my pocket. To make matters worse, the porter ousted me from the wash room seat, saying he had to get some sleep.
Fortunately, Dr. Antweil, my friend in Fort Worth, whisked me out to his home, where Mrs. Antweil really saved me from a premature death through malnutrition, by a real meal. Then she packed me a lunch, and next day I sneered at the dining steward when lunch was called.
To cap the climax, we had a wreck ahead of us at Dallas, but just inched by. I tried to get a plane at Dallas, and again at Fort Worth, to fly to El Paso and catch my connection. But no priority, no plane seats, and so I glumly crawled back on another Texas and Pacific train, ready for a further twenty odd hours on their rails.
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The railways could answer Austin's complaints with the question posted during the war in every British railway station, "Is your journey really necessary?" " Editor.