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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The Carnation Cattle train

Date: 04/02/17 18:08
The Carnation Cattle train
Author: CarolVoss

Well If you thought the roomba dog poop story was funny, check this out----profanity warning'
Here you go, Martin's (Burwash) story of the Carnation cattle train.

With the feed order figured out, a few changes to the ration 
calculated, I leaned against the pick-up and watched Darryl Ricci 
light one of his trade mark Tiparillos. Darryl has spent the last 50 
years breeding one of the finest herds of Holstein cattle in the 
nation. The Ricciville prefix is well known amongst cattle breeders 
all over the world.
"You know Martin, you shoulda been with me and George Magnochi 
back in the fall of 1956. You would have gone nuts with that camera 
of yours. We were hired by Carnation Farms to take the state show 
herd down to the Pacific International in Portland and the Western 
National(both cattle cows) at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Took 
the whole damned trip by train in a stock car."
Just the route taken by the cars was a flash back to bygone days. 
In 1956, the Milwaukee Road was still operating its line north down 
the Snoqualmie Valley. Branching off at Cedar Falls, the tracks went 
through the rural towns of Carnation, Duvall and then out to Monroe 
where they essentially followed the Great Northern line across the 
Snohomish Valley into Everett. 
Carnation Farms, being a part of the Carnation Milk Company and 
Albers Feed Mills had the advantage of being well capitalized and also 
had some pull with the railroads. About a week before departure, the 
Milwaukee would spot two Northern Pacific stock cars on a spur track 
at the Carnation, WA depot. Carnation Farms had the cars tied up for 
over a month and was also allowed to admend the interior for show 
cattle. In each car a loft was constructed where hay, grain and bales 
of straw for bedding were stored. Placed on one end of the loft was a 
large metal water tank with a hinged hatch put in the roof of the car. 
As Darryl remembered, "We'd pull up to one of those water plugs they 
used on the steam engines to fill our stock tank." The water was then 
gravity fed through a garden hose and used to water the cattle. Room 
was also made in the loft for Darryl, George, and Carnation herdsman 
Al Mettler to lay out their bedrolls.
"We left Carnation in the evening. We milked then up at the farm 
then brought them down and loaded them up. We had 14 milking cows in 
our car, and old Clarence Okerlund was in the second car with about 20 
heifers. He traveled alone 'cause with the young stock you really 
didn't have to do much. Me, George and Al had to milk the 14 we had. 
Some of those Carnation cows were going for records so they were being 
milked four times a day. Christ-a-mighty Martin, I know you've milked 
your fare share of cows, but try doing it by hand in a rocking cattle 
car doing about 40. About all I could get was half a bucket before it 
would start slopping all over hell. One nice thing, with Carnation's 
pull, out car was always the first one behind the engine so we didn't 
have to put up with that slam banging when they started and stopped."
"That goddamned Milwaukee, it took us all night to get from 
Carnation to Renton. We sat up at Cedar Falls half the night waitng 
for another train to take us on down to the NP line at Renton."
(I'm guessing here that by Renton, Darryl is referring to Black River 
Junction.) "Once we got on the NP it was a pretty quick trip to 
Portland, although we stopped a few times and picked up some more cars 
of show cattle. We were in Portland by early evening."
The Pacific International Livestock Exposition was a giant cattle 
show drawing the best breeding stock of all breeds, beef and dairy, 
from all over the west. It was not uncommon to have 1000 cattle 
competing for the best in their class. All had arrived at different 
times prior, from different points of origin, but when the "PI" was 
over, all were headed south to the same destination, the Cow Palace in 
San Francisco for the Western National.
"You would have loved it Martin. To move all those cattle south, 
the Southern Pacific put together an 88 car stock train. Why if that 
goddamned train had got in a wreck, it would have set cattle breeding 
back 100 years!"
Here again, the influence of the Carnation name allowed Darryl's 
car, loaded with Washington State's finest black and whites to be 
coupled to the engine.
"Once we got our cattle in and settled, that son-of-a-bitch Al 
grabbed a whiskey bottle, headed up to the loft and told George and I 
not to fuck with him until the train stopped in San Farncisco.
"It took forever to get the train loaded and out of Portland, 
most of the day as I remember. Just before we left, some guy from the 
railraod, thought he was a real bad ass, gave us hell about not 
pitching any of the cow shit out the door unless the train was going 
by some field or in the mountains. Hell, we knew that, all the while 
we were coming south through Washington we were real careful where we 
threw the shit and the milk. But that asshole kinda pissed me off.
"As soon as we got going good out of Portland, me and George 
started having contests as to who could hit what going by with a fork 
full. We started with some of the railroad buildings, then tried our 
luck at the power poles. If you looked back on the rest of the train, 
you could see the rest of the kids tending cattle had caught on and 
were doing the same damned thing.
"Christ-a-mighty Martin, I remember this poor bastard had a brand 
new Buick stopped at a railroad crossing. I had a big pie on my fork 
with just enough straw to hold it together. When we passed that car I 
let her fly. It hit square on the hood and slid up over the the 
windshield and onto the roof. I think goddamned near every kid on the 
train nailed that car. Hell, by the time the caboose went by, that 
guy's Buick musta looked like the shit pile behind the old man's barn.
"I remember that night going through some little railroad town. 
We'd been whitewashing most of the stations along the way with the 
milk from the cows. I could see some guy in a big overcoat trying to 
flag down the train. I figured he was gonna chew our asses out, but 
the train just kept going. God we nailed him good. I saw him running 
for his life with his coat up over his head.
"They finally stopped us in some little mountain town in 
California. (Dunsmuir is my guess) This little bad ass comes outta the 
station, so I quick go up in the loft and wake up Al. This little 
railroad guy jumps up in our car and starts reeming Al's ass out about 
us throwing shit. Christ I thought Al was gonna kill him. He told 
that little fucker that this was the Carnation show herd, that me and 
Gearge were employed by Carnation Farms and unless he wants his 
railroad to quit hauling Carnation and Albers products he'd better go 
looking for trouble someplace else. I can remember Al telling him, 
'No goddamned shit has left this car without my say so.' Jesus 
Martin, we hadn't seen Al since Portland and hell, we started the 
whole thing. The railroad guy took off and Al gave us a dirty look 
and headed back to the loft and his whiskey. That railroad guy went 
towards the back of the train and tried reeming out a bunch of cowboys 
from Montana. No telling what those crazy fucks did to him. He still 
might be tied up in some old stock car someplace. Soon as the train 
started again, we left our calling card on the station.
"I remember coming into San Francisco along one of the bays. It 
was raining and this old guy had a bright yellow slicker on and was 
sitting on a rock just below the tracks fishing. He had is back to us 
and looked up just in time to catch his breakfast right in the face. 
Goddamn, the impact of that shit hitting his face knocked right in the 
water. Poor bastard about drowned. Everytime he'd come up for air, 
another car would pass and he'd get another face full of shit."
"The funniest part was when we finally stopped. I was hanging 
out the door when the brakeman came off the engine to uncouple. He 
told me he was never so glad to be done with run in his life and hoped 
he didn't have to pull our sorry asses back north. He told me all the 
way down all he heard on the radio was 'Run for cover boys, here comes 
the shit train!'"
I've said it many times on this list and I will continue to say 
it. As a group we are failing miserablely at recording these great 
stories of vanishing eras in railroading. We are not writing the 
stories, publishers refuse to give these great tales a place in 
history, and that my friends is a shitty deal.
Martin(who's rambled thru his fair share of cow shit)Burwash
PS...the numbers represented in this story are staggering. 1000 
cattle, even with varied ages will each produce about 40 pounds of 
solid manure in 24 hours, conservatively. Simple math tells you about 
20 tons of cow shit was launched from that train between Portland and 
San Francisco. Add to that, 250 of those animals produced about 6 
gallons of milk each in that 24 hour period and you will come to the 
conclusion that the Southern Pacific stations were painted with about 
1500 gallons of milk.

This post was inspired by a Facebook post about someone who had a robot Roomba vacuum cleaner which went over a pile  of dog poop and spread it absolutely everywhere thru the house-- it reminded me of this classic tale

Carol Voss
Salinas, CA

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/02/17 21:15 by CarolVoss.

Date: 04/02/17 19:28
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: Narniaman

Hilarious story. . .thanks for sharing! 

Please keep them coming!!

Date: 04/02/17 21:08
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: wa4umr

That was FUNNY.  I have a few friends that would have participated if they had the opportunity.  Me, on the other hand, being a little angel would never be a part of something like that.


Date: 04/02/17 22:00
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: jofegan

That story alone was worth the price of my annual subscription.......


Date: 04/02/17 22:32
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: mapboy

Yep, been awhile since I've laughed that much about a TO post!  Thank you, Carol.


Date: 04/03/17 00:16
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: Chico43

Anyone who would be offended by the language in that story would certainly not make it working for a railroad.

Date: 04/03/17 05:47
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: dpudave

Hilarious and horrible at the same time. A fine combination. Ms Voss, your contributions to T O are often memorable, this one, I feel certain, will become legendary. A great Monday morning read, thanks. d.

Date: 04/04/17 23:05
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: oldbleu


Date: 12/26/17 15:33
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: IC1038west

Thread of the year. Growing up on a grain and livestock farm, no pictures necessary. Always amazing how cowpies potentials can be achieved with the right (consistancies)!

Date: 03/24/18 14:22
Re: The Carnation Cattle train
Author: ATSF90East

Imagine all the commotion and fallout if this had happened in 2018.....

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