Photo of The Month – Nov 2009
Field On Fire
Picture contributor: Jim Scancarelli
One day, on a run to the junction, a smoldering ember blew from the engine stack, igniting the broom sedge along the road. There was nothing to do but stop the train, the crew jump off and, with broom and shovel, beat out the fire. The man in the foreground, not a crewman but perhaps someone who lived nearby, appears to be trying to uproot a pine sapling to use as a fire-fighting tool.
It’s unlikely you would see a scene like this along one of the big railroads. By the time the first smoke was visible, the train would have sped miles on down the line. Our engines didn’t run quite so fast, nor go so far.
The photo was made in 1961 by Ben Roberts, then of Spartanburg, S.C., now of Martinez, Ga. Mr. Roberts has a large collection of train photos from several railroads, and visited Cliffside several times in the 1960s to photograph our railroad. Jim Scancarelli purchased a number of Roberts’ Cliffside photos, and has shared them with us. They’ll be appearing in the Gallery section as we process them.
An update from Myles Haynes:
The story about the train setting the field on fire reminded me…
We lived in a house built by my grandfather that was later to be the superintendents house in Avondale. The Cliffside-Seaboard junction was through the woods about two blocks in front of the house. The train would go around the house and the woods on its way to Avondale. The engine would occasionally set those woods on fire with the cinders from the smoke stack, and the train men would run to the house and ask us to call the machine shop at the Avondale mill for help. They would blow the mill whistle and in a few minutes a few carloads of men would show up and help put out the fire, a few of which got pretty big. They finally got a screen for the smoke stack that would block the cinders and then the fires stopped.