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Thread: Chapter 7 Cotton Belt Engineer

  1. Default Chapter 7 Cotton Belt Engineer


    C. W. “Red” Standefer railroaded from 1917-1967 and saw everything from the sharp end of saturated steam locomotives to second generation diesels. He saw his first train in 1907 while the Stephenville, North & South Texas Railway was being built into his hometown of Hamilton. Standefer decided then and there to become a railroad engineer at the age of eight years. It took him ten years to land the job of engine watchman for the Cotton Belt in Hamilton. He was promoted to fireman in early 1918 and began working for the Cotton Belt out of Tyler and Waco. He moved to the Cotton Belt rail center of Commerce, Texas in 1920 and started his family there. He lived in Commerce for the rest of his life. Red Standefer was promoted to engineer in early 1939. He loved his job and the steam locomotive. This is the story of Red Standefer’s last acquaintance with active steam locomotives and how the Cotton Belt’s last steam locomotives were used.

    The Cotton Belt’s final commitment to complete dieselization and outright fleet replacement of steam locomotives started in 1950. The SSW had wanted to make a major investment in dieselization during World War II, but the War Production Board deferred the Cotton Belt’s first application for new build diesel-electric locomotives for two years. The diesel production slots were reserved for larger railroads that the WPB determined needed diesels first. This resulted in the final order for five L1 Northerns, which the SSW built at their own shops in Pine Bluff, Arkansas using boilers supplied by Baldwin. Included in this order of new Northerns was the now-famous Cotton Belt 819—had it not been for the war, and the decision by the War Production Board, dieselization would have begun sooner and progressed faster on the Cotton Belt, and the famous SSW 819 would never have been built.

    By 1950 the Cotton Belt was able to buy 19 diesels as it was no longer under any restrictions. All diesels were from General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division. Four SW7 diesel switchers #1054-1057 were delivered, eight EMD F7A cab units #925-939 odd numbers only and five F7B booster units #926-934 even numbers only were delivered in the first half of 1950. The freight cab F units wore the Black Widow colors of corporate parent Southern Pacific. The two new passenger units, an FP7 #330 and a GP7 #320 were delivered in the Southern Pacific Daylight passenger colors. The Cotton Belt retired eight steam locomotives in 1950.

    The new diesels had a labor cost saving efficiency as compared to steam. The diesel did not need the amount of servicing that the steam locomotive did, or the water to make the steam for power, or the ash pits to clean the fire. In fact quite a bit of railroad real estate was taken up in steam locomotive servicing areas that the diesel simply did not need. The roundhouse was an example of what the steam locomotive needed for its care and what the diesel could do without. What was being considered by Cotton Belt was the outright displacement of the steam locomotive by the new diesel locomotive.

    Red Standefer had started with steam when he first saw Ernest Hickey driving that SN&ST construction train in 1907. That was the magic moment for Red. His entire railroad career was based on engine service with steam locomotives. He stubbornly stuck with steam until almost the very end of it on the Cotton Belt.

    Another foreign war had started in a far away place called Korea. Communist North Korea had invaded democratic South Korea on June 25, 1950. Once again young American men answered the call to arms along with many other United Nations countries on the Korean peninsula. A total of 2355 transportation employees worked for Cotton Belt in 1950.

    "Engineer and Mrs. C. W. Standefer spent the second week of July getting acquainted with their first grandchild, Stephen Ross Standefer, born Sunday July 2, 1950 to Mr. And Mrs. H. R. Standefer of Baton Rouge, La." said the Cotton Belt News in its August 1950 edition. While a new generation of motive power was being delivered to the Cotton Belt a new generation of Standefers had also begun.

    The Cotton Belt News October 1950 edition said, "Engineer and Mrs. C. W. Standefer held an open house on Sunday Sepember 3, to share their beautiful new home with friends in Commerce." This was the newly built home at 1005 Sycamore Street. You may remember that the Standefers had lived at the 1005 Sycamore Street address prior to World War Two, but the open house was in a completely new home. The Standefer’s house on Sycamore Street was three blocks west of the Cotton Belt crossing on Sycamore.

    "Engineer and Mrs. C. W. Standefer recently entertained members of the Commerce Public school faculty with a tea." said the Cotton Belt News in October 1950." Mrs. Standefer was teaching history at the high school in Commerce.

    The Standefers lived in the railroad colony in Commerce. This was an area of town just to the south and east of the Cotton Belt train yard in town. Many railroaders lived in this area of town as in the early days it was easier for the call boy to find the railroaders to call them to work. It would be about a half mile walk to work for Red Standefer should he have chosen to do that, but more often than not he would get a ride.

    Photo – 1005 Sycamore Street, Commerce, Texas. This was said to be the first all electric house in Commerce. C.W. Standefer photo from the Commerce Public Library

    Cotton Belt’s drive toward total dieselization continued into 1951. Another 28 new diesel units were delivered this year. The deliveries included two EMD SW9 switchers #1058-1059. Also from EMD were 18 new freight units in the form of ten 10 F7As #941-959 odd numbers only and eight F7Bs #936-950 even numbers only. From ALCO-GE six RS-3s #311-312, 315-318 roadswitcher units for freight service and two RS-3 #313-314 for passenger service were delivered. The passenger RS-3s were equipped with a steam generator for service on #1 & #2 the Morning Star and #5 & #6 the Lone Star. The Cotton Belt retired ten steam locomotives in 1951 leaving 92 remaining on its roster. Due to the increased traffic associated with the Korean War the Cotton Belt had 2517 transportation employees on the 1951 payroll.

    There was a big meeting of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen on Friday April 20th over in Greenville. The meeting of the Central and East Texas Brotherhood Association took place at the Washington Hotel and had 300 attendees. Business sessions and entertainment were held at the Officer’s Club at Majors Field. Commerce BLF&E Lodge #548 cohosted the event with Greenville Lodge #422.

    Engineer and Mrs. C. W. Standefer were cheered during the 1951 holiday season by having as guests their son and his family. Mr and Mrs. H. R. Standefer and their son Steve of Baton Rouge, La visited Commerce for Christmas and New Years.

    During much of the early 1950s Red Standefer was one of the engineers on the Sherman Branch or “S” Branch as it was called on the Cotton Belt. By late 1951 with the advent of more diesels, steam locomotives were getting scarce. Not so on the S Branch. Three notable exceptions to the Cotton Belt policy of no more steam were in service on the run to Sherman. These steam locomotives were the F1 ten wheeler #254, G1 consolidation #502, and the G2 consolidation #517. These old tanks were kept to service the Sherman Branch due to the light 56 pound rail in use on the branch. The #254 was the first to leave this group in early 1953 and was notable as the very last Ten Wheeler on the Cotton Belt.

    We are fortunate that several Freight Conductor’s Records (time books) exist in the Commerce Public Library. These were the Cotton Belt Form 3451. Conductor W. H. Taylor’s time books document the comings and goings of Cotton Belt trains #217 and #218 on the Sherman Branch. Train #217 went from Commerce to Sherman and train #218 was the Sherman to Commerce train. These trains used one of the Cotton Belt long cabooses to provide accommodation for the occasional passenger. The engineer on many of these end of steam runs was Cotton Belt Engineer C. W. Standefer.

    On Sunday November 25, 1951 the crew of train #217 went on duty at Commerce at 9:15 PM. The crew was composed of Conductor W. H. Taylor, Engineer C. W. Standefer, Fireman G. C. George, Brakeman J. D. Culver and Brakeman J.E. Haubaur. The assigned engine for the run to Sherman was the G-1 Consolidation #502. After spending three hours and 25 minutes switching in Commerce Yard the crew went to beans at 12:40 AM. After a half hour meal break the crew commenced switching again for 35 more minutes in Commerce Yard. When the #217 was together, the air was then tested and it soon departed. The next entry finds the #217 at Milepost 550, Wolfe City for an hour and 35 minutes of switching. The engine took water at Randolph for 10 minutes and #217 was on its way again at 5:50 AM. The next stop was at Whitewright where the #217 met the #218 at 6:40 AM. Another 10 minutes was spent switching at Whitewright. After completing their switching move the trainmen go to breakfast until 7:25 AM. After breakfast the #217 goes on to Sherman and ties up at 9:25 AM.

    The same crew that brought the #217 up to Sherman Monday morning will be taking the #218 train to Commerce on Monday evening after their rest. The crew gets the #218 train together starting out in Sherman at 6:30 PM and actually leaves at 7 PM. The locomotive takes water at Randolph and the train leaves that point at 9:50 PM. There is a pick up to be made at Wolfe City and that is done by 10:40 PM. The #218 arrives in Commerce by 11:40 because that is when the crew goes to beans for a half hour. At 12:10 AM Tuesday morning the crew starts banging cars around Commerce Yard for the next three hours and 25 minutes. The crew goes off duty at 3:35 AM Tuesday morning November 27, 1951. Another cycle is complete.

    Cotton Belt Locomotive Diagram Folio 725 Sheet from the Office of the Superintendent Mechanical Department Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From the Dean Hale Collection courtesy of the Railroaders and Heritage Museum, Temple Texas.

    At the beginning of 1952 there were still 92 steam locomotives rostered by the Cotton Belt. These included a pair of 0-8-0 switchers, an Atlantic, a dozen Ten Wheelers, 45 Consolidations most of which were the K1s, a dozen Mountains, and the 20 Northerns in fast freight service. This remaining steam was greatly endangered by the advance of dieselization on the Cotton Belt.

    The dieselization program continued in 1952 as the final two diesel switchers in the form of two EMD SW9s #1060-1061 were delivered. The acquisition of these diesel switchers allowed the last two Cotton Belt oil burning 0-8-0 steam switchers the #500 and #524 to be retired. These two steam switchers had been held in reserve at Texarkana and Waco respectively for switching and local service. Cotton Belt increased the number of transportation employees to 2669 in 1952.

    Twelve more EMD freight units were delivered in 1952. Eight F7As #961-975 odd numbers only and four F7Bs #952-958 even numbers only filled out the mainline freight pool. From ALCO-GE the Cotton Belt received four RS-3s #308-311 for passenger service. The Cotton Belt mechanical department had sent some of its men to Schenectady, New York for training on these new road switchers in early 1952. The passenger RS-3s served on passenger trains #1 & #2 The Morning Star and #5 & #6 the Lone Star until Saturday November 1, 1952 when those four trains were replaced by Local trains #107 & 108 on the Dallas-Mount Pleasant-Dallas run the next day. And nameless trains #7 & #8 on the mainline. The trains were timed at Mount Pleasant in such a way that the #108 would meet #8 and shortly after #8 left North the #7 would arrive and originate #107 back to Dallas. Finally five RS-3 #356-360 were received from ALCO-GE for freight service. With the delivery of these new diesels in 1952 the Cotton Belt had effectively dieselized its mainline and most of its primary branches. The Cotton Belt retired 44 steam locomotives in 1952, leaving just 48 on the roster. The Sherman Branch was still all steam.

    New CTC was installed by Cotton Belt from Pine Bluff to the junction with the Rock Island at Brinkley, Arkansas 65 miles. From Brinkley the Cotton Belt used Rock Island trackage rights to enter Memphis.

    While all this modernization was going on with the new push button railroading and diesels placing the iron horse out to pasture, Red Standefer was saying goodbye to the steam locomotive. On Tuesday July 1, 1952 train #217’s crew was Conductor W. H. Taylor, Engineer C. W. Standefer, Fireman D. B. Cates, Brakeman D. C. Abernathy, and Brakeman R. L. Killingsworth. This crew started making up their train in Commerce Yard at 9:45 PM. They had the #254 an F1 Ten Wheeler for power and they were at it switching for four hours. The crew then took a 25 minute meal break at 1:45 in the morning and then went back to switching cars in Commerce Yard for another hour and ten minutes. At 3:25 AM the #217 train was together and the air was being tested. The #217 highballed sometime later with the caboose #2301 bringing up the markers. The train starts switching Wolfe City milepost 550 at 4:35 AM for 10 minutes. Later at Randolph milepost 564 the train takes another 10 minutes taking water starting at 5:50 AM. The #217 train has a set out at Whitewright at 6:35 AM that takes 10 minutes and then the crew takes breakfast for another half hour. Then the #217 is off and away for Sherman where it arrives at 8:30 AM does some switching around the yard and then the #254 is put away and the crew went off duty at 9:15 AM Wednesday morning.

    The return run as train #218 on Wednesday evening begins at 6:30 PM. The same crew is on the job. No details are given to any intermediate switching and the train arrives in Commerce at 10:30 PM. The crew promptly goes to beans upon arrival and a half hour later the crew commenced switching in Commerce Yard until going off duty at 1:45 AM.

    Cotton Belt Locomotive Diagram Folio 725 Sheet from the Office of the Superintendent Mechanical Department Pine Bluff, Arkansas. From the Dean Hale Collection courtesy of the Railroaders and Heritage Museum, Temple Texas.

    The Standefers were cheered by the birth of their second grandson Chris Standefer on Tuesday July 15, 1952. Now there was another reason to visit Baton Rouge for the Standefers.

    The Sherman Branch was not making any money for the Cotton Belt. It had been built in 1887 with 56 pound to the yard rail and had not been modernized. It would cost some serious funds to rerail this line with heavier steel, and for an uncertain return on investment. For this reason by authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission order on August 17, 1953 the Sherman Branch was abandoned. Service did not end immediately, but would end within six weeks. Cotton Belt applied for and acquired trackage rights over the Texas & New Orleans Railroad between Plano and Sherman to continue to serve that Texas city.

    Photo - Cotton Belt F1 Ten Wheeler #254. This is one of the last photos taken of this locomotive before she was sold for scrap.

    Red’s last steam locomotive run was on the Sherman Branch on Friday September 25, 1953 on mixed train #218. Red Standefer was the engineer on this run with Smokey Boyd as his fireman and G2 Consolidation #517 was the locomotive used on his last run. He documented his engine the #517 thoroughly as many photos of this locomotive are in the family collection and at the Commerce Public Library. The fact that he documented this last run so completely means he knew it was his last acquaintance with a steam locomotive. Red Standefer was saying goodbye. The very next day September 26th the very last revenue Cotton Belt train ran from Sherman to Commerce with engineer Jack Caldwell and Doc Sands firing the G1 #502. This was the very end of the S Branch as the Cotton Belt began using the Texas & New Orleans trackage rights from Plano to Sherman on Monday September 28th to service its customers. Steam was gone from the Cotton Belt by November 1953.

    Photo - Red’s last run on a steam locomotive was with the #517. The 517 was sold for scrap on November 25, 1953.

    Cotton Belt Locomotive Diagram Folio 725 Sheet from the Office of the Superintendent Mechanical Department Pine Bluff, Arkansas Dean Hale Collection courtesy of the Railroaders and Heritage Museum, Temple Texas.

    During these end of steam times the Standefers celebrated the birth of David Standefer, Red and Era’s third grandson on Wednesday June 3, 1953. This new David G. Standefer was the third Standefer to bear this name after the first David G. Standefer of Hamilton, and Red’s half brother Rufus Standefer’s son David, who would be Red’s nephew.

    Steve Standefer remembers being on a steam locomotive when he was just a little fellow in Commerce. He remembers being hoisted up on the deck of a steam locomotive when he was very young and it was most likely during this End-of-Steam Summer of 1953 after his brother David was born.

    Also in 1953 the final diesels needed for complete dieselization of the Cotton Belt were delivered. These were three ALCO-GE RSD-5s #270-272. The Cotton Belt added 74 more miles of CTC from Dexter, Missouri to Jonesboro, Arkansas. Transportation employees in 1953 were at 2376 persons.

    Cotton Belt Engineers R. D. Newton and F. M. "Doggy" Martin took the #502 and #517 east from Commerce with a freight train on Thursday October 1, 1953. They were recorded for posterity driving through Sulphur Springs by railfan Roger S. Plummer. The official last run for steam took place on October 28, 1953 when the #502 handled a work extra. These two steamers, the #502 and #517, that had soldiered out the end of their careers on the Sherman Branch were sold to Luria in St. Louis for scrap on Wednesday November 25, 1953. That was about it for Cotton Belt steam in TEXAS until the #819 L1 was resurrected by the Cotton Belt Rail Historical Society in the late 1980s. The deadlines of remaining Cotton Belt steam were turned over to the locomotive breakers or perhaps in a few cases given a new lease on life by Southern Pacific out in California. A total fleet of 128 diesels was now in use on the Cotton Belt to move the freight, serve the passengers and switch the cars. The RS-3s and the F units had taken over the trains through Commerce. The Cotton Belt retired or sold 33 more steam locomotives in 1953 leaving just 15 on the roster. Of the fifteen remaining steam locomotives five would be scrapped, nine would be sold to the Southern Pacific for additional service out west and one, the #819, was donated to the City of Pine Bluff. Red Standefer had railroaded long enough to see the last of Cotton Belt steam.

    As for Cotton Belt Engineer C. W. Standefer, he finally went to work running diesel electric locomotives. He did not like the diesels, but it was his job as an engineer to run them. Standefer said,“I’ve rode those old steam engines sometime above 80 miles an hour. They ruined the whole works when they took my steam locomotive away from me. In other words, the romance of railroading was gone.”

    Standefer said, “No the diesel’s all right, as far as . . . But to me, I told them when I started runnin’ the diesels, I said, “Well, I could have got a job a-runnin’ a streetcar forty years ago.”
    Last edited by SSW9389; 05-05-2011 at 01:14 AM. Reason: Last steam run from Commerce was by R. D. Newton and F. M. "Doggy" Martin, not Harvey Martin his uncle.

  2. #2


    Just so you know I recognize your submission, but this one is going to take awhile to get through, Ed.

    Martin Burwash

  3. #3


    Wow...what a historical document! Outstanding research and with the personal twist to the text, I enjoyed learning. This kind of thoroughness in research and presentation shows a real love, understanding and dedication to the subject, Ed, I commend you.

    I vote yes. Post as is.

    Martin Burwash

  4. Thumbs up

    I agree with Martin, though I do have a minor comment. The historical and personal aspects of this essay work just fine on their own, but the transition between them is abrupt and can be a little hard to follow. Other then that - I vote to post. Well done!

  5. Default

    Jon I can see where you are having problems with this style. Chapter 8 is a mess of transition problems that I have yet to work out. Cotton Belt Engineer is a ten chapter book that tells the story of the Cotton Belt and of C. W. "Red" Standefer a Cotton Belt Engineer. I would like to make this Chapter 7 into a magazine article and would appreciate any ideas on how to do that. For one the reader is going to need some introduction to who C. W. Standefer is and what he is doing in the text. Without reading the preceeding six chapters that would be a struggle for the reader of an article based on just this chapter. Thanks for any assistance.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Bentz View Post
    I agree with Martin, though I do have a minor comment. The historical and personal aspects of this essay work just fine on their own, but the transition between them is abrupt and can be a little hard to follow. Other then that - I vote to post. Well done!

  6. #6


    Boy, I've done a few magazine articles, but it is hard for me to really make any credible suggestions, Ed. The style of article I do is somewhat different than what you are presenting here. (And please, don't misunderstand me, what you have here is a very legitimate form for an article.) I think you are on the right track when you talk about smoothing out the transitions between the historical and personal. I guess for a magazine I would suggest first picking which is going to be the base, the personal story, or the historical. My feel is, your emphasis is the historical portion, the last stand of steam and even specifically which steam. The personal side forms the back story.

    When blending the two write first about the historical to a point where the personal naturally blends into the point you are making.

    Now, if I have your intentions all wrong,...which would not surprise me, then do the opposite. If it is the personal you wish to highlight, then write about it first, interjecting the historical when appropiate as the back story.

    In as much as all of your photos save one are what would be termed "historical" I might suggest leading with that and continue to use the personal side as your accent.

    Finally, I'm not sure of the word count. Take a close look at whatever magazine you are going to query and see how long their average article is. To my eye, it seems about the right length, but that's something you might want to check.

    Good's a nice piece. I hope to see the finished book in the near future.

    Martin Burwash

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Zanesville, Ohio


    I have read it a few times, and I am still digesting it. I did enjoy it, though, especially the quotes- nice touch.

    A few minor points I noticed right off the bat; maybe make the text italics for the captions? Or a point smaller? Something to set them apart. Also, why TEXAS, rather than Texas?

    I would say post, but if you want to make some revisions you should before we post it. Just let us know and the next available will move it if you decline to make adjustments.
    Chris Crook

    pictures and yap

  8. Default

    Chris: Thanks for the comments. I am going to write an introductory paragraph on who C. W. "Red" Standefer was. Basically Red Standefer was in Cotton Belt engine service from 1917-1967 and retired as a #1 on the engineer's seniority list for Cotton Belt's Southern (TEXAS) Division. I spelled TEXAS big because it is a big state and Red did 99 44/100% of his railroading in TEXAS. He did get into Arkansas at Texarkana Yard where the Cotton Belt yard is on the state line.

    I will redo the photo cutlines, not wild about italics, and will try a different font and type point.

    This "essay" is a part of a book about Red Standefer and the Cotton Belt. I have tried to write a parallel story, a bridge book if you will. Part of the story is about Red Standefer and what was going on in his life and part of the story is about the Cotton Belt and what was happening in its history.

    These are the ten chapters and I selected Chapter 7 for several reasons. Red Standefer loved steam locomotives. Chapter 7 is about Red's last experience with Cotton Belt steam, and there has been very little ever written about the Sherman Branch. The quotes are from an interview he did in 1973 at East Texas State University.

    CHAPTER 1 EARLY LIFE 1898-1917




    CHAPTER 5 WORLD AT WAR 1940-1945

    CHAPTER 6 RECOVERY 1945-1949

    CHAPTER 7 THE END OF STEAM 1950-1953

    CHAPTER 8 PA CHOO-CHOO 1954-1967

    CHAPTER 9 GONE FISHIN’ 1967-1981

    CHAPTER 10 ON BECOMING #1 1917-1967


    Quote Originally Posted by crook View Post
    I have read it a few times, and I am still digesting it. I did enjoy it, though, especially the quotes- nice touch.

    A few minor points I noticed right off the bat; maybe make the text italics for the captions? Or a point smaller? Something to set them apart. Also, why TEXAS, rather than Texas?

    I would say post, but if you want to make some revisions you should before we post it. Just let us know and the next available will move it if you decline to make adjustments.
    Last edited by SSW9389; 02-01-2008 at 02:08 AM. Reason: correct interview date

  9. Default

    I have completed my editing and rewrites from suggestions.

  10. Thumbs up

    Sorry for not getting on this right away.

    I vote to post!

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