Clipped From The Sunday News and Tribune
a groping of distress speak above the through the from and see our .Jefferson City Engineer Retires After Railroading 5O Years When John Edward Levelsmier swung down from engine 5340 on Missouri Pacific passenger train No. 16 "The Royal Gorge" Dec. 30 last, it was to go into retirement after a half century of railroading. "What am I going to do with all that idle time?" he asked. "I'm going to enjoy my home at 1222 West High Street for one thing, and this spring I'm going to devote a lot of time to fishing and loafing along the creek and river banks. I think I've earned it." Doesn't Look His Affe The big, brawny railroader, whose sturdy appearance belies the three score and ten years of vigorous living, first set foot on a railroad engine in 1897 in E. St. Louis, 111. Fresh from a farm near Murphysboro, 111.,, and ambitious ambitious to follow railroading as a career, young Levelsmier applied for and g o t - a job firing on the Illinois Central. His first job was on a switch engine and he recalled that Billy Henderson was his first engineer. When he had gained enough experience to obtain obtain a road run his engineer was Lou Strickland. Levelsmier remained with the I. C. for five years and then went to Sedalia where he entered the employ of the Missouri Pacific, coming to Jefferson City when the division was moved here shortly after the turn of the century. century. From January. 1302, when he arrived here, until Aug. 9, 1907, he swung a shovel into the hungry maw of the coal consuming consuming Mo. Pac. engines and then graduated to the other side of the cab as engineer. Once in that important position he never again returned to firing. Recalls First Engineer In a reminiscent mood, the veteran engineer recalled that his first engineer on the Mo. Pac. Lexington Branch was Charles Goodwin who has long since passed on. "Things went along rather smoothly throughout my railroad career and I figured in few ac- Quits Engine J. E. Levelsmier bridge here. There were no fatalities, although a number of the crew on 'both trains were injured. injured. He said that he alone of the train crew escaped unscathed. unscathed. He missed a more disastrous disastrous wreck near Warrensburg in 1904 by a little more than a quarter of an hour. cidents of any note." he During the great flood in an engine he was f i r i n g collided said. 1903 / But for the most part his entire railroading career was uneventful. uneventful. He recalled that in the half century of railroading, his engine killed only_ (?ne person, a deaf and dumb man who was walking on the left side of the track. He hit only one automobile and that at a point where the track was straight for five miles each way. "The occupants had sen'se enough to desert the stalled car and, of course, all escaped uninjured. uninjured. If one of them had had presence of mind enough to loosen the emergency brake .the automobile automobile would have rolled off the by that time to more or less nudge it off the track and I do not believe the car was greatly damaged." Hauled Illustrious Passengers Most of Levelsmier's work was rr i between Kansas City and Jeffer-y ' son City. He said it would be impossible to remember the names of the many men who had fired for him. "My last fireman," he said "is U. J. Bestgen of Tipton." Levelsmier, who will be 70 . years oid March 28, recalled that he had hauled some illustrious railroad chiefs in his time. On the I. '"*.. he had the pleasure and distinction of firing the engine hauling the special car of Stuyvesant Stuyvesant Fish, then president of that^' I road and one of the great rail| rail| roadmen of American history, j Others included President B. F. Bush of the Missouri Pacific and bis successor L. W. Baldwin. George J. and Helen Gould of that famous railroad family also were his passengers on one or occasions. Noted actors and actresses of stage and screen were numbered among the passengers on his trains. One of the most recent of the illustrious passengers/?; was Mrs. Harry S. Truman, wife of the president. Regular Vacations He attributes his good health to the fact that he never permitted permitted his job to overtax him. "My wife and I took vacations quite frequently and went lo various parts of the Country and on several occasions to Canada and Mexico. And now I intend to devote the rest, of my days to, laKing it easy and enjoying life."ii Mrs. Levelsmier ( was Miss May Hickam prior to' their marriage in December, 1911. He is the only active charter member of the B. of. L. F. and No. 622, which he joined in 1903, and one of the oldest members' of B. of L. E. No. 178, which he joined in 1907.- And so another veteran of the engine cab, who operated every thing from the dinkies of the 90'.= to the steam monsters andi. v oil burners and the modern Diesels of today and had a good time | headon will/' another near the track. We had slowed sufficiently doing it, passes into retirement.