Wild Bill Stewart

by Pat Durand

Pat Durand[This story takes place in 1946 or 1947] "Wild" Bill Stewart was assigned as engineer on Locomotive #901 on the run between Anchorage and Whittier with nine empty troop cars to meet a troop ship. The only good new rail on the Alaska Railroad was the twelve miles from Portage through the tunnels to Whittier. That is where he decided to let her exercise.

He kept hitching up the johnson bar and notching the throttle and she was setting a real stride. The freight train had just come out behind 1000 and 1001 so the tunnel doors were open and clear. Poof into and out of the short tunnel and across Bear Valley. Slowing down for the second tunnel and then running by the tank farm #901 turned up stream at Whittier Creek into the tail of the Y.

The Conductor had swung down to set the Y switch so the train could back down onto the DeLong Pier for the stop at the Whittier Depot. He got into the cab at the switch and informed Wild Bill that the general manager was on the last car! His advise continued with the admonition to detrain on the far side at the depot and make himself scarce.

Bill always faced his responsibilities and had enjoyed the ride. He looked back at the Depot and there was Col. Ohlson with his trademark Stetson, standing under the eves with one one had on his hip, eyes on the locomotive. Bill and the fireman took their time banking the fire and checking things out but the Col. was still there, waiting while a steady rain formed a protective wall between the Depot and the locomotive.

Bill came down with his grip and started the walk to the inevitable. As he approached, the Col. reached out with his right hand, took Bill's hand and pulled him in close as he exclaimed, "It sure sounded sweet Bill".

It was years later that the conductor admitted he and the Col. had cooked up the threat of brownies [demerits for rule violations] just to get one over on Wild Bill. The Col. was prepared to wait a long time under the eves.

Pages from his log book 1, 2, 3


© 2004 Pat Durand