How Six Boys Built a Railroad
Contributed by The Ives Train Society
Chapter I-How it all started
It all came about from the wonderful ride that Howard Norris
took from New York to Albany in the cab of the Empire State Flyer.
You see, Howard’s uncle is an engineer on a railroad, but
Howard is only twelve. So they said he was too young to ride in
the cab of the fastest train in the world. Then Howard wrote a
letter to the President, who likes boys, and when the answer came
there was an order all signed that Howard was to ride in the cab
of the Empire State Flyer as far as Albany on the next Saturday.
It was a few minutes before starting time when Howard arrived
at the Grand Central Station on the day of his trip. The big electric
engine is waiting to take the train as far as Kingsbridge. The
last passengers are crowding into the Pullman and day coaches.
Porters are shouting like mad as they put aboard the last pieces
The motorman lifts Howard up into the electric engine and puts
him on the seat beside him. Howard is to be placed in charge of
his uncle, the engineer, at Kingsbridge, where the big steam engine
is coupled to the train.
They are off. Through the tunnel, by the high houses in the city,
over the big bridge, along the Harlem River; and before Howard
knows it, he is at Kingsbridge. It takes only a minute for the
motorman to toss him into his uncle’s arms and in a jiffy
Howard is in the cab of the Flyer’s engine, sitting right
behind the engineer.
Chapter II-Starting the Monster
Isn’t she a whopper calls Howard to the fireman. The fireman
is busy; he doesn’t answer. “I wish I were an engineer”
Howard said to himself as he looked out of the front window at
the shining black monster. “Anyway, some day I’m going
to have an engine all my own.”
The fireman leans out of the cab window looking toward the rear
of the long train, but the engineer sits with his left hand on
the throttle, looking straight ahead. Howard snuggles down in
the little seat behind him. “All right!” shouts the
fireman so suddenly that Howard jumps. The throttle flies open
and the first great puff seems to blow the smokestack right out
of the engine. Over switches, through tunnels, under bridges and
along the shores of the Hudson River, the proud engine sweeps.
The water looks blue and shiny in the bright morning sun. Some
boys are fishing—but for once Howard doesn’t envy
Chapter III-Forty Miles an Hour
“Forty miles an hour!” shouts the fireman above the
noise of the train.
The tracks look to Howard like threads of steel stretching far
ahead, and the big puffing engine fairly eats them up. On one
side is the river, on the other a rock wall, and above the wall,
vines and trees. People along the line are looking for the Flyer
and wave as she passes. Howard tries in vain to read the signs
on the stations as they whiz by.
Now the smoke clears from the track, the engine begins to swing
and sway as the speed increases. Now and then a southbound train
brushes by. The men in the signal towers are all looking for the
Flyer and wave as she rushes past.
Chapter IV-Three Minutes Late
“I wonder if we are on time,” Howard calls to the
fireman, who looks at his watch and holds up three fingers. “Three
minutes Late!” it means.
A moment after the engineer shouts, “Look out for her,
Bill!” at the same time pulling the throttle wide open.
Bill, the fireman, knows his business. Taking the clinker hook
he levels off the fire, shakes the grate and closes the fire-box
door. The black smoke rolls thick and fast from the stack and
then clears away. Then the fireman throws in three of four huge
shovels full of coal, closes the door and leans out of the window
to watch the smoke. A fireman tells by the color of the smoke
how his fire burns.
“What jolly fun it is to be a fireman, Howard says. It’s
the next best thing to being an engineer.
After they round the next curve there is a long straight line
ahead of them, stretching miles away. A moment later the fireman
looks across at Howard and shouts: “A mile a minute!”
The mighty locomotive trembles and shakes and throbs as she swallows
up the track in front of her. Faster and faster they fly.
“Sixty-five miles!” shouts the fireman. A little
later he calls “Seventy!” then “Eighty!”
“Gee!” says Howard to himself as he holds on to his
seat, “talk about toboggans and automobiles—they ain’t
a patch to this.”
Then they begin to slow down. The fireman points to a big building
in the distance on the left.
“The State Capitol at Albany,” he shouts in Howard’s
ears. Howard is sorry they got there so soon. He wishes he could
ride all night in that wonderful engine. But he made up his mind
then and there to own a railroad of his own.
When Howard reached home he could talk of nothing else but his
wonderful ride in the engine of the Flyer. How all the boys did
Then one day his father said to him; “Howard, why don’t
you and some other boys form a club and own a big railroad of
Chapter VI-How the Railroad was built-As told by the
Mr. Brown is the principal of the school which Howard attends.
One morning a few weeks after Howard’s wonderful ride, Mr.
Brown found two letters in his desk.
One was from Charley York, who lived next door to Howard. It
Dear Mr. Brown:
Our teacher, Miss Smith, says you want to know all about our
club and how we built a railroad.
The idea came from Howard after he had a ride in the engine of
a Flyer. All the boys wanted to play trains after that. One of
the boys had an engine and some track, and two boys had some passenger
cars and a baggage car, but no engine. Then my father sent to
the local dealer and bought me a swell Ives Electric Engine and
two freight cars, and a station.
We started a club with five members. Then, of course, we had
a fight and two left. But three more joined, so now we have six.
We have enough track to go through two large rooms in a big house.
We have ten switches, a bridge, one turn table and three tunnels.
We have no dues in our club, but we gave a show to buy a station.
Now we have five stations. The only rules we have are to obey
signals and no fooling.
We have lots and lots of fun with our railroad. It runs by electricity.
P.S. – I am division manager for St. Louis in our club.
The second letter was from Howard. It read:
Dear Mr. Brown:
We began a club about the first of October. We had five members.
When we started we had four cars and about 50 pieces of track
and an engine. We had only two real stations, and the rest were
made out of cardboard. The names of the stations we started with
are New York, Chicago, San Francisco and St. Louis. Chicago had
four switches and the other stations each had one switch. Then
we got another member in who had about 50 tracks, two switches
and a bridge. He knew how to fix engines when they broke. This
started our improvements. Then we elected a president. The Yorks
gave a party for the club on Halloween. Then we began to buy more
tracks and stations.
Finally we made enough money to buy of our local dealer a new
set of Ives Trains. This enabled us to add another station which
we called Baltimore.
Then we thought we could have some fun by having each station
have some goods to sell. So we made paper money to buy them with.
Then we had quite a time thinking what each station should sell.
Finally we decided that New York should sell lumber, Chicago cattle
and grain, San Francisco wool and oranges, Baltimore minerals,
and we can’t decide what St. Louis should sell. We learned
a lot of geography from placing our stations and also got ideas
about the products that came from the different cities. All the
things we use are made by the Ives Mfg. Corporation. All our club
members are going to be railroad men when they grow up.
Your Loving Pupil
P.S. – We call our railroad the Great Northern Line.
*These two letters are real letters written by two real live
Chapter VII-A Visit from Howard’s Uncle
When Howard’s uncle came to pay a visit to the club he
was surprised to see what a fine railroad the boys had. The Ives
Manufacturing Corporation makes everything you find in a big railroad,
When the boys wanted to ship oranges from Baltimore to New York,
they had a real refrigerator car. They sent lumber from New York
in a lumber car and a real gravel car carried gravel from St.
Uncle said the engines looked good enough to ride in. He thought
he would like to be an engineer on the Great Northern Railroad.
Some of the tunnels that the Great Northern trains went through
made him think of the tunnels on the New York Central.
Uncle gave the club a new station which they called New Haven.
It has two signals and crossing gates, and a sign that reads,
“Danger-Railroad Crossing.” The gates close by themselves
when a train gets near them. The new station has a glass dome
behind it under which the trains stop.
The boys are saving their money to buy another new station and
some more tracks and curves. They will call it Pittsburgh, and
send oil and coal from it. Mr. Brown, the principal of their school,
has promised to give the club a new tank car to carry the oil.
Howard’s uncle says the boys who built the Great Northern
Railroad will be great railroad men when they grow up.
Chapter VIII-Any Boy Can Own a Railroad
Any boy can start a club. And any club of boys can build a railroad
like the Great Northern, either electric or mechanical
Ask your dealer in toys for an Ives Catalog. If you cannot get
one, write direct to the Club Department of the Ives Manufacturing
Corporation, Bridgeport, Conn. They will send you a catalog.