Monday, October 24, 2011

Charles Faxon Densel, CPRR locomotive engineer, 1870's

From: "Terri Hildreth"

I am researching my great-grandfather, Charles Faxon DENSEL, who was an engineer for Central Pacific. I have four logs (or diaries) of his that are dated 1873, 1874, 1877, and 1878. The small, 4” x 5” leather bound booklets that are pre-printed with the following information: Engineer [name]; Month of _____, 187__; From; To; Miles Run; No. of Engine; No. of Cars; Kind of Train; Fireman [name]; Cords of Wood; boxes of Coal; and [a blank column for notes].

In these logs, he detailed his runs in Utah from Ogden to Toano, Promontory, Bovine, Terrace, Kelton, Blue Creek, and occasionally as far as Wells, NV. He also makes a series of notes in the back of the logs of names of various men and dollar amounts. Sometime in 1870-80, he moved to Tracy Minnesota where he continued his railroading career making runs from Winona to Mankato SD. There he was the secretary and/or treasurer for his local Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, so I’m guessing the names & amounts in the Utah logs were related to similar activities there.

Because I am compiling a family history, I am trying to find out how one became an Engineer during the 1870s and about how long it might have taken. My g-grandfather was originally from Marshalltown, Iowa and somehow ended up in Ogden, and I’m trying to make the connection. What kind of skills or daily activities were involved in being and Engineer? Was there an average pay scale for the position?

CF notes at least three types of trains he drove during the Utah time-period: Yard, Freight, and something he calls ‘lite’. I not sure what ‘lite’ indicates unless it means something like truckers who ‘dead-head’ empty from one place to another. I’m assuming a ‘Yard’ engine is some kind of switching engine at the round house – can someone confirm that? Are there specific types of engines that would be recognizable during this time period? I have a picture of one of his engines in Minnesota later on (maybe 1895-1900 or so), but I’d like to include photos or drawings of the type of equipment he might have been using at this time period as well. What kind of freight would he have been hauling? I think there would have been items such as building supplies and, given the area, mining supplies, but would there have also been luxury items being shipped to the West Coast on these trains as well?

Finally, can anyone recommend sources I might access to further help in my research? I found a nice article, Rails East to Promontory – The Utah Stations at that gives a listing of the stations along the Ogden – Wells route and photos of several of those site locations, but anything else (print or on-line) that anyone could suggest would be nice. ... —Terri Hildreth