The Romance of Railroading: Folklore Continued

GintherMarch 25, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

As stated in my first article, the conductor is the boss.
Every member of the train and engine crew is subordinate to him, and the engine crew is under the direction of the brakemen/trainmen. The engineer is strictly a power operator and moves the train only when instructed to do so by a trainman or the conductor. The fireman, when they were used, was under the supervision of the engineman. Post steam engine era the fireman’s position was used to train future engineers or fulfill a union contract.
When the train picked up or set out cars at stations along the line, the conductor handled the business end of each transaction with the station agent. This business mostly amounted to the exchange of the waybills for cars left and those added to his train. A waybill contains a description of the car’s lading, weight, and destination and one must accompany each car in the train’s consist. It also contains the name of the shipper, point of origin, and the consignee. The conductor is responsible to know the total number of cars, whether they are loaded or empty and the total tonnage of his train. This information had to be provided by the conductor to agents or telegraph operators at predetermined stations along the line. Those operators would telegraph that information to the train dispatcher. Without this knowledge, the dispatcher would be unable to plan meeting places between opposing trains. At sidings used for the meeting and passing of trains, one of them would have to fit between the switches of the siding. Read More

LTE: 3.18.15

Enjoying “Romance of Railroading”

I’m pleased to see Jerry Ginther has written an additional article about the railroad (per his facebook post). Until his first article I wasn’t aware of the “ins and outs” of railroading. However, I did find the information quite interesting. How many of us just sit and watch those huge trains go by in a blur? Now, I find myself reflecting on some of the information I learned by reading the first of Mr. Ginther’s accounting of his railroad career. Read More

Public Notices Must Stay in the Sun

sw15-zacharyBy Jim Zachary

March 18, 2015
As we recognize Sunshine Week, the public’s right to know is under assault throughout the United States.
State lawmakers are whittling away at Sunshine Laws in multiple ways, not the least of which is the effort to remove requirements to publish public notices in the place where communities are most likely to find important information they want and need to know — in the local newspaper.
Efforts to allow local governments the option of placing required public notices on government websites, or on third party sites that bury the information is poor, ill-advised legislation that should be viewed as a threat to and further erosion of government transparency. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Child Care Agency Under Fire, Again

NowlanMarch 11, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

Ida Mae and I were classmates in our rural high school, decades ago. Ida Mae often came to school in worn, dirty clothes, but she was attractive underneath it all. I liked her, though we came from different sides of the track and didn’t mix much.

Many years later I received a long, wrenching letter from Ida Mae, in which she spilled her guts about her high school years.

She was horribly abused by her stepfather, she wrote. Life was absolutely wretched. Read More

Farm Bureau Update: Farm Tour Later this Month

HarveyMarch 11, 2015

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

On a county level, the Moultrie County Farm Bureau has been very busy with various meetings around the state. The annual Governmental Affairs and Leadership Conference was held February 25 and 26 in Springfield. This annual statewide conference is a great way for attendees to meet with their local legislators in Springfield. There are numerous workshops to attend on topics ranging from government, farmland assessment, the Farm Bill, and other topics of interest. Read More

LTE: 3.4.15

Zoo in Moultrie County is Wrong

Dear Editor,
We are currently faced with a proposed zoo being established on prime farmland, an idea that is unthinkable. Whether one embraces the concept, and sees no problem, or is totally opposed for numerous reasons- that is his right. What no one has the right to do is to force his view upon others. Through this method of “silent manipulation”, there is total disregard of others and their rights.
I am reminded of the citizen outcry, in opposition, to the proposed Ameren tower route through our community. The difference being that people were made aware and had opportunity to express their views. I challenge each one of you to follow the advice of the unknown author who cautions us by saying,”Slow down and think things through before you make any life changing decisions.” Read More

Understanding Illinois: Changing Faces Challenge Illinois

NowlanMarch 4, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

A regular reader of this space suggested that I write a column about the changing demographics of our state and of what it means for our future.
Since my childhood half a century ago, there have been dramatic changes in who we are and where we live in Illinois.
My rural home county of Stark in central Illinois has, for example, lost population every decade since 1880, from almost 12,000 then to fewer than 6,000 today. Most of the hundreds of vibrant downstate market towns of my youth have shrunk to a bank, maybe a struggling grocery store, a Casey’s “general store,” and not much more. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Rauner Changes Budget Dynamic

NowlanFebruary 25, 2015

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

In his maiden speech on state finance this past Wednesday [Feb. 18], GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner changed the dynamic of Illinois budgeting from an “incremental” process to that akin to “zero base budgeting,” which goes all the way back to former president Jimmy Carter’s days as governor of Georgia in the early 1970s.
The above sounds like academic-speak, so please let me explain.
Rauner proposed a budget that is balanced, at least in theory, without the necessity of nudging the recently reduced state income tax back up a bit, as many Democrats including Speaker of the House Mike Madigan feel is necessary.
The businessman governor proposed dramatic, some would say draconian, cuts not only in pensions, health care for state employees and higher education, but also for children who are wards of the state, kids with developmental disabilities, and the mentally ill.
This will force interest groups and advocates for all these spending initiatives to come to the legislature to make their cases for why the programs must be sustained at higher levels than Rauner wants. Read More

The Romance of Railroading: Folklore of the Steam Engine Era

GintherFebruary 25, 2015

by Jerry Ginther
NP Columnist

Volumes have been written on this topic not to mention hundreds of ballads. To appreciate the latter, one only needs to remember a few of the old songs praising the brave engineers of steam engine days. Who hasn’t heard the words to “Casey Jones”, “The Wreck of Old 97” and “The Wabash Cannonball” just to mention a few. The engine man was the hero of the rails, and train wrecks were the subjects of much folklore.
The sentiments of crackling caldrons and hobos around a fire in a trainyard tugs at our hearts. Some nights the sound of a lonesome train whistle in the distance brings on such heartbreaking loneliness to a fellow pining for a lost love that he wonders if he will survive until the dawn. Oh, if railroad engineers only knew the role they have played in the lives of lonely, heartbroken lovers. The fireman shoveled the coal, the engineer kept his hand on the throttle, his eye on the rail and America moved forward to the age of diesel locomotives. Read More

LTE: 2.18.15

No Zoo In Moultrie County

Currently there are 11 zoo/wildlife parks in Illinois, not including major zoos in St. Louis and Indianapolis. Three are within easy driving distance from Moultrie County, including Henson Robinson Zoo in Springfield, Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington and Scoville Zoo in Decatur.
Is the proposed 140 acre zoo a want, need or necessity, or is it human hubris? A small group of people want to build a zoo one mile east of Cadwell and ¾ mile west of the Pumpkin Patch. This is where I have lived for almost 40 years. Many of the adjoining owners have made formal protests with the county officials.
Here is a list of concerns shared by adjoining property owners: Read More