Railroad Days During the Depression

Several years ago, I had an interview with a lady that lived in Gallatin, who related to me about her husband working for the railroads during the depression era.

Several years ago, I had an interview with a lady who lived in Gallatin. She related to me about her husband working for the railroads during the depression era.

For many years, the railroads were one of the main sources of transportation for both the rural and the urban people.

Most railroads operated with three shifts and seven days a week. As the severe drought lingered and both farmers and workers had fewer dollars to spend, the railroads were used less and less. Railroad workers began to lose their jobs; in railroad terms they were “bumped,” meaning the newer employed workers were replaced with those with more seniority.

Many workers lived in old railroad cars that had been repaired. The inside walls weren’t plastered and dust often filtered in. The cars were set in yards located about approximately thirty feet from the tracks.

In some parts of the country, obtaining water was difficult even in normal times. People had unsuccessfully tried to drill for water. To solve the water problem, water was often shipped into town by the use of a large tank car. In turn, workers packed the water they needed into their “boxcar” houses.

— by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin