O.L. Oliver was a railroad man

Published 8:10 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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The railroad system in the United States began in the late 1800’s.  On April 23, 1900, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company was formed.  In 1961, after 50 plus years of employment, O. L. Oliver, Sr. retired.

Dianne Smith

Dianne Smith

O. L. Oliver, Sr., veteran railroad man of Troy, after 50 years and 8 months faithful service, “working on the railroad,” has retired  from active duty and will spend his maturity years in Troy.  Most of his long stint of work was with one railroad, the Atlantic Coast Line, with almost four years on the Bay  Line Railroad, between Dothan and Panama City.

He was born in Newsite ,Tallapoosa County, and was reared on a farm.  His first public work began July 1, 1910, when he accepted the place as hostler helper on the A. C. L.  In 1923, after working about two years, he was laid off, along with many others, on account of a business recession.

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That same year he accepted a position as fireman with the Bay Line, which plane he held until 1916, when he accepted a place with the Coast Line as engineer.  He moved to Troy in 1933 and for the past 28 years has operated the switch engine here.

Oliver said he had been told, when he left home and began work among strangers, he would be homesick,  But this happened only one time, and that was when he was firing on the engine between Grimes and Abbeville, he spied several boys chasing the train, all barefooted.  It reminded him so much of his days spent on the farm, when shoes were a rarity and seldom worn, that is made him homesick.  “I really had a bad case of homesickness but soon got over it,” he said.

Oddly enough one of the boys chasing the train was Buddy Harse, who later began working for the Coast Line, and worked himself up to become a superintendent in this district, and lives in Montgomery.

One of the outstanding things about Oliver’s long railroad service is that he has a perfect safety record.  He has never had an accident, never received an injury, and has never cause the injury of any other person.

Oliver, musing over the past recalls that railroading in many respects is much different today than it was 50 years ago.  Then one engine fired with coal, pulled only 14 cars.  Now 6 engines, all hooked together and operated with diesel oil, pulls 150, or more cars, with all east.

Another important change made by the Federal Government was a law requiring all trains to use electric lights.  In the early days, with kerosene lamps to provide light, they had to work at night practically in the dark, but now with electricity there is plenty of light available now.

Oliver was married to the former Ruby Shirley of Abbeville on Dec. 21, 1910, shortly after he began work for the railroad.  They are the parents of seven children; four boys and 3 girls, all of whom are still living.

They are:  Mrs. Mary Carrigean, Montgomery; Mrs. Ida Weaver, Brewton; Nead Oliver, Troy; Mrs. Catherine Williams, Birmingham; O. L. Oliver, Jr., Troy; Charles Oliver, Virginia Beach, Va.; and Robert Oliver, Enterprise.

A large crown, which included relatives and friends gathered at the Coast Line freight depot on the afternoon of Feb. 28, the day Oliver’s retirement was effective, to extend congratulations and best wishes for a happy retirement.

In a surprise movement, the popular retiring engineer, was met as he came down the steps of his cab at the end of his last work day by several employees who presented him with a roll of “long green,” as a token of their esteem.  He was met by M. A. Kreis, Byrd Mitchell, Sr. and William L. Fannin.

All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger.  Stay tuned for more.  Dianne Smith is the President of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.