I grew up in a two railroad town, Marshall, Missouri. The MOP mainline ran around the east side of town alongside the city park. I spent many church picnics eagerly awaiting the expected MOP through freight on the River Sub running at track speed past us kids playing in the park. Just north of the city park, there was a wye that connected to the MOP branch line into the heart of Marshall. That line was two blocks south of my house AND (on the plus side) ran right next to the elementary school I attended. Our safety patrol boys didn’t guard crosswalks on the streets, we guarded the railroad crossing where kids walked across to go to/from school. It was a RARE treat to actually get to hold your arms out and stop the kids when the local was in town. A lot depended on the timing… Most days the local (a lone GP-9 with a string of reefers for Banquet Foods and boxcars for the 2 elevators and feed mill the MOP served) trundled slowly into town and did it’s work over the early part of the afternoon and had already backed out to the mainline by the time school was out.

The other railroad in town was the GM&O whose line cut right through town, entering from the NE and taking a 45 degree turn right in the middle of town where the MOP branch connected to it for interchange. Both the MOP and GM&O switched the MFA elevator located inside the two legs of the MOP and GM&O and there was quite a little grade off the GM&O down to the MOP. A car that got loose at MFA had the potential to roll all the way out of town and, apparently had in the past (before I was old enough to remember!) . Consequently, the MOP had installed a simple derail just west of the point where the branch came together to single track. Just your basic “throw it over the rail and lock it” device that was later replaced with a split rail derail. At one point in 1970, just prior to the IC merger, a covered hopper DID get away from MFA wandered east through town and, as expected, ended up on the ground as a result of the split rail device. It came to rest with the lead truck completely off the tracks with the end of the car stopped against the hillside. It was great excitement as the crowd gathered to watch the father of my best friend, Judy, attempt to extract the car from the ditch with a big Caterpillar bulldozer. The car was most assuredly STUCK as the 1.5” diameter steel cable snapped when the Cat made it’s ill-fated attempt to pull the car out. (The car was partially blocking the Brunswick St. road crossing)

When that attempt, along with bringing in a 2nd Cat to push while the other pulled, failed the GM&O was called in to the rescue and three brand new, red and white GP-38’s eased their way onto the MOP and tied onto the car with cables. Needless to say 5400 H.P. was more than ample to encourage the wayward LO out of the ditch and back onto the rails! Being more a GM&O fan I took great pride in seeing those Little Reds take care of the job in short order!

The MOP branch was always hosted early A.R.T. mechanical reefers staged right behind my school with their unmuffled motors running to pre-chill the cars before being spotted at Banquet. They would be set out by a road freight on the set-out track at the city park then the local would tow them into town and set them out to continue chilling. In the summer months the 6-8 reefers were loud enough to keep us awake most nights especially since we didn’t have A/C in the house at that point and summer nights meant open windows! I can actually remember yellow ICED reefers with MOP and Wabash emblems on them from very early childhood…

During the summers I would hang out at my dad’s trucking business “shop” which was located right next to the MOP tracks. I would watch the local work Red Comb-Pioneer feed mill and during the day I’d watch the workmen encourage a box car down under the loading/unloading awning with a wheel pry. They also had a mechanical car winch that they would use from time to time to pull a car back up for loading/unloading. Knowing it was on a slight grade, it was always a question as to what would happen if the worker who started the car rolling then quickly climbed the end ladder to man the brake wheel didn’t make it in time.

I got my first cab-ride in #399 on my birthday at age 8 when my mom (who seemed to know EVERYBODY!) took me down to the MOP depot (a round-ended brick structure that once saw passenger trains back into town to received/discharge passengers!) and there was the engine sitting there. When she said “those men on the engine are waiting for you, Happy Birthday!” it was truly one of THE best days of my young life. Granted we didn’t go very far, but the one block up and back ride in that cab and actually blowing the horn still stands out as one of the top 5 best days of my life!

That’s MY MOP story… Someday maybe I’ll get back to modeling the west end of GM&O and center in on my hometown and build the MOP branch and put a scrawny 12-year-old kid with freckles and a goofy smile with an orange “safety patrol” belt next to N. Allen street crossing!

Jim Duncan

Warrensburg, MO