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Railroad freight included bodies, bread and birds

Coming down the tracks today are more railroading stories, including these from Jim Larson of Detroit Lakes, Minn., past president of the Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

Jim, although never a full-time railroad employee, used to spend summers helping his father, Harry, who was a Railway Express manager.

His dad's job, Jim says, was riding the trains and handling whatever was shipped. This included:

- Cream cans

- Bundles of magazines

- Money, which is why Harry was bonded and carried a pistol

- Fresh bread from bakeries

- Bodies of people who had died elsewhere and were being sent home for burial

- And lots of animals, sold by Montgomery Ward, including dogs, a goat and parakeets, which once got loose and flew around Harry's car.

Jim taught criminology at the University of North Dakota for 36 years and now is retired. But he continues to promote GN's historical society.

"I feel a debt of honor to all railroad employees," he says.

Goose saves the day

"The Galloping Goose leaving Fargo on the southwestern branch line saved my day."

So says LeRoy Sly of Dilworth, a retired engineer who worked for the Northern Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads for 44 years.

"I was called early Monday morning to work on a work train going to the Streeter (N.D.) branch line from Dilworth," LeRoy writes.

"We stalled at Lisbon in the Sheyenne Valley on the work train, unable to make the steep grade due to a rotten boiler. I called the Dilworth roundhouse for water compound and valve oil.

"(An engineer named) Ed delivered the supplies on the Goose. We met the Goose on Ed's return trip from Streeter. He stopped, asked how the engine was working, spit out a clump of tobacco and waved goodbye.

"Later I was notified that the Dilworth roundhouse had failed to wash the boiler. But there was no investigation."

But once again, the Galloping Goose branch line train delivered.

Incidentally, LeRoy also remembers the railroad spur, long since torn up, which came out of Casselton, N.D., and which was called the Langer Spur in honor of Bill Langer, North Dakota's late governor and senator and a resident of Casselton.