Sunday, June 1, 2008

Longtime Mansfield Branch Agent Retires

Jack Brady Recalls When the Mansfield Line Was In Its Hey-Day

Oct. 20, 1959

The Great Northern station here isn’t exactly as hectic as Grand Central Station and so Station Agent Jack Brady has time to talk about the old days along the “Mansfield Branch.”

The “Mansfield Branch,” of course, is the 60-mile rail line which leaves the Great Northern mainline at the mouth of Moses Coulee, and pierces into the heart of Douglas County’s wheat country.

Brady knew it in it hey-day when it was not only busily hauling wheat out but also when the daily train had a couple of passenger coaches and a baggage car.

There was also the shortline railroad from Waterville, which had as much as $3,000 a year in business, writing 40 cent tickets. Folks used it to get to Douglas, where they’d get on the GN (The life of that Waterville line was finally snuffed out by the 1948 flood which ruined sections of its track).

Those were the days of no roads. The daily train, said Brady, “took about three hours to Wenatchee. It left Mansfield at 8 a.m. and was back at 8 p.m. But in those days it was ‘try to get back at 8 p.m.’”

It hauled everything, wheat, freight, express, baggage, mail and people.

Brady had gone to work for GN at Ayr, N.D., Feb 1, 1910. He came to North Central Washington subsequently and went to Douglas as agent in 1917. He served elsewhere from 1925-39 but otherwise has been the agent at Douglas ever since.

The 1920s brought roads. People began ignoring rail travel as a means of getting to Wenatchee. The passenger service finally ended.

Nowadays, says Brady, “We get sometimes three trains a week, sometimes tow, sometimes one, depending on the volume of wheat you have.”

Brady has been a roving agent, working not only the shipment and billings out of Douglas, but other points along the Mansfield Branch as well. But now, at age 65, he has chosen to retire. What are his plans? “Nothing. Period!” he says.

Then he adds he might to some puttering around the yard and in his home workshop. And like other ex-railroaders, he’ll probably drop around the station once in awhile, too.

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