The Day the Iron Horse Finished Last in a 10 Horse Race

This story was written and sent to me by my father, John Rogers. I look forward to posting more of his stories in the future! Read on…

Back in the late ’60s I often worked on a train that ran between Massachusetts largest town, Framingham, and Providence, Rhode Island.

This train carried a lot of paper from the mills in Maine to the railroad’s Harlem River terminal in New York City. If you read the N.Y. Times back in those days, the paper it was printed on probably traveled on this train.

About halfway down the line below Framingham is the town of Foxboro. There is a long hill in Foxboro and part way up this hill was a “sulky” horse race track called Bay State Raceway.

Today this is the home of Gillette Stadium, and our champion Boston Patriots play there.

When our heavily loaded train started climbing this hill, it slowed way down. It was common for racing horses to pass by the slowly moving train on the far turn before the home stretch.

Guess I should explain: “sulky” races are not like the Kentucky Derby. The “jockey” sits on a 2-wheel contraption pulled behind the horse, and there are (or were back then-??) two kinds of sulky race horses–trotters and pacers. Forgotten which is which, but if a race is for trotters, the horse must do just that.

He can not gallop away like the Lone Ranger on Hi-Ho-Silver.

If a trotter breaks his stride, the jockey must rein him in until he regains the proper stride.

As our train was heading up the hill past the race track, a race started, and was going along fine until the horses were nearly half way around the track. Then the last horse, already 20 lengths behind the leader, decided he didn’t want to trot any more and started galloping away like the Lone Ranger’s Silver.

His jockey was trying furtively to get him back in stride-without having much success, when our train engineer, Manny Butler, decided he would toot his train horn a couple of times. Guess Manny thought this would calm down the errant last horse.

It didn’t. The poor horse got scared out of it’s wits and turned completely around and started galloping around the track backwards.

Actually, he almost got to the finish line ahead of the other 9 horses, but of course he was running backwards-like a kid running the wrong way in a football game.

So our train, with it’s Iron Horse, slowly crept up the hill and went by the finish line–in last place!

End of story? Nope.

When we finished our run to Providence, Manny got a call from our boss. He was told NOT to blow the train horn while going up Foxboro hill again–unless it was an emergency.

And from that day onward until he retired, Manuel Butler was known by the nickname “Crazy Horse”.


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Author: John Rogers

John spent most of his adult life working in the railroad industry. He is now retired and enjoys road trips, watching trains, and writing.

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