County WIGenWeb Project
and posted by RITA
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from Oconto County Past.
is left, or what was left
until recently, of the old days.
the very old city of Oconto got the nickname "Jab Switch"
Don't be caught asleep at the switch!
understanding (from old stories) is that their were several railroads
that converged in the old City of Oconto. Some of these regularly
hauled logs in to the mills, others hauled cut lumber out to various
distribution centers in major cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago,
there were passenger trains in several directions, trains that
hauled farming products, trade good, factory goods, materials for
making goods, coal for factories and the railroad engines, salt for
winter roads, live cattle and fowl to stockyards and markets (no
refrigeration), and more. Some trains to be sent to sidetracks to wait
to be loaded and unloading or for other
trains to pass in the opposite direction. It was a busy place and the
tracks were constantly being “switched” to route
the trains in the right directions.
The poor souls
who manned the switches carried “Jabbers”, which
were wooden or metal poles with a hook and heel on one end, to
move/jab the switches that moved the tracks to connect properly. They
were given signals from a person stationed in a tower overlooking the
switches as to how to set the switches, sometimes several at a time.
The tower man would yell
“Jab Switch” down to the pole man on the ground to
get his attention and then signal which switchs to move to which
tracks....usually in a hurry for the next train was right behind the
he was switching. “Jab Switch” was yelled so often,
day and night, that it stuck as a city nickname. The pole men were also
responsible for shoveling snow around the actual switches and the
switch tracks they controlled. They did this at night by lantern as
well as daytime. Some of the old switches were locked with a sturdy key
to keep them from being thown when they were not supposed to be.
I have not seen this
in writing, but it was passed down in the many generations of my pioneer
– Oconto County WIGenWeb Coordinator
Railroad switch (left) and tracks (right) similar to the
old ones of over 115 years ago. These are not as old, though.
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