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Elegant Lady - - - With a Past

Four Eights Won Her Hand
by Larry Crittenden
True beauty never dies! Therefore, all ladies are truly beautiful - and Rio Grande's boom car for the Salt Lake City, Utah wrecking crane is no exception.

Look at her. What do you see? A flat car with weather-beaten floor boards scarred by heavy tools and machinery and work-train service, her parts unbecoming-ly exposed to the elements? Of course, but there is something more. Note her figure, streamlined, unencumbered by frills, utterly naked in simplicity. There is an aura of mystery and intrigue about her, a past glamour that gives her char-acter.

Utopia of the Day

She was born a great lady. The Barney and Smith Car Company built her in 1910 for the Mexican government. She was to be the private, luxury car of President Francisco Madero. Her interior of solid mahogany boasted an ornate built-in sideboard with leaded glass doors. Tapestry covered the great couch and chairs in her salon. Deep carpeting was used throughout. Anticipating the difficulty of the times, bullet-proof glass was ordered for her windows. She was indeed the "Utopia" of the day.

But that day never came. Before she could be delivered in all her splendor, the Madero regime was overthrown - Pancho Villa, the revolutionary general, was terrorizing the countryside. She was denied forever her political glory.

She became the mistress of the wealthy. Bought by the Marlin Oil Company, she was the highest standard of leisure and idle pleasure. Haughty and regal, she reigned queen, pampered and boasted over. Then one night, evil again embraced her. The air was heavy with smoke. Her beauty was unnoticed. Men sat around her table playing poker. Often she had witnessed exchange of moneys, great and small, with not one whit of compassion. But tonight was different. Suddenly she became the pawn, put up for a stake. In a matter of seconds she was lost to a hand of four eight's.

Four of a Kind

Her new owner, proud of his dexterity, had "8888" painted in gold over the doorway to her vestibule. She wore them not as an adornment but rather as a badge of defeat. Her tastes were expensive. Her demands outweighed her values in pleasure. Again she was put up for sale.

In the early 1930's she was purchased by William Freeman, president of the D&SL Railway for about $25,000. Again she promised luxury and ease, a position of prominence and desire. Vixen that she was she must have smiled at such arrogance. The I.C.C. ruled that private cars could no longer be transported throughout the country on various railroads at no cost. Now a set fee plus a fare for each passenger must be charged. This defeated any personal plans. The car was never used off the Moffat until Mr. Freeman's retirement. Judge McCarthy succeeded him and later was appointed trustee of the Denver & Rio Grande Western, at which time the car was used on both roads.

Wheels of Fortune

In April 1947, when the Rio Grande and the D&SL were consolidated, the car was placed in the Business Car pool as No.105. It was shortly thereafter that ill fortune struck again. Fire was discovered between the walls of No. 105, alias "8888," while en route to Salt Lake City. Passengers, routed from their sleep, escaped unharmed, but the fire could not be extinguished.

Angry flames devoured a path to her salon. At first the four 8's were lighted to the brilliance of a neon sign. Then they began to blister and finally to disintegrate to oblivion. It was as if her shame was at last purified by fire. Her revenge was complete.

Her damage was so extensive she was beyond repair, but not beyond hope.

Don't say she is now just a boom car. Should you see her around Salt Lake City, tip your hat, for here is a lady worthy of your respect. Born to grandeur, she has risen to greater destiny - service to mankind.
 

Denver & Rio Grande Western Logos used with the permission of Union Pacific Railroad

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