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The Brodhead Depot

Submitted by Ray Evans

The following was submitted by Ms. Peggy (Hurt) Daniels and published in the Mt Vernon Signal in the August 13, 1998 issue. A reference indicates that it was also published in the February 23, 1961 issue of the Signal. It was also published in the 1992 Rockcastle History book which was published by the Rockcastle County Historical Society.

The Brodhead Depot

“Here She comes.” “Is she on time?” Magic words that made the heart beat a little faster. Words that made many of us dream of far away places with strange sounding names.

What is all this? Why, of course, it’s one of the four daily passenger trains pulling into the station at Brodhead.

The Louisville and Nashville Railroad was to the residents of Rockcastle County, and Brodhead, what the Mississippi River was to Mark Twain.

Brodhead was considered somewhat of a railroad town with so many of the men living there while working on section gangs, or as station operators, engineers, conductors, or on bridge gangs, or other railroad related jobs.

The Brodhead depot was the center of social life for the community, with peak interest being on Friday night and Sunday evening. Those were the times the workers would come home on Friday and leave on Sunday. Also, weekend visitors arrived on numbers 21, 22, 23 and 24.

As the trains arrived, you could hear the word go through the crowd, “Who’s that?” “Wonder who they are visiting?” “Why, there’s old Jim Jones, haven’t seen him for some twenty-five years.” All who got off the train were greeted with a hug or a handshake, no strangers here.

Charlie Hurt, agent/operator, was Mr. Louisville and Nashville Railroad. One had to see Charlie to ship freight, buy a train ticket and even find out if the train was on time. It was said that he could even get a ticket for you to go ‘clear to California’ by railroad.

A true story was told many times about Charlie’s efficiency as the station agent. A shipment of live honeybees arrived at the depot in Brodhead and Charlie was faced with the problem of getting the bees in a hurry to Henry Crawford who had ordered them. It was Sunday and no delivery was possible and there was not a phone on the Crawford farm. Soon, however, Charlie saw Crawford’s dog outside the depot. He lured the dog in with some food, and wrote a note about the arrival of the bees, attached it to the dog’s collar, and then “shooed” the dog homeward. Within the hour Henry arrived to pick up his bees. Efficiency? I’ll say.

Each freight train crew had his own signal, or whistle, when passing trough Brodhead. Two short blasts let all know that Sam Long was the engineer. One short and two longs meant it was Ed Hurt, brother to agent Charlie Hurt. One short, one long and a short toot, toot was Russell Atkinson. Thus, the message went out to say hello to family and friends alike -- all is well, don’t worry.

The depot was built at two different times. The freight room was built in 1880 and used only for that purpose. Offices, and passenger waiting rooms were added in 1914. The company maintained 24-hour service, with three operators, an agent, an assistant agent and freight handlers.

At one time, Brodhead served as a water station for engines for all trains on the Lebanon Branch of The L & N. It also served as a lunch stop. Many people still remember one could order a box lunch of sandwiches, or, if you were really hungry, a two piece chicken dinner with two vegetables, homemade bread, drink and a piece of homemade pie. This would set you back thirty-five cents! Three local restaurants handled the task, these were the Frith, Murphy and Clark establishments.

But then, the unthinkable happened. A fellow by the name of Ford invented a contraption called a horse-less carriage. Dirt roads became two-lane highways. “Cars” as many people called them, could zip along the highways at 25 to 30 miles an hour. From that day on things were never what they used to be at the Brodhead depot; or, for that matter on the entire L & N system, or anywhere else. An era had ended, “progress” had taken over, and on December 31, 1954, the order came down to close the passenger service. A freight station was maintained for a few more years, then that too was soon closed.

After fifty-five years of service with the L & N and forty-eight as agent at Brodhead, Charlie Hurt closed and locked the door for the last time. Maybe, just maybe, we all shed a small tear when that was done. Soon the depot was torn down and all trains ceased to run. The three restaurants are gone, the water tower was dismantled and the tracks are in need of repair. What is the old depot site now used for – a parking lot for that contraption, the horse-less carriage.

(Note: Subsequent to when this was first written, The railroad tracks through Brodhead were taken up about 1986. Peggy (Hurt) Daniels is the granddaughter of Charlie Hurt. Henry Crawford (1906-1970) who had ordered the honeybees is the father of my wife Norma Crawford Evans.)