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Here's Mud in Your Eye!

A steady hand and 20-20 vision made for a perfect eye doctor.

Cliff Beagan

During the steam days, one of the minor job hazards was to get a cinder (or cinders) in your eye. I remember one brakeman in particular who was permanently assigned as a Passenger train baggageman as a result of actually losing the sight in one eye from a hot cinder he received at Medonte. If memory serves be right, his name was Nels McMaster. He was the only person I
had heard of losing an eye, but there were countless times when a member of the head end crew experienced this aggravation.

I became 'the expert eye doctor' on the Bruce, and many times my medical talents were sought after in the Van Alley at MacTier. The 'doctors tools' consisted of a long wooden match stick and a Vogue cigarette paper coupled with a very steady hand, perfect vision, and patience. I would first place the wooden match stick horizontally in the center of the top eye lid, gently grab the eye lash with the other hand, pull upwards, and turn the eye lid inside out to expose the inside of the lid. If the patient was lucky, the cinder or cinders would be slightly 'imbedded' on the inside of the lid. I would 'lick' the end of the folded cigarette paper and gently nudge the cinder to remove it. This action sometimes took several attempts before the cinder was dislodged and the hand had to be steady throughout the procedure. The worst case scenario was when the cinder was imbedded on the eyeball itself. I would never attempt to remove the cinder if it were on the 'retina', but if it was elsewhere on the eye ball, I would follow the same procedure and gently move the moist paper against the object. I had a very steady hand and performed many successful operations including those on myself. Most of the head end guys wore goggles as did some of the brakemen when riding the head end but I never wore them. I would still prefer the cinders to the smell of diesel fumes though.

Fixed Signal

Rule Book definition: A signal of fixed location indicating a condition affecting the movement of a train or engine.

Old Joke definition: A student brakeman a night with his lantern blown out and cinders in both eyes!


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