Riding’ the Wabash Hog Special to School

Glencoe: In the old days, students attending Glencoe High School from a distance away to the east faced a transportation problem. The other two High Schools were located in St. Thomas and Dutton, so some found the Wabash train to Glencoe convenient. Others took room and board during the week.

The Wabash Railroad operated a daily local train from St. Thomas to Chatham known as THE LOCAL or THE HOG SPECIAL. It consisted of the engine and coal car, whatever freight cars were necessary for the day’s deliveries and pickups and a passenger-baggage car combination. Students boarded this car at various places across Southwold Township in Elgin County and Ekfrid Township in Middlesex County: Frome, Baird’s Siding, Lawrence Station, Thames River Siding, Middlemiss, Riverside, Ekfrid Siding and various road crossings in between.

Engineers familiar with the route could stop the passenger car right on the level crossing. New men on the job usually didn’t apply the brakes in time and overshot the crossing. This meant a run up the tracks to catch up and climb on. On the return trip in the afternoon, the train didn’t always come to a complete stop at the road crossings and students learned to jump off the slow-moving train, holding a pile of books in one arm, using the opposite hand to grab the hand rail and jump off on the leg closest to the moving car. This allowed a safe landing with a few running steps to stay upright.

According to research by the late Marion Dobie, the train was available to students from when the school opened in January 1989. According to a 1886 timetable, a train departed St. Thomas at 7:25 a.m., arriving in Glencoe at 8:30 a.m. with a stop at Lawrence Station at 7:51 a.m. The same morning schedule was in operation in 1940 except that the train travelled to Chatham and back.

Some in the Lawrence Station area were using it as early as 1914. As many as 20 students took the train during the 1920s.

The fare in the late 1930’s was $3.00 for 20 days per student. Arrival in Glencoe allowed ample time for the walk from the Station to the old High School. Departure at 4:05 p.m. allowed 5 minutes after the 4:00 school bell.

Excerpt from “The 1920 – 30 Period” by Marion Dobie. Golden Days in High School: A History of Glencoe Area High Schools.

Photos from Wikipedia Commons

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