The Erie Railroad's Finest - Railroad Police, Fire and Safety Forces
From the November, 1926 issue of Erie Magazine:
Erie's Police Department is as Good as they Make 'Em
In this number of the Magazine are shown pictures of a dozen members of the Erie Railroad Police department, six of whom serve in the New York Region, three in the Ohio Region and three in the Chicago Region.
A fine-looking, clean-cut group of men that will compare favorably in appearance with a similar group of "the finest" anywhere. They are, indeed, typical of the other members of the Erie Police department, wherever stationed.
In these days of bold depredations by thieves and crooks that do not hesitate to "shoot on sight," a railroad policeman has to be a man of nerve and daring. He must not only be utterly fearless but must possess probity and sound and mature judgment, to circumvent criminals and safeguard the company's interests. "A policeman's lot is not a happy one," said W. S. Gilbert many years ago. It is an extremely dangerous one nowadays when bandits have not the slightest regard for human life.
Getting down to brass tacks, the individual records of the Erie officers whose photographs are given in this issue of the Magazine are:
NEW YORK REGION:
L. McGuill, chief; entered service as captain Jan. 1, 1918; promoted to inspector March 1, 1918; furloughed Oct. 15, 1918, to take charge of terminal special squad, U. S. government; returned to Erie Railroad as chief of police March 1, 1920.
Sergeant Henry Zieran: aged 39; entered service Feb. 9, 1920.
Sergeant Chester Ottinger; age 27; entered service April 13, 1925.
Patrolman William Buckles; age 28 ; entered service April 25, 1923.
Patrolman John Watkins; age 33; entered service Dec. 19, 1924.
Patrolman Joseph Koning; age 43; entered service April 3, 1919.
Walter J. Redman (above); entered service of Erie at Galion, O., April 28, 1904, as patrolman; promoted to lieutenant, July 19, 1905; promoted to captain at Jersey City, Jan. 1, 1908; promoted to chief, lines west, March 15, 1913; appointed chief of police, Ohio Region, March 1, 1920.
John William Holt (above); entered service of Erie, Feb. 4, 1916, as patrolman at Jersey City; steward in Dining Car department, trains 5 and 6, March 1 to Dec. 1, 1917; transferred to Police department, lines west, and stationed at Youngstown as detective sergeant, Dec. 1, 1917; resigned April 15, 1918; re-employed April 2, 1919, as patrolman at Youngstown; promoted to sergeant, March 10, 1919; appointed lieutenant, Dec. 16, 1919; appointed lieutenant, chief's staff, Youngstown, April 1, 1920; appointed inspector of police, Ohio Region, Sept. 16, 1925.
Joseph Herman Mayer (above); entered service of Erie as patrolman at Mansfield, O., April 23, 1913; promoted to sergeant at Cleveland, July 1, 1913; promoted to inspector at Youngstown, Nov. 15, 1917; appointed chief, Hornell Region, March 1, 1920; sergeant, Mahoning division, June 16, 1923; promoted to division sergeant, Youngstown, Aug. 15, 1925; appointed lieutenant, staff of chief of police, Ohio Region, at Youngstown, Sept. 16, 1925.
D. L. Sturrock (above): age 42; entered service of Erie, May 26, 1913, as yard watchman, Meadville, Pa.; promoted to patrolman at Meadville, June 16, 1913; promoted to sergeant at Kent, O., April 20, 1914, and the position being abolished, Aug. 1, 1914, appointed patrolman at Kent; promoted to sergeant at Meadville Oct. 1, 1914; made captain, Nov. 15, 1914; promoted to inspector of police at Youngstown, March 1, 1920; became chief of police, Chicago Region, Sept. 6, 1925.
J.O. Sheets (above); age 29; entered service of Erie as patrolman, July 13, 1920; appointed sergeant, Dec. 5, 1920; promoted to lieutenant at Chicago, Aug. 16, 1922; appointed sergeant at Lima, O., April 25, 1925; transferred to Chicago as sergeant, Dec. 1, 1925.
C.L. Ramsey (above); age 41; entered service of Erie as patrolman at Akron, O., May 10, 1919; appointed sergeant of police at Mansfield, O., June 1, 1920.
Problems of Railroad Police
By L. McGuill, Erie Chief of Police, Jersey City
In comparing the railroad Police departments of today with those in existence during the period of federal control of the railroads, a marked improvement will undoubtedly be observed. During the World war, there was a great demand for labor, high wages in war industries were the rule, railroad yards and terminals were congested, and millions of men were going into the United States service, making the police problem more difficult to handle than it is now.
In that time of rush and excitement the freight car operator (car thief) was especially active. Silks, clothing and the finer grades of metal, shipped by rail, were in demand in the underworld and ready receivers of stolen goods could always be found. Today the former railroad car thief is apparently confining his attention to bootlegging, as more fascinating and profitable.
At the termination of federal control of the railroads we probably had in the Erie police service on what is known as the New York Region nearly double the number of men we now have. In one office, fifteen men were engaged in investigating car robberies. Today we are doing more efficient work with four men. Large thefts were then an almost daily occurrence, and to combat them additional men were taken on, many of them incompetent. We have not only brought the former record of losses down to a minimum, but are able to find time to assist in other phases of railroad work. H. C. Barlow, Erie general freight claim adjuster, has figures showing that from January to July, 1918, robberies in one Erie railroad yard amounted to $250,000. At that time a ten-thousand-dollar robbery was a small matter, and it was nothing to see that amount of recovered cloth and silk piled up in one room. Stolen freight was recovered in many western cities. There was a theft of $35,000 in quicksilver which, rumor said, was conveyed by river pirates in a craft to a German submarine resting at a certain point in the New York harbor. There was much violence in those days. Men were shot in the back. An old man, protecting a railroad silk shipment, was beaten to death by a gang of thieves and left lying on top of a box car. Guns were tried out on him after his skull had been crushed with blackjacks.
In those days most applicants for railroad police duty walked away when assignment to certain thief-invested yards was mentioned. Others sought work simply for the opportunity to become looters themselves. There was little time for the investigation of records of "candidates" for jobs.
Today the Erie railroad yards are generally as peaceful as a flower garden. The old-time "car rattlers" have passed out of the picture. The epitaphs of a few have been written, while others are serving time in prison. More time and care are now given to the hiring of new men. Previous records are investigated and finger-prints taken, and it is not uncommon now for our policemen, after a time, to be chosen members of the police departments of first and second-class cities, and even to be appointed as chiefs of police in the smaller towns. The Erie police officer, when thoroughly educated in his duties, must have a practical head and use good judgment where rules cannot always be written for his guidance.
One of our most trying problems is that of combating the growing tendency of boys to trespass upon railroad property and engage in depredations. We are and have been doing considerable missionary work in visiting the parents of such boys, the schools and the churches, and pointing out the danger of walking on railroad tracks, tampering with railroad equipment, stoning moving passenger trains and the like. We are gradually bringing the public around to the point of view that we do not persecute but prosecute when prosecution is the only means of stopping the practices complained of. We feel we are entitled to the support of the public in our effort to curb the practices of the thoughtless or vicious juveniles.
From the October, 1926 issue of Erie Railroad Magazine:
Sergeant Lewis Bloom
A Man of Height and Brawn
A fine type of man is Lewis Bloom, of the Erie police force at Middletown, N.Y., 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds.
Bloom is an ex-service man, having served three years in Co. K, First Pioneer infantry. He saw fourteen months of actual service in France, and was honorably discharged from the U.S. service, July 16, 1919, with the rank of sergeant.
Bloom entered the Erie Police department service on Sept. 20, 1924, and last June was promoted to sergeant. He is married and has three children.
From the May, 1910 issue of Erie Railroad Magazine:
Early issues of Erie Magazine often carried monthly summaries of arrests made by its police force. The following list of offenses detected by Erie Police - just the facts - comes from May, 1910:
Number of Arrests and Offenses:
320 - Train Riding
25 - Vagrancy
45 - Drunk & Disorderly
18 - Trespass
5 - Carrying Concealed Weapons
9 - Breaking & Entering
3 - Burglary
69 - Larceny
12 - Malicious Mischief
6 - Assault
13 - Receiving Stolen Property
3 - Stoning Trains
4 - Suspicion
4 - Drinking on Pass. Trains (Ohio)
1 - Insane
1 - Contempt of Court
1 - Perjury
1 - Deserter from US Navy
1 - Shooting with Intent to Kill
541 - Total
534 - Convictions
138 - Prisoners Fined
74 - Prisoners Sent to Jail
18 - Sent to the Penitentiary
21 - Held for Grand Jury
200 - Sentence Suspended
33 - Discharged with Reprimand
5 - Discharged
19 - Probation Officer
6 - Sent to the Reformatory
1 - Sent to the Asylum
1 - Turned Over to US Authorities
Number of Fares Collected 25
Amount of Fares Collected $29.02
Amount of Fines Paid $886.05
Other Money Collected $61.30
Value of Property Recovered $500.25
Time to be served - 19 years, 10 months, 25 days
Arrests By Division:
127 - Meadville Division
110 - Mahoning Division
105 - Delaware, Susquehanna, Allegheny, Bradford, Tioga, Jefferson & Wyoming Divisions
89 - Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls Divisions
72 - New York Division
38 - Chicago & Erie
An example of the sorts of offenses follows:
"Tossing pig iron from trains on the Niagara Falls Branch, with intent to steal, caused Lawrence Nowacki, 15, and Nagalus Kalowski, 16, to fall into the hands of the probation officer, and others may be arrested. Conductor Healey, at the East Buffalo, NY depot, reported to two Erie officers May 1 that a gang had thrown about two tons of pig iron from some passing train. Going to the point indicated, near the N & C bridge, they saw the thieves piling up the iron. Giving chase, they succeeded in catching Nowacki, who later implicated Kalowski. One and a half tons of the iron was recovered."
At the time of the above report, the Erie Police were led by Gen. George J. Schoeffel. Click Here for biographical information.
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