Gunther and His Railroad by Morton Morris
Page 5

     There were indeed many novelties connected with a trip to Coney Island in those days. On one trip, I remember, a dispute arose between the conductor and the engineer. When the train arrived as far as Unionville, the engineer left his cab, and, surrounded by the interested passengers, the rivals settled their dispute by a fist fight. After the engineer said that he had enough, all hands boarded the train again and the remainder of the journey commenced.
     To be better fortified for one of these trips, it was the regular custom for nearly all of the male passengers, before starting on the long journey to Coney Island, to take a drink of stimulants at the saloon in the depot at 25th Street and Fifth Avenue. An engineer by the name of Maierhultz and his train crew one time were in the saloon drinking and playing poker, awaiting for the time for the train to start. There was too much money on the table when the gong sounded announcing that it was time for the train to start. So they took no notice of the clanging gong, but finished out the jackpot, the winning man set up the drinks to the waiting passengers, the crew leisurely lit their cigars, and then we all boarded the cars and started, some twenty minutes later than the regular schedule time of leaving.
     After a few years of this sort of service, Mr. Gunther bought two new engines, naming them after his sons, Christ and George. Later he bought two more, naming them after his two daughters, Meme and Maud. A few years later he added two more and called them Sentinel and Clifford.
     Always in the spring of the year the old engineers would come around and apply for their old positions. Each engineer took a personal pride in the engine over which he had control, and was allowed the privilege each spring of painting his own engine according to his own ideas.
     There was one engineer who had served in the war of the rebellion, and who was particularly patriotic, who painted his engine red, white and blue.
     Gunther saw it from a distance, on its first trip, tearing across the country, and he was frantic.
     "For God's sake, Drummond," he said, when he overtook his engineer, "whatever possessed you to paint that engine red, white and blue?'
     "You're a true American, ain't you?" said Drummond.
     "Yes, but-but-"
     "Well, so am I."
     "Yes, but that engine looks like a traveling barber shop."
     Gunther could not convince Drummond, however, and the latter quit his job rather than submit to any alterations.
     The engine was afterwards painted according to Mr. Gunther's ideas.
     It was painted a flaring yellow.
     Drummond was one of the most popular men, however, ever on the line and it was only a matter of time before Gunther took him back into his employ.
     Many of the residents along the line used to get Drummond to buy various things in the city for them, thereby saving them a long trip. in this way and others he began to make considerable money, and each day, after his last run, he would have quite an elaborate supper spread before him at the old Tivoli Hotel, at Coney Island, which he would relish while he made up his daily cash report.
     One night while Drummond was in the midst of his feast, Gunther came along and saw him. He was dumbfounded, and some hot words passed.
     "Drummond," said Gunther, "I believe that as a conductor you are making more money out of this railroad than I am as its owner."
     "Look here, Gunther," said Drummond, "you tell me how much money you want for your railroad. I'll buy it from you. Then I'll hire you to work for me and give you a chance to get your money back."


This picture marks the final end of Gunther's era on the West End. The first electric train from the Fifth Avenue L arrives, with everyone getting in the picture.   Paul Matus Collection.

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Link: Bits of Old New Utrecht Road from Gunther's era survive today.

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Copyright 1974 by Third Rail Press, 1999 by The Composing Stack Inc.
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