The History of the B & FE Railroad Company



In 1901 several of the more "well to do" city fathers of East O'Vershu (pronounced East Overshoe) decided that what their town needed was a railroad. This railroad scheme was to get the economy moving again. Mr. Bubba O'Vershu convinced Mr. Al Ways, Mrs. Meg O'Bucks, and Mrs. Candy Kain to put up the necessary money to start the railroad.

It was decided that the railroad should run north from East O'Vershu to Chicago, about 1000 miles away. After much , it was discovered that the railroad would have to start at the small town of Ataway. This was the closest point to which the required equipment could be delivered by rail.

In January of 1903 construction from Ataway to East O'Vershu had begun. By August of that year, the railroad had reached East O'Vershu and the first scheduled freight trains had begun running in September, followed by passenger service in October. Although freight use was not too heavy, and passenger rider ship was light, the East O'Vershu Railroad was running. Remember, this was a tax right off!

In February of 1904 plans were completed to push the railroad on to Chicago. Construction was begun in July and the railroad once again was moving northward. A small mistake was made by the chief construction engineer in August, he got the plans for the right-of-way turned 90 degrees and started laying track due west! This mistake not discovered until october, when the railroad arrived at Podunk Junction. This mistake had taken the railroad some 100 miles west of where it should have been. The chief construction engineer was fired and Mr. O'Vershu and company considered pulling up the tracks and starting over to Chicago.

In March of 1905 high grade tapioca ore was discovered in Weather Rock, just 10 miles west of Podunk Junction. A decision to lay track to Weather Rock was made, and plans to go to Chicago were deferred. The railroad reached Weather rock in April and for the first time the railroad grew busy and made a profit. Until this time the East O'Vershu had been referred to as "The Back and Forth Empty".

Over the next 20 years the railroad prospered. In 1924 coal was discovered in Morroless (pronounced More-or-less), and again the line was pushed west about 50 miles. Plans to go to Chicago were scrapped at this time and were never again considered. However; by 1951 the coal at Morroless, and tapioca ore at Weather Rock had been depleted to a point that only one train a week was all that was needed.

During the boom times of coal and tapioca, the railroad had purchased several new EMD F7 locomotives to replace the aging steam locomotives. With the decline of business and the cost of the new locomotives, the railroad was in very bad financial condition, and by July of 1954 it went into receivership. Yes, things looked bad for the East O'Vershu Railroad again. Most of the on line industries had closed or were shipping by truck. Passenger service had ceased, except during the Christmas shopping season. The East O'Vershu Railroad was put up for sale in July of 1955. By September of 1957 no buyer had been found and the railroad applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to abandon the entire railroad.

In December, Mr. William Jameson, a young man from Sanford who was said to have more money than sense, made a bid to buy the railroad. (Note: The bid offered scrap price for the track, rolling stock, buildings, bridges, and to take over the loans on the locomotives. The property was purchased at fire sale prices.) Mr. Jameson was of the opinion that things could not get any worse, they had to get better. He knew several people who wanted to move their light industries from the cold north to a warmer climate, and believed that they would relocate along the East O'Vershu if given the right incentives. Not only did Mr. Jameson buy the railroad, he bought most of the empty factories along the right-of-way. He offered his friends two years of free rent and free rail transportation of their products after they had moved (any where on the East O'Vershu).

The first thing Mr. Jameson did was to move the headquarters to Sanford. By November of 1961 the track had been restored to Class I standards, a CTC system installed, and motive power was either rebuilt or replaced. His idea of giving his friends free rent and rail service paid off, and soon most of the factories were busy again. Other factories that were using trucks were soon back to shipping by rail as it was once more a cheaper form of transportation.

In 1960 the East O'Vershu Railroad name was retired, and replaced with "The Back and Forth Empty" (B & FE). That is what it had been called by the locals for years, and Mr. Jameson reasoned "That is all I have ever heard it called, so why not call it that?"

Passenger service receiver the same overhaul as other equipment, and by 1964 was showing a profit. By 1970, the B & FE was expanding, and purchased The CLJ Lines which connected to the B & FE at Podunk Junction. Trackage rights for Santa FE from Morroless to Podunk Junction, and Southern from Sanford to Podunk Junction were established in 1975. This agreement included a locomotive pool with The B & FE, The CLJ Lines, Santa FE, and Southern.

In 1987 Santa FE applied to the ICC to abandon it's track to Morroless, and terminated their trackage rights over The B & FE. In June of 1989. The Carolton & Alma Junction (CAJ) purchased the old Santa FE main from Alma Junction to Morroless and started operation. The CAJ was plagued with major track maintenance problems due to years of neglect by Santa FE . There were numerous major derailments as a result of the track problems. It was so bad that the locals called it "The Crash And Jiggle". The CAJ ceased operation in August of 1991 (read - due to a divorce) and the line was operated under court order by The H & GJ Transfer Co. In December of 1991, The B & FE purchased the original Burlington Zephyr 9900. It has been completely restored and is operated on special occasions.

The H & GJ Transfer Co. had started talks with The B & FE in February of 1991 about a joint venture to purchase the old CAJ. These talks resulted in an agreement between The H & GJ and The B & FE to purchase the CAJ in February of 1992 (read - remarried). The agreement stated that The B & FE would upgrade the tracks from Alma Junction (an interchange with the BNSF) through Carolton (the interchange with The H & GJ and the old CAJ) to Morroless and The H & GJ would operate and maintain the line. It divided the rolling stock equally between the two railroads and gave The H & GJ some trackage rights over The B & FE. All of the first generation and some second generation motive power went to The B & FE. The rest ot the motive power went to The G & GJ. All maintenance of The H & GJ and CAJ equipment was handled by The B & FE maintenance crews at Sanford.

Also in February of 1992, Mr. Carmen of the L.O.S.T. Railroad Co.(Love Old Steam Trains or Loads Of Stupid Tourists) approached The B & FE about a deal to interchange with them in Ataway, use The B & FE yards, maintenance facilities, and trackage rights from Ataway to Podunk Junction. The interchange was built and some yard space was set aside, but the use of the maintenance facilities and trackage rights never seemed to work out very well. In 1996 things between the two railroads grew cold and in 1997 The B & FE moved all L.O.S.T. equipment through the interchange on to L.O.S.T. property and removed the interchange. All L.O.S.T. equipment was barred at that time from ever being interchanged with The B & FE .

In June of 1996 trouble was brewing between management of The B & FE and The H & GJ over the haphazard operation and lack of maintenance of the old CAJ line. On August 1st, The H & GJ management issued a cease operation order ( read - due to a divorce again). This left The B & FE to operate the unprofitable CAJ line until it could be sold or abandoned. During October of 1996, the owners of the B. L. Fannin & Co. approached The B & FE about purchasing the old CAJ lines. They were concerned about losing rail service to their plants on the line. Other shippers were also worried the loss of rail service and supported the B. L. Fannin & CO. purchase. To ensure continued rail service B. L. Fannin & CO. started operating the line in early November. A deal was reached for the purchase of the line, and transfer of ownership occurred on October 18, 1997 (read - remarried). The new railroad was up and running with the B. L. Fannin & Co. switcher and two leased locomotives from The B & FE until other motive power arrived.

Today The B & FE is a railfan's dream, it is fast becoming an operational railroad museum. First, second, and third generation EMD diesels can be seen on all sections of the railroad. Several times a year, The B & FE runs the only operational oil fired turbine (ex UP #5) and this always draw a large railfan turn out due to advanced publicity. Several steam specials operate over the system each year and are always sold out. These steam specials are handled by either a Baldwin 4-6-0, ex Southern Pacific cabforward, ex UP Big Boy, or ex Virginian 2-10-10-2. Passenger service continues to draw riders from all over the U.S. and Canada. The passenger trains are handled by a trio of EMD E9's and a rebuilt fleet of 30's 40's and 50's passenger cars. Even in the 1990"s one can still enjoy the comfort of first class travel aboard the train in the style of the 1930's. Annual passenger ridership rivals that of Amtrak's best long distance trains and The Durango and Silverton combined. With the demand on passenger equipment growing, The B & FE is looking for more F7's , E9's and passenger equipment.

The future of The B & FE looks good. New industries are opening all along the railroad; a new vein of coal was discovered at Weather Rock, gas has been discovered at East O'Vershu, a new intermodal facility located in Sanford, and a new Chrysler auto assembly plant has been opened at Ataway. Things do look good again!




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Last update to this page was November 2, 2007