F&P Story Spotlight: JR McNeil

Welcome to the first of what we hope will be many stories about the day to day operations of the F&P RR and the people it employed. Most of these entries are handed down from the people that worked the line between 1880 and 1932.

Sadly, these people have all passed on and we are left with just their memories of the once proud rail line. In 1996 J.R. McNeil attended the dedication of the F&P marker at the rail park in Greta.

Mr. McNeil worked as a fireman in the waning years of the railroad. He started at the young age of twelve about 1920 and continued his job until it closed. He passed away shortly after the dedication of the Gretna monument.

J.R. McNeil in his home about 1996 holding a photo of engine No. 702.
J.R. McNeil in his home about 1996 holding a photo of engine No. 702.

Mr. McNeil was thought to be one of, if not the last surviving employee of the old rail line. With his passing went many memories and first hand knowledge of the F&P but he did pass on some experiences to his son, Donald McNeil of Burnt Chimney.

Donald related the story of his father taking over the job of fireman at the request of the engineer at the young age of twelve. He worked for about two weeks, likely being paid directly by the engineer. At the end of that time the engineer went to the officer in charge of hiring and asked them to hire J.R.

When told he was just a boy of twelve they were naturally reluctant to hire such a young boy but were told he had been working the job for two weeks and doing as well as any man. With the engineers endorsement J.R. was hired and continued working the sporadic schedule of the line until if finally closed.

Soon we’ll post a video interview with Donald, filmed in 2011 at his home in Burnt Chimney. ┬áIn it we talk about what he remembered being told about the F&P by his father.

Like most of us we come to realize too late that when our parents told us things about the past we should have listened closer and ask more questions.

We invite anyone with information or stories and/or pictures relating to the F&P to send them to this web page for possible future inclusion.