News of World War I Armistice Travelled by Rail
Among the many interesting artifacts to be found at the Daviess County Museum is this small piece of paper. It is a slip of what appears to be scrap paper, written in black ink it reads:
Germany Signed armistice
6 Pm - Kaiser fled to Holland
Initials unknown 2:20 Am
Explaining the somewhat cryptic message:
1/88 This is the identity of the train the message is intended for, in this case the digit 1 before the slash designates it as the first section of train number 88, a regular scheduled eastbound freight train.
Shattuc Is the name of the Train Order Office delivering the message to the 1st section of train 88. It is a location in Illinois, along the former B&O line to St. Louis.
The body of the message is clear.
The initials of the operator are illegible. The time is 2:20 AM.
The news of a new armistice and a cessation of hostilities in Europe spread quickly. The Washington Democrat reports that upon hearing the news, B&O shopmen formed an impromptu parade, and took it upon themselves to inform the populace of the city of the great news. Equipping themselves with torches and fusees (railroad term for flares) for light and “anything that was capable of making a noise” the workmen marched through the city streets and not a section of town was overlooked. Sleepy residents are said to have appeared at their windows and doors in their nightclothes, awoken by the celebration. Newspapers report that the parade extended over several blocks and the flaring lights made a beautiful scene.
Locomotive and Shop whistles were sounded and local church bells along with the courthouse bell rung jubilantly. One local newspaper, The Washington Democrat reports on the upcoming peace that “the gang of butchers of Germany had conformed with the terms of the countries fighting for the world’s freedom”.
Also present on the front of note are some notations in pencil “10-11-18” in the upper right hand corner and “This from Washington DC.” down in the lower left corner which appear to have been added at some point. The date(?) is somewhat confusing… It is known the Kaiser did abdicate and flee to Holland on 11/10/1918 and by the next day Germany agreed to an armistice. It may be a date in the format as they are displayed in Europe, day/month/year or possibly a typo.
Back side of scrap paper message was written on. Note the folds in the paper indicating it was among other Train Orders and Messages routinely delivered to crews of passing trains on the fly (without stopping) by means of an operator neatly folding the paperwork and tying it with string, then attaching the bundle to an apparatus designed to hold the string in place in such a manner that the crew of a passing train could pick them up as they passed. The delivery apparatus could either be hand held by the operator or a permanent fixture along the right of way.
B&O Train Order Office and Interlocking Tower at Shattuc, Illinois in the early 20th century.
B&O Railroad Photograph
Information contained in this article was drawn from news articles of the day and artifacts contained in the Daviess County Museum collections. It was submitted by Chris Palmer, a member of the Daviess County Historian team. Clarifications and comments are always welcome. Email: email@example.com