Punkin Vine

Oregon Short line freight at Falk siding 1938.  Locals called the train various nicknames. like “Pufferbelly” or “Punkin Vine.” There are local myths, or tales, that are repeated by so many, that no attribution, can be made.  Are they accurate? I don’t know, but so many claim them as a “personal experience” that maybe they are true, but most likely not to the person telling them. Example: this train ran two trips per day–leisurely trips.  Sometimes so leisurely that when the men on the train saw pheasants in a corner of a field (as pheasants are wont to do in NP) they stopped the train and got their guns out to shoot some pheasants.  Growing up in NP in 40s-50s this was actually common for us to carry a shotgun behind the seat of our pickups for just such an opportunity. Pheasants just love to hide by a corner of a field, kind of out of sight, next to a fence or tree row, especially early in the morning. So the story indeed sounds valid, but who knows who originated it.

Also, most likely true, is the story that early on, one could flag the train down if you were somewhere along the rails–did not have to be at the depot.  At the time, this was a common courtesy of stages (at first), then trains, and then buses. When I  came home after discharge from overseas (1957) the bus driver dropped me, and my luggage, off at Butte Road near my home, a simple courtesy.

BTW: Bob Chilcott (Bob Pritzl told me) took this photo of the train passing Falk siding sign. The photo has gotten out into public so you see it often. Having the siding meant longevity for Falk.  It was simply much more convenient for Pences and other ranchers up Big Willow and along the lower Emmett Bench to drive their herds to Falk stockyards and board them on the train.  This likely extended the town’s longevity for almost 40 years.

Other stories abound like the one of Pence or other Willow creek ranchers driving stock over the first Falk bridge.  The sychrnonized walking of the stock would amplify the vibrations until the bridge itself was in danger.  Some of these stories embellished with the bridge collapsing or being damaged. The truth?  Well it seems realistic that cattle walking can certainly have that effect.



Because it was a spur of the mainline RR the Punkin Vine it did not carry a regular schedule.  However for years it came by twice per day, then after the 50s, it would simply come  by on a need basis.

BTW: This easily modified casual  schedule has some very bad side affects.  It is so common for locals to not see a train on this track, that they tend to forget that a train actually uses it.  This has caused the death of at least two of my friends.  Local farmers burn the weeds on their ditch banks–a farming tradition and necessity.  This smoke drifts across the road (Butte) obscuring the train.  When cars come to the RR crossing they tend to drive in center of road–that can cause a head on crash if someone is coming the other way–or it can put them right on the track when the occasional train comes.  A barrier coming down or red signal lights could prevent this mayhem.  I have no idea why this has not been done.

This same RR eventually went thru Emmett and up the river to Payette Lakes and McCall where it hauled logs down to Emmett mill on a regular basis.

Local freight — like sugar beets would be done on temporary sidings that sprang up on a need basis.

The Hengler packing house had a permanent siding as did other packing houses in both New Plymouth and Fruitland.

Sweet corn canneries, like the regional disbursement center on Butte Road also had sidings.

The freights that serviced this section of track between New Plymouth and Fruitland were short ones, merely picking up the few cars from each special use operators, pulling them to Payette freight yard where they would be put into the long lines that went cross country, or in the case of sugar beets to the Nyssa plant, or when it closed down, to the Meridian plant near Boise. Sugar beets would be unloaded at a temporary location, gathering the haulings of the fields nearby, and then daily loading onto cars on the siding.  Beets need to go to the sugar mill daily or they begin using their stored sugar lessening the sugar produced.

Farmers all must use packing houses of some type.  Example: Payette had Payette Creamery — its major job producer — Butter branded “Challenge” with Payette elk emblem — where my dad sent milk from 1934-1965.  It was a type of “packing house.”

In citrus, packing houses work charging for their services in various ways. They can take a set fee, a percentage of crop, etc.  Sometimes they will even manage the entire crop or just the picking.  The best ones have their very own salesmen who travel east to find a market for their particular produce. Sometimes the end user is a grocery chain. Sometimes its a middleman, sometimes a distributor.  In the end the farmer who is cagey enough to form his own association ( I was in the carrot association “Bunny”) or manage his fruit’s eventual sale is the one who survives the cull, stays in business, and/or makes money.  Like any industry, the same principles work.  10% do very well. the next 10% do ok, and the lower the percentage the shorter and more costly the stay in business.

Since that farming time in 60s-70s, other machinery I had was for a recycling company I operated in CA, NV, AZ. Each team had (1 or2)D-8s, (2-3) 4 yard loaders, a large excavator, an 18′ tub grinder, a loader/separator, (4-5) 18 wheelers, (6-8) trailers, maintenance truck, water truck, various pickups for crew.  Usually we had at least three teams — that is 1 to 2.5 million in equipment needed for each location operations.

CA and other states had air quality problems, so forbade farmers burning old orchards being removed/recycled. Usually farmers at end of cycle for different fruit or vines, simply bulldozed the trees out and into a pile and burned them. When air quality regs stopped this, then it created an even bigger problem — over filling county dumps.  It is extremely difficult to open any new dump! So fed regulations required county dumps to decrease by 50% what went into the dumps. Enter recyclers like me. The dumps would segregate trash coming into dump into recyclable — save it in big piles. I would bring my equipment, grind it all up, and sell the chips to co-gen plants that burned it at high temps eliminating the smoke problems and creating electricity and reducing by 50% what went into dump.

We had “green waste” from entire cities — that we “composted” — spreading the compost on farms — where we grew fast growing trees or Kenaff (to make newspaper) that provided more recyclable biofuel. We developed business to take out orchards — welded giant tooth on bulldozer blade — that tooth was pushed under the trees — and walking the tractor down the row lifted trees completely out of ground and laid on side. Then loaders would push/carry to tub grinder. Then excavator would load into tub grinder and hold them down while grinding them up. Then chips loaded into semi-trailers they were hauled to co-gen.  Some chips were processed for playgrounds, gardens, a lot were colored and spread on golf courses Vegas/Phx for the golf course “rough.”

I see tree crops around NP that will provide such biofuel. My company, Wood Industries Company (WICO), produced the prototype tub grinder for Diamond Z in Boise, who makes the best tub grinders in the country (in my opinion).



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