Engine 1809, the Sobbing Black
by Jessica Kelly
Slaton Harvey House
April 4, 2017
He is just a little guy, but his dreams are big.
Ozzie, his brother, and his parents came to stay at the Slaton Harvey House Bed & Breakfast in September 2016. It was his sixth birthday and, being the train enthusiast he is, spending the night in an old train station was a dream come true. His parents, new to the Lubbock area, were thrilled when they found our little house of history, knowing that for Ozzie, a night spent here would be the greatest gift.
His family toured our little town of Slaton, visiting the town square and spending some time taking in the majesty of 1809, the monstrous steam engine that was dedicated to Slaton in 1955 and sits on City Hall’s lawn today, its presence still commanding attention in our little square. Engine 1809 is surrounded by a chain link fence, but Ozzie would have climbed aboard if he could.
Back at the Slaton Harvey House, the train lover’s face lit up with intrigue and excitement as he perused our small railroad artifact collection, the Brakeman hats and coats, the pictures. As a train approached and the building began to rumble, Ozzie ran to the window, eyes wide and bright, eagerly anticipating it’s passing. He didn’t take his eyes off that train.
He gets it. At his young age, he gets the power and mystique of the railroad. According to his mother, Ozzie has been a train fan since he was two years old and started playing with his junior Thomas the Train wooden engines and track. “He’s graduated to elaborate wooden track sets, including real life types of engines, like the Santa Fe, and has an electric Santa Fe that runs the perimeter of his room, close to the ceiling, that his Dad made for him. At Christmas, Ozzie’s Granddaddy’s full sized Lionel Train comes out to run around the tracks at the base of the Christmas tree. No matter what the size or type of train, Ozzie loves them all!” she said.
He is connected to his past, a legacy of railroaders before him. He was quick to tell me that his granddad worked for the Frisco line, and even quicker to rattle off the cache of facts and trivia he’s acquired in his short life. He understands the power of the steel rails, the importance of its history and future, and he plans to honor it.
The family visited us again in March. They brought Ozzie’s grandparents to experience the legacy of the Slaton Harvey House. Ozzie’s mom asked if he’d shared his life goal and vision with me; when he’s a grown up, he wants to restore The Sobbing Black.
The Sobbing Black is Engine 1809, the retired steam engine on the Slaton square that captivated Ozzie in September. When asked why he named it “The Sobbing Black,” Ozzie said “The rust had bubbled up the paint to where it looked like it was crying. And from my Peanuts Cartoons, I knew that sobbing means crying hard, because some of the characters would have a bubble beside them that said ‘SOB!’”
Ozzie’s dream isn’t short-sighted, and he already has his restoration plans lined up. He says he is going to ask his Dad to replace the missing glass and weak wood, his Mom to scrape off the old paint, and his brother Leo to get the wheels in working order. Ozzie plants to paint The Sobbing Black all by himself.
His mother said he’s drawn many pictures of his beloved Sobbing Black, and even made little books titled “Me and The Sobbing Black.”
His long-term dream is to be the engineer on the fully functional 1809. He is planning to let dogs ride in a separate car, and has asked to borrow our caboose (the wooden Fort Worth & Denver caboose – currently under restoration – which sits outside the Slaton Harvey House).
Ozzie’s excitement is contagious, and we were blessed to make his acquaintance, and that of his brother and parents, who encourage and support his big dreams.
This is more than a six year old boy. Ozzie is hope for our future. He and his family are sure to bring honor to the railroad for years to come, and I doubt we’ll wait until he’s a grown up to get him on board. His parents have already asked if Ozzie and his brother Leo can come volunteer some time, and we look forward to the inspiration and magic that they’ll bring to the Slaton Harvey House, the railroad, and to Engine 1809, Ozzie’s vision, The Sobbing Black.
Ozzie at the Harvey House