I too flattened pennies on the tracks, though
consumed with horrible visions of overturning the Sacramento & Northern
diesel locomotive. These engines meandered through Oakland before
stopping in the yard which was roughly at the south terminus
of Claremont Avenue. The routing brought through the lower Montclair
district, an odd dogleg I never understood, though I am one of
the few who remember why Trestle Glen Road was so named.
These were switcher engines, and I believe
they were used for the entire route. They never had much of a
car load, just one or two boxcars and a caboose. and one day
they just stopped, I am guessing about 1958-1959. As a youth
I feared mightily that I would get caught "trespassing" on
the right of way and be charged with conspiring to overturn a
locomotive, but, some older kid had told me he had done it, that
anybody could do it if they didn't get caught, so of course I
had to try it too.
As I got bolder, I would lay several pennies
out in a line on the shiny metal rail, and sometimes a pebble
or some other object I wanted crushed. Then I would hide in the
bushes where I could try to observe what happened. No railway
detective would ever think to look for kids hiding in the bushes!
The train was so awesomely huge and noisy there was never anything
to observe. The ground would shake, a rumbling, groaning, creaking
parade of giant iron wheels would roll by, and then it would
be quiet again.
The results of my efforts were some fine embossed
oval copper plates for my secret treasure box. The most prized
of these has split Abe Lincoln's mouth wide open into a gaping
maw that made him resemble a shrieking, laughing bearded baboon.
I showed this to my younger brothers and, with great persuasive
force, managed to get my brothers to try it too.
It was shortly after that that Sacramento
Northern ended this run forever. My brothers asked me if this
could be because we did not stop putting pennies on the rails.
I felt a guilt that we had not shown more friendliness to such
an old institution.