“Cotton Belt Engineer: The Life and Times of C. W. "Red" Standefer 1898-1981” By Ed Cooper Reviewed by Andrew Wilson
Mr. Ed Coopers’ book “Cotton Belt Engineer” is the chronicle of one man, whose life ambition is realized when he hires out to the Cotton Belt Railroad in Hamilton Texas. After gaining a toe hold in locomotive service, “Red” Standifier moved with his family to Commerce Texas, where he remained to the end of his railroad carreer. Mr. Cooper directs an insightful view into Mr. Sandifiers’ life as he describes many changes along the way, in nation, in family and in vocation.
The author weaves together a fabric of facts, observations and family stories into a narrative in the everyday life of a Railroad engineer. Like many of his contemporaries, engineer Sandifiers’ greatest career hurdle was the change from steam locomotive to the diesel-electric engine. He accomplished the adjustment but his life on the railroad was forever changed. Author Cooper keeps the reader aware of the world events, as well as family occurrences that were simultaneous to the engineers years
of service. Along the way are periodic interjections of statistics relating to the demise of the beloved steam locomotive, these changes occurring in the early 1950’s. This helps to keep the reader abreast of a timeline in history, and provides interesting factual reference along the way.
“Cotton Belt Engineer” is an enjoyable book to read. You will find yourself interested in the day to day Life of railroading with engineer Sandifier, and in the end wishing for the days of steam again.
Here is my 1/2 cent worth to the subject. Back in 1976 I was a Commercial Insurance underwriter for Floyd West & Co in Dallas & my insurance agent in Waco, TX., Barrett & Co., called me & said he had a vacant building he wanted me to insure. The company didn't insure vacant buildings, so I had to go to Waco & check it out. The vacant building was the original Dr Pepper building where the product was invented. They had 10 days to get coverage, or the building would be razed. No insurance Co. would insure a vacant building, but Barrett was a $1,000,000 agent of ours. I went to Waco & inspected the 86 yr. old building & went to the President of Floyd West & ask him if we could do Barrett a favor & help him out. We insured the building for 3 years. The building turned out to be rehabbed & used for the Dr Pepper museum. If I hadn't gone to Waco that day, there wouldn't have been a Dr Pepper museum. There was rail service that moved the product to other Cities & States. In 1976 , the word railfanning wasn't invented then. Since both my grand dad's were railroaders, when I was through inspecting the building, I would run around Waco watching trains, before returning to Dallas. I guess you could say 1976 was the year I became a railfan. Dr Pepper started out being a scalp & shampoo treatment. How times have changed.