Great State: From Rails to Plates
ENID, OKLAHOMA — You might have run across old railroad plates and never known what they were, but ‘Watermelon’ Campbell has always known where to find their retired service.
“I have 1,081 pieces,” he boasts. “There are very few patterns that we don’t have.”
His father worked for the railroads.
Campbell started his own railroad career in 1939. “I worked 42 and a half years,” he states. “And I’ve been retired 25 years.”
He knew early on that plates and cups made easy souvenirs for travelers.
Railroad companies jealously guarded these custom made items.
Stewards serving meals were often held responsible for any missing piece.
Campbell says, “Whenever they changed crews they would inventory the china to the next crew.”
If a passenger line changed their service pattern employees were directed to gather up every piece and break it.
“Well,” smiles Campbell, “the guys that were supposed to break it up and bury it didn’t do it all.”
As the old railroads merged and died off, the old passenger lines faded into history.
But just a few of the old plates and cups silver knickknacks, made it through.
Old hands like Watermelon kept their eyes peeled. “I started buying it on E-Bay and going to train shows,” he says.
There are pieces in his collection that even books on the subject say don’t exist.
At age 91 ‘Watermelon’ Campbell just smiles and points inside one of his glass cases.
The trains that carried these plates pulled away from the station for the last time years ago.
But here they are, saved, along with all kinds of other railway gear.
They don’t serve ‘Watermelon’ anymore.
He serves them.
The Railway Museum of Oklahoma is located on North 7th Street in Enid.
The website is http://www.railwaymuseumofoklahoma.org