Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
She found me by looking for connections to Herman Haupt, but when Olivia and I spoke (for 34 minutes) on Tuesday morning it became clear that she and the director of the series under development were more interested in the records I have of my great-grandfather.
Before I even had a chance to offer, she asked if I would be able to bring some of the original documents that inspired my research and book. As we spoke, it became more apparent–to me, at any rate–that they want to tell the stories of specific individuals who worked on Combat Trains.
She mentioned “ambulance trains,” then corrected herself and said she must remember to call them “hospital trains.”
“Oh, yes,” I said, “John Bailey ran hospital trains. In fact, he was awarded ten days leave and a free pass on civilian railroads for ‘extra service performed.’ My uncle told me that the men called those trains ‘pestilence trains’ because most of the soldiers transported back to hospitals were sick with smallpox or typhoid.”
Then I added, “I have that pass, signed by Superintendent E.L. Wentz.”
She promised to send me specific dates by the end of the week–and she did: “Great to speak to you. I am SO enjoying your wonderful book! I haven’t had the full time to read it I would have liked but am faithfully carrying it everywhere with me in the hope of an hours train journey with a seat! I am at chapter 7 and steaming ahead.
“Re dates – Does it work in any way for you to meet us on Thursday 4th of June 2015 at the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, in Strasburg? I am still waiting to hear back from them about the bridge exhibit but it looks like a great location to capture some of the stories at a good backdrop!”
Well, of course it works!
And this morning I found a photo in the Library of Congress archives, taken by Andrew J. Russell, Haupt’s favorite photographer, of the big military hospital at Alexandria–with a train in the background.