Q: What lubricant would prevent a man from being crushed to death beneath a locomotive turntable? A: Wood alcohol, apparently.

A gentleman who tippled overmuch found himself in the Railroad Square area one evening in 1908, looking for a place to have a bit of a lie down. The big turntable used to turn around the California Northwestern steam locomotives looked like a cozy spot, so he crawled underneath. The next thing he knew, he was dead.

Or so thought the train's crew, at first bewildered as to why the turntable stopped moving, then alarmed to find a lifeless body gumming up the works. As they were waiting for the Coroner, the former corpse began twitching and moaning. The man rose, asked the crew for the direction of Sebastopol, and tottered off into the night. When the police arrived, they told the skeptical officer, "He is not here, but when we called for the patrol he was dead."

BONUS 1908 DRUNK STORY: An inebriated man became so enamored by a poster of a pretty actress appearing at a Petaluma theater that he "began to make violent love" to the billboard (the Press Democrat just meant kissing, unless "kissing" was a euphemism for something not to be mentioned in a family newspaper). Believed to be insane, he was arrested and taken to the county jail in Santa Rosa. The next morning he appeared before the Lunacy Commissioners and convinced them that he only puckered up because he was liquored up.

Frank Hatton Discharged by the Lunacy Commissioners on Charge of Insanity Here Thursday

His love promptings fired, it is said, buy an over indulgence in "high balls" and "cocktails" in Petaluma, Frank Hatton, a San Francisco man temporarily stopping in the southern city, began to make violent love to a lithograph displaying the attractive face of a theatrical star appearing at a Petaluma theater. It was charged that he kissed and kissed again the picture on the bill board and his conduct was that of an insane man in the eyes of a number of people. He was violent and was finally captured and brought to the county jail in this city.

When brought before Judge Seawell on Wednesday he appeared to have recovered his senses and the effects of too much booze had vanished. Thursday morning when he appeared before the court and Lunacy Commissioners J. W. Jesse and P. A. Meneray he was questioned and admitted his foolishness in over indulgence and his osculatory assault on the picture on the wall. He was discharged and possibly his experience in a cell set apart for insane people will do him good. The doctor agreed that it was a case of too much liquor.

- Press Democrat, June 19, 1908

Man Apparently Killed in the Turntable at the Depot Last Night--Coroner Sent for by Train Crew

A corpse at the Northwestern Pacific depot Monday night would not wait the arrival of an undertaker or Coroner Frank Blackburn, the just walked off into the night without as much as giving any name. Incidentally Engineer James Ahern, Fireman Goodman and Brakemen McPeak and Ferguson were given the scare of their lives.

After the arrival of the last train from San Francisco Monday night the big locomotive was run onto the turntable for the purpose of being turned around. The motive power for moving the turn table was furnished by the members of the train crew whose names are given above. They had the table and the great iron horse on top of it turning merrily when all of a sudden the thing refused to go any further.

"Hold on boys," cried Engineer Ahern, "someone must have got down underneath the table."

The torch was brought and to their horror the men discovered that the body of a man was wedged in under the turn table, and that it had stopped its further movement. A hasty examination was made of the man's body, but there was no sign of life.

"Go up town and send in a message to the Coroner," said Engineer Ahern, "we must get the body out of there as soon as possible."

The messenger started up town to call the Coroner, and the other members of the train crew stood around in silence, as they supposed in the presence of death, feeling mighty glum at the gloomy ending of the day's work.

Suddenly there was a twitching of the hitherto motionless body, followed by a groan.

"Get a doctor and not the Coroner. Call the ambulance. Do anything, but he is come to life again," shouted Ahern, and he at once knelt beside the man and commenced to rub his chest. This treatment improved his condition rapidly, and before the patrol wagon could arrive he stood up, rubbed his eyes, said he would use some wood alcohol out of the bottle he carried in his pocket, and which did not break in crushing process, upon his sore head and chest, inquiring the way to Sebastopol and struck out.

When the train crew had recovered their composure, "No. 21" was given the merriest kind of a ride around the turn table and the men went off to their supper. Engineer Ahern said later in the evening he never was so surprised in his life to see a dead man come to life.

It is supposed that the man went asleep at the turn table, and possibly may have taken a "night cap" before laying down to what miraculously did not mean the last, long sleep for him. He was a short, rather heavy set man, and was quite well dressed. No doubt today he will feel rather sore from the pinching given him in the turn table Monday night.

Police Officer Nick Yeager responded to the call for the ambulance and hurried to the turn table with the wagon, and when he got there the "dead or dying man" was not in sight. "He is not here," said the trainmen, "but when we called for the patrol he was dead."

"Sounds mighty fishy," quoth Yeager, somewhat disgruntled and out of breath. "But hurrah for the corpse, anyway."

And the casket rode back empty on the floor of the patrol.

- Press Democrat, November 17, 1908


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