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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Of Marbles and Trains

At the beginning of Chapter 3 of Tom P’s Fiddle, the McGee brothers are playing marbles. Hand made glass marbles on the American frontier would have been a novelty.

Although games using marbles have been around for thousands of years, the Romans are given credit for modern games using marbles or ‘nuts,’ especially during the winter solstice (Saturnlia). Although the Roman rules have been lost, the enjoyment for youngsters throughout the ages has persisted.

Marbles are made from many types of materials including marble, clay, china, and glass. The early glass marbles were hand made. A German glass blower in 1848 invented marble scissors. In the early Twentieth Century, a machine was invented to make uniform glass marbles.

Also in Chapter 3 Tom P offers to take his nephew Gus McGee into Hillsboro to see the new train station. The MKT, or Katy Railroad as it was came to be affectionately called, was incorporated in 1870 as the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad.

The Katy railroad arrived in Hillsboro in 1881. The Katy shops brought jobs into the community. The depot was located close to downtown. Today the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce is located in the original depot.

Railroads brought a revolution in transportation for Texas and other states. Citizens quickly embraced the possibilities, and towns vied to have the railroad built nearby.

Trains played a large role in the story of Tom P Varnell as anyone who has read the book would agree

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