A songwriter has written the definitive account of the railroad career of John Jackson Browne, whose life and work was transformed by the Great Depression.
“The Song Of Myself,” published by the Next Big Futures imprint, details Browne’s journey through New York’s Brooklyn Bridge in 1882 as he was the last of the original railroad pioneers to finish his apprenticeship.
Browne began his career as a wagon boy and then worked his way up to the first of two steam locomotives that brought him to the top of the New York City railroads.
The book is based on interviews with Browne, his wife, and his brother, as well as the recollections of his brother-in-law, Charles W. Staley, who was a railroad manager.
In the introduction to the book, Browne wrote that the “last line of the song” was written as a “message to the world.”
The title, he wrote, was inspired by “the train of my life” and “the last line of my song.”
He described the train as a kind of metaphor for the train of his life.
“As I am going along, the rails of my days are drawing near, and the trains of mine are going on ahead,” Browne wrote.
He said he hoped the song would inspire others to write songs about their own railroad careers.
Browne was born on Feb. 8, 1851, in Brooklyn, and moved with his family to the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood.
He began writing songs while a teenager, writing “The Last Song,” “The Story of a Trains Life,” and “The Lament of a Trainman.”
After a few years of writing, Browne took his first job as a driver for a train company in Brooklyn.
He was hired to run a freight line and the first day was a good one.
His father, Joseph Browne, was a carpenter who had worked in the railroad for many years, and Browne went to school at the Staley family home in Brooklyn with his brothers.
After finishing high school, Browne moved to Brooklyn to work for a freight train company.
He joined a local steamboat club, where he became a member of the Youngstown Sock Company.
Later, he worked for a steamboat company in South Brooklyn, where his brother Charles was a manager.
Charles W., Browne’s brother- in-law and railroad manager, worked for the company from 1884 to 1885.
Charles W. was an influential figure in the area and was well-known for his patronage of the local steamboats.
The company had a steam train called the “Staley,” which could carry 20 passengers and 300 tons of freight.
Charles had a daughter named Margaret Staley.
Charles W.’s influence on Browne grew.
Browne continued to write the songs, but he also started traveling and taking part in the local theater and theater companies.
Browne and Charles W.’ s daughter Margaret Stacey were active in local civic affairs.
In 1887, Browne and his wife Helen married in New York, becoming the first married couple to marry in the city.
Browne’s sister Mary Ann was born in the town.
Browne was a popular actor, known for playing a variety of roles, including the “Gentleman Farmer,” a cowboy who is a member the local railroad.
He appeared in more than 50 movies.
During his career, Browne’s first Broadway play was “A Journey Across America,” a story of a journey across America by steamboat from the Hudson River to Manhattan.
Browne also wrote songs, including “The Journey,” a poem he wrote for his wife Margaret, about a railroad journey.
There were other great writers of the era, including Charles H. Dutton, who penned “The Way to the West,” and J. L. Austin, whose poem “The Old Man in the South” was the theme song for the 1893 film of the same name.
As a young man, Browne also produced musicals and wrote songs about the railroad.
A railroad engineer, Browne was married once and had two children: a daughter, Mary Jane, and a son, Thomas Browne.
John Jackson Browne died on Dec. 6, 1915, at the age of 88.
This article was first published by Next Big Ideas.