The Station Pot-Bellied Stove


as told by the late George G. Ayling,

retired LIRR station agent



Do you know how the station agent used to “pretty-up” his waiting room pot-bellied stove?


Passengers would love to spit on the stove to see it sizzle(!!!!).  (Guess it didn’t take too much to amuse the commuters from the turn of the last century!  Plus, there were spittoons everywhere, as many people used to chew tobacco back then. DK)


The agent would take a tin of black shoe polish and cover the entire pot bellied stove with it while it was cold.  Then he’d fire up the stove.


When the stove began to glow, the shoe polish would burn off and turn the entire surface of the stove white!!!!!


Many times the stove in the waiting room and the stove in the ticket office were connected by an almost-horizontal connecting stovepipe,  visible below the ceiling of the waiting room. These stoves shared the stovepipe as well as a common chimney.


After many years of soot build-up in this almost-horizontal stovepipe, the weight would cause the pipe on occasion to fall onto the floor of the station.  When this occurred while the stoves were in operation, hot ash would be spewed everywhere, usually setting the depot building on fire.


This very thing happened at the old, wooden Brentwood depot in 1903 while the station agent and his clerk were out to lunch.  They came back to see the depot half-gutted.


Another anecdote kept from being lost to history!


Dave Keller