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The “Y”


Even towns of moderate size had a “Y”, especially those with railway workers. From the railroad’s point of view, the “Y” was a stabilizing element for a largely unmarried work force. In addition to clean beds, nourishing meals, and the punctuation of periodic prayer, these facilities provided recreation — billiards, cards, etc. — that kept the men out of pool halls and taverns and got them to work on-time and sober.

The cost of these facilities was borne by two sources: churches (usually Protestant and more often than not Methodist) and the railroads themselves. This is an image of the railway “Y” owned and operated by the Big Four at Mt Carmel, Illinois:


Sometimes they strove for an institutional look; sometimes aping the shapes of overgrown houses — as in this case. But they were usually near the depot, roundhouse, rail yard complex where the men worked, probably for a combination of supervision and convenience.

Agincourt’s “Y” was church affiliated: a joint venture among several denominations, but located immediately north of the Methodist church. Built about 1908, it eventually connected directly with the 1920 church constructed next door.

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