The Queen of France Arrives in Rocky Mount by Train


It was a cold February day in the early 1980’s  when Special Agent Fred Holdsworth received a call that a woman riding the train had refused to pay her fare. Thinking he would have to take her off the train upon arrival in Rocky Mount, the Agent was glad when the lady, wearing a big green winter coat, disembarked. When he asked her name, she replied, “I’m the Queen of France.” Playing along, the agent asked,  “Your majesty, who is going to pay for your ticket?” “My government will be sending the money in a few days,” she answered. Back then, local motels took turns taking in people off the train that needed assistance. After welcoming her, the motel clerk announced, “Your majesty, you are in room 113.” She had a request. “I’d like a bowl of fruit sent up.” “We haven’t any fruit just now, but you’ll have a clean and comfortable room with a TV.” Her Majesty’s next accommodations were over at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro. Months later, in hot July, while having lunch, Agent Holdsworth looked up and saw the Queen, still in her green winter coat, come into the coffee shop in the midst of a group of women. (The church ladies occasionally took people at Cherry Hospital out for lunch.) We don’t know how this story turned out, but we can hope that in the words of the illustrator, Mary Englebreit, that if this lady wasn’t the queen of everything, that she turned out to be the princess of quite a lot. 

When special agent, Holdsworth began his career in June, 1974, the railroad was called the Seaboard Coast Line. In September 1987 when he retired, it was known as the Chessie Seaboard X. A young boy with a mother who worked for the chief surgeon of the railroad in Jacksonville, he grew up loving trains, the art of investigation, and reading file cases in crime magazines. For three summers during college he got up early and drove from FL. to Waycross, GA. to do everything from dirty dog work to bull gang, and clerking. Eventually he was certified in Raleigh with a written test to join the police agency. His job description has quite a ring to it: the investigation of depredations against company property! Long hours, hard on ones personal life, his job went far beyond meeting the Queen of France.

Railroad police monitor and secure the facilities associated with railroads including stations, warehouses and fuel depots. They ensure that only authorized personnel are on trains. They investigate thefts, property destruction or vandalism.  Ensure the security of tracks, patrol the cars and detect suspicious behavior or packages. They investigate any disruptions to rail service. Briefly, this gives you an idea of the scope of the job.

Special Agent Fred Holdsworth’s story will continue tomorrow. See you then.


The Charlie Baker Switch in Rocky Mount, NC

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