Document Collection

Bella B. Toner, telegrapher

Reading Railroad Magazine

Mrs. Bella B. Toner, agent, New Centerville.

We also see her at the old tape Instrument, one of the last two on the Reading

Woman, 70, Served R. R. Half Century

New Centerville Telegrapher Still Sticks to Old Ticker

SEVENTY years old and holding the distinction of being the oldest woman telegraph operator in the country, Mrs. Bella B. Toner has spent fifty-one years—or more than two-thirds of her life—as station agent for the Reading Company at New Centerville, on the Philadelphia-Chester Valley Branch.

Bella gardeningAn ancient "tape" telegraph instrument — so ancient the Reading Company boasts of only one other like it in hundreds of stations on the railroad—is used by Mrs. Toner to send and receive messages.

For fifty-one years this white-haired woman, the mother of three children, all long since grown up and with families of their own, has been employed by the railroad. As station agent she has handled all baggage, messages, tickets and the other duties that fall to the lot of a village railroad representative.

Mrs. Toner married at the age of 17, and her home and the station have always been one. The first floor is divided into two rooms—the ticket office, where the tape telegraph ticker reposes, and the waiting room.

A quaint story revolves about the venerable "ticker." Years ago the railroad introduced a new instru­ment into the office, but Mrs. Toner, after a trial, declared she could not master it, so it was removed and the old machine reinstated.

With summer approaching Mrs. Toner has turned her attention to the twenty-five fat hens and a pedigreed rooster which are her pride and joy. Her garden patch is also receiving its quota of care. During the winter the aged station mistress knits and crochets during her odd moments.

She is not alone in her railroad service, for the wife of one of her sons is station mistress at King of Prussia, just below New Centerville, and another son holds a position with the Pennsylvania Lines.

Chickens are her pets Mrs. Toner also spends her spare time at work in the garden.

--Evening Public Ledger, March 26.

Bella & Chickens