Tuesday, May 10, 2022

‘Railroad Degree recap’

Wilmington & Western Railroad: ‘A Museum in Motion.’

So the Saturday before last was the long awaited occasion of the Railroad Degree in Delaware. Ionic Lodge 31 and Solomon 36 conferred the Third Degree outdoors alongside Red Clay Creek, to which we traveled by a historic train.

We were blessed with perfect weather: sunny blue sky at 63 degrees. I wound up with half my face sunburned, looking like Bro. Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, and I’m pretty sure that was the first time I ever wore sunglasses in lodge. A soothing breeze vexed the sound system, but the audio was more than adequate. From the bluegrass music played while the lodge was on Refreshment, to the spoken words emanating from the officers’ microphones, being outdoors did not diminish our sense of hearing. Nor did our sense of taste suffer. While the tenth hour ante meridiem is a little early for a plate of brisket, it was a wise menu choice to fortify us for an afternoon in the wild.

The brethren sold 140 tickets to this singular occurrence—my ticket was No. 139–and we, plus all the officers, ritualists, stage hands, and grand lodge staff occupied every square cubit along the periphery of the little patch allotted for the lodge furniture and the floor work. A small space indeed. Despite being outside, the circumambulating Senior Deacon had to negotiate some very tight corners.

Three lanterns about the altar.

And that furniture exhibits loving craftsmanship, with a railroad theme evident throughout. The Three Lesser Lights are railway lanterns; and the Master’s and the Wardens’ gavels are rail hammers, with short sections of genuine steel track for sounding blocks, for examples.

The sound of the gavel in the East.

Furniture not provided was seating; each man brought his own chair. Being in the Brandywine Valley woods meant planting one’s seat on terra that wasn’t necessarily firm or level. One sideliner in the north reclined a little too far, and found himself executing an oafish reverse somersault into the dirt! No physical injury reported, just some grass stains on his clothes. (Okay, okay, it was me.)

Sal Corelli photo

And on the subject of attire, when the hosts here tell you to dress casually, take them at their word. Overalls, train engineer garb, and similarly suitable garments distinguished the lodge officers from the rest, who sported denim, khakis, flannels, and sport shirts. Only one present had a jacket and tie (me again), but the informality of dress was meaningless against the skill and solemnity of the ritual work.

The preparation room.

Solomon Lodge provided the sole Fellow Craft, who benefited from a truly Sublime Degree of Master Mason. I’ve never been an expert ritualist, but I’m 95 percent sure the Delaware work is about identical to what we in New York have. Although being on a riverbank affords potential for some creativity. When the Ruffians get their comeuppance, hefty rocks are chucked into the flowing waters, making deep booming splashes signifying You Know What.

One curious difference is how their officers remain seated when addressed from the East. They salute, but do not stand.

Well, I stand to applaud these outstanding Masons for their degree work and for hosting a complicated event while making it look easy. (Next up: They’ll confer the “Cave Degree” in Tennessee in August.) Huzzah!

Sal Corelli photo

Sal Corelli photo


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