Sunday, March 1, 2009


The Sunday posting on Time Goes By mentions railroads and of course that triggered some memories for me. The next thing I knew I was knee deep in railroad websites. Railroad people are definitely Obsessive/Compulsive!

Ronni said she was from a railroad family and in a small way, I was as well. During a few years in the late 1940's I lived with a family in Colton, California and the father in that family was a fireman on a switching engine in the Southern Pacific Colton yards. And after school, his son and I would ride our bikes down to the yard and set out across the tracks to find him. You have to imagine the major switching hub on the west coast where dozens of trains were made up every day. Switching engines and cars going everywhere as we hopped over tracks and between cars as we ran from engine to engine until we found the right one. Then a hand was extended and we were invited aboard to 'help' with some serious railroading. The firebox door was opened so that we could see the flames and sometimes we were allowed to hold the bronze lever that controlled the speed of the small switching engine. And if we were really lucky, we were given a tour of a one of the big steam engines that was sitting cold and silent, waiting for their train to be made up.

And once or twice a year we would go to Union Station in Los Angeles to pick up our grandmother when she traveled south from Seattle. We would wait on the platform and watch as the big engine slowly rolled to a stop in a cloud of steam and noise. It doesn't get much better than that when you're 8 years old!

Then, in 1961, I took a train all of the way across the country, Starting in Wilmington, North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast line and finishing up 5 days later at that same Union Station. It should be noted that I had a return trip ticket but I cashed it in and took an airplane back to Camp Lejeune. Railroads had lost their charm.

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