Railroad Stories: Classmate's Illness Led to Clickety-Clack Adventure

Clickety-clack memory goes back to the 1920s

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There have been many high points in my life that have left an unforgettable memory, and this clickety-clack memory takes me back to early school years in the 1920s. I had not been in school long, when someone in my classroom became ill, and they sent our whole class home.

We lived on Lake Street, about a mile from town. To reach the main part of town from our house, you could either follow the road around the lake, or take a short cut by way of the railroad tracks. The tracks cut through the lake with a culvert to let the water flow freely between the small body of water and the large area of water, which was the lake proper. It was a lot shorter to walk the tracks instead of following the road, so most everyone on our street used this route to go to town, or for us to go to school.

Our town was a railroad center, so the one set of tracks entering town quickly spread out into six or eight sets going toward the round house and railroad station. We children always walked the back tracks when possible, as it was safer. They were less likely to be in use, and they came out where we could follow a path to the back of the school.

The day they sent our class home, I didn't know what I should do. I had never walked to or from school alone before. I thought I could go into my sister's room and wait for her, but they said I couldn't. So I bravely set out for home. About halfway there, I could hear the sound of an oncoming train. It was only an engine being used to make up a train in the yard.

Then I heard a man's voice.

"Little girl, what are you doing all alone?"

I told him what had happened, and he smiled. "Who's your father?" he asked me, and I told him. Then he surprised me by saying, "Come on, we're taking you home."

After helping me into the engine, they showed me around, explaining how they shoveled coal into the furnace to build up steam to run the engine. I stood beside him while we started up and drove down the tracks as far as the crossing.

"Do you know where you are now?" he asked, and I told him I did.

My father smiled when I told him about my adventure, for he knew the man who took me to the crossing.

But for a brief exciting time, there was only me, the engineer and that powerful engine.

Vera R. Houle
Troy, Mich.


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community