Railroad Stories: Lonesome Whistle of Trains Was Family's Clock

Steam engines ruled the rails, and their lonesome whistle blowing was always right on time.

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Trains were a very important part of my early life. At the beginning of the Depression, my family moved from Charleston, W.V., to the country. Steam engines ruled the rails, and the lonesome whistle was our clock.

One summer, a work train was doing some ditching and at the time, we lived about 20 feet from the tracks. My brother, Tom, and I were watching everything they did. We didn't notice the engineer walking up behind us until he touched our shoulders. He asked us if we would be interested in catching some crawfish for him to use as fish bait.

Of course we would. We caught about 50 or so from the creek behind our house. Then we put them in a box filled with damp grass. That nice engineer gave each of us a quarter for our efforts. We thought we were rich.

The next day, the engineer told us to climb on and he'd give us a ride. Now this was big time. We probably rode three quarters of a mile, stopped, unloaded a car, then went back. We thanked him, then got off the engine. I will never forget that day.

James R. Kennedy
Leicester, N. C.


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.