Railroad Stories: Train's Lonesome Whistle Was Unmistakable

When train blew its lonesome whistle, all the neighborhood children came running.

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When I was a small child, approximately 70 years ago, my father was a conductor on the Norfolk and Western Railroad. We lived close to the railroad tracks, with an overhead bridge, and all of the neighborhood children would come running when we heard the sound of the train's lonesome whistle. We would wave to the passengers, and we were thrilled when they waved back.

Our friends envied my siblings and me because we could ride the train free. Daddy had to secure trip passes for us. However, he and Mom had annual passes.

Vacation time meant a train ride to our destination. My sister and I always enjoyed going to the bathroom on the train and seeing the sign that read: "Do not flush the hopper while the train is in the station." We would giggle over the word "hopper" - that was a new word in our vocabulary.

About 10 years after I got married, I was visiting my parents with my two small boys. My father, although retired from the railroad, thought the boys should ride the train. All of the other grandchildren had already experienced the opportunity. He made arrangements for a short train trip, and our sons were thrilled at the new experience.

They got their next opportunity to ride the train a few years later, when they were 8 and 10. It was 1959, and my husband and I, along with our sons, were leaving for the Philippine Islands, taking a ship out of San Francisco.

We purposely chose to travel by train from Winston-Salem, N.C., to San Francisco. The boys were very excited. They had remembered the short trip with their grandpa. They figured this trip, which would last from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, would really be neat. They wondered what could be better than sleeping in our own compartment and eating our meals in the dining car.

Since our trip was scheduled for Easter weekend, I purchased two Easter baskets to give the boys on Sunday morning. What a nice surprise it was for them to wake up with a beautiful basket of goodies beside their bunk beds. "Here comes Peter Cottontail hopping down the railroad trail."

Once we arrived in the dining car for Easter break-fast, we were greeted by our smiling waiter, who told us, "Happy Easter." We had a delicious meal, then returned to our compartment and discussed the real meaning of the holiday. As we were singing softly, there was a knock on our door. It was our waiter holding four brightly dyed eggs for the boys.

It was a good day for the boys. We hid eggs a big part of the day. The boys stayed in the bathroom while I hid the eggs, then we took turns hiding them. We all had a good time, and this train trip still has memories for our family.

Mrs. James (Mary) Lochridge Sr.
Albany, Ga.

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.