Railroad Stories: Lonesome Whistle Was Comforting

Listened to mournful sound of train's lonesome whistle every night at bedtime.

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When I was growing up in Iowa, each of the small towns we went to for marketing had train tracks crossing one edge. I got used to watching the trains go by, as we sat waiting for a clear road ahead. At night, I snuggled down in bed and listened to the comforting yet mournful sound of the lonesome whistle echoing across the cold, still Iowa plains. Later, when I went to work in California, that same train took me home on vacations and in the summer.

One spring, a light rain shrouded Los Angeles' Union Station as I walked across wet asphalt toward the building. I stopped just inside, my bleak mood interrupted by the impact the place had. The vaulted ceiling lifted my senses and expanded my feelings, pulling me toward the train tracks.

Trains on tracks, the hustle of loading, steam, people and "all aboard," kept the June gloom at bay. I found my place, arranged my things and settled back, watching the rain sweep across the tracks, my mind adrift. Then the train eased out, and with its motion, I slept.

All the way across the Western states, I alternately dozed, then roused to watch the moving countryside.

Needless to say, I arrived in Omaha, Neb., refreshed and invigorated. Mother met me in the station. I could not wait to get home and reach the shelter of the woods, to sit beneath the oak trees and watch the water burbling over the stones of the brook, on its way to the river. All of this was possible for me because of that great train ride!

Barbara Queen
Rosemead, Calif.

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.