Railroad Stories: Military Trains Were Everywhere in the 1940s

Military trains were a common sight during World War II.

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I was 11 years old in 1941, when World War II began. The railroads immediately became the means of transportation for the military. It was a daily occurrence to see passenger trains moving in each direction with waving soldiers hanging out of every open window. Freight trains were an equally common sight. Military priority took preference over all civilian travel. It was next to impossible for anyone other than military personnel to travel by rail.

Gas rationing grounded automobiles. Since I was too young to drive, it wasn't an option for me anyway. This, coupled with my need to travel, brought me to the bus. I made many trips between Denver and Buena Vista, Colo.

In 1947, I joined the Navy in Denver, and was given a week to return to Buena Vista, Colo., to settle my affairs before heading to boot camp. They gave me a voucher to catch the train, and when I expressed my preference for the bus, I was informed that the military only used the railroad.

I reluctantly boarded the train for what was to be a very enjoyable and memorable trip. We headed south, making two passenger stops. A swing to the west took us to our next stop. We had just entered the Royal Gorge, when the train stopped and the passengers were allowed to step out and admire the view of the sheer rock canyon and the suspension bridge, 1000 feet above.

The trip resumed, and I have to say, it was the most scenic adventure I've ever had. It was also educational. I learned to close the window in a tunnel. The smoke and cinders have to go somewhere, and if the window is open, they'll go in it. The trip lasted nine hours and was a day well-spent.

I am sorry to say, that experience is no longer available. I didn't realize that trains were passing into history until they were gone.

Ted Knuckey
San Bernardino, 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.