Railroad Stories: Old Railroad Tracks Were Part of Children's Playground

Children played on and near old railroad tracks.

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When I was growing up, we lived less than a block - just a small alfalfa field - away from where the "Jerky" stormed through our quiet town twice each day. Those old railroad tracks were part of our playground.

We learned early on to "walk seven rails" of track at one time, balancing ourselves without touching a toe to the ground, earning a chance to make a wish. We would place pennies on the rails for the train to flatten, ignoring the warning that such actions might derail the locomotive.

When an approaching train was miles from our local station, we would lie on the ground, amid the wooden ties and the rough, gray gravel, and put our ears on the rail to hear it coming, then laugh at how silly we looked with our blackened cheeks.

We played on the mounds of gravel and sand, which were piled along the siding, telling each other stories we'd heard. We raced down unloading ramps, risking falling, and explored the loading pens in the stockyards, where hobos were said to spend their nights.

When there was a string of boxcars lined up on one of the sidings, waiting to be picked up by the next train, we would crawl to the top of an end car and run across the tops to the other end. Then in the early evenings, we would play inside the cars. Once inside, we would chew mouthfuls of leftover wheat and play "house," while the boys usually played cops-and-robbers.

Fern Ruth
North Newton, Kan.

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.