Railroad Stories: Passenger Train Travel Was the Only Way to Go

The only transportation with any speed was passenger train travel.

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My mom always told us how she had traveled with her family to Guin, Ala., to see the first train come in on the Frisco Railroad sometime in the early 1880s. She said the headlight looked as if it were as big as the world. Passenger train travel was the only type of transportation with any speed, so that's the way my parents traveled. They took a train trip from Guin, Ala., to Corenth, Miss., and Mom said that my brother never took his eyes off the beautiful overhead light.

He started talking at an early age, and from the beginning, Mom said she knew he was trying to ask her something, but she couldn't understand him. He never gave up trying, though. Finally, one day he made her understand that he was asking about the light in the top of the train.

I also got to travel on that train as a child. It was so plush and, oh, those beautiful lights. I traveled on that same train during World War II, across the country during the blackouts.

My grandfather was an engineer in Georgia, and for a long time during the Civil War, he was expected to work without any relief. He kept saying that if someone didn't relieve him soon, he was going to pull into the depot and walk. Nobody listened, so one day he did just that. Another man was put on the train to replace my grandfather, and on that trip, a trestle that had been torn out caused the train to wreck, killing the engineer.

My grandfather went on to become a "sharpshooter" in the Civil War, and he fought in the Battles of Shiloh and Atlanta. He was so impressed with the country around Corenth, Miss., that he went back, bought a few hundred acres of land, and made Corenth his home. That's where my father grew up and studied to be a Pinkerton Man for the railroad. He went to Alabama for a visit, where he met my mom and her family. Mom and Dad fell so in love, that he forgot his love of trains.

I am sad to see our old railroad landmarks go away. At our house, you could hear the whistle, smell the coal smoke, and hear the wheels on the rails when rain was on the way and the wind was from the south.

I used to stand on the platform at the depot with my parents and watch the trains come and go, along with all the people. Sometimes we would see criminals being loaded on the train to be taken to a prison.

I have good memories of trains.

Edith Shelton
Midway, Texas

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.