Railroad Stories: Riding the Rails

Will never forget experience of riding the rails.

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In 1937, I left home for Chillicothe, Mo., to attend Chillicothe Business College. I boarded the Chicago Northwestern Railway and rode to Omaha, Neb., where I caught the Missouri Pacific Eagle, and continued riding the rails on to Chillicothe.

I traveled that route many times while in college, and it was an experience I will not forget. In those days, trains zig-zagged all around, picking up and letting off passengers and freight at every little town along the way.

After I graduated from college, I was determined to be a success, so I headed for Chicago to seek my fortune. My dad took me to the train station in Gregory, S.D., and he cried when we parted, saying that this was probably the last time I would be living at home with my family.

Once I arrived in Norfolk, Neb., we had a layover so the conductor could eat lunch. My grandfather met me there and joined me for the remainder of the trip to Chicago. Apparently, my folks had arranged this so there would be someone to watch over their daughter.

Once we got to Chicago, my grandfather saw to it that I got settled in my residence with a friend from college. Then he left for his son's house, where he stayed the whole time I was in Chicago. Eventually, I got homesick, and Grandfather and I took the train home, where my father got me a job at the local bank.

After more than a year in Norfolk, I headed for Washington, D.C., to live with my friend from college again and to serve Uncle Sam. After a couple of years in Washington, I moved to Kansas City, Mo., with my sister.

When we arrived in Missouri, I was met by my special friend from college. We took a few train trips together to his home in Kansas and my home in Nebraska. On one of the trips to my hometown, he asked my father for my hand in marriage. We were married in 1943, and I made many trips on the Eagle to visit my husband, who was in the Air Corps, stationed near St. Louis.

Mostly we drive now, and I am reminded of those many trips on the rails. Sometimes I can't help but mimic the conductor as we drive along through familiar little towns, now ghosts of the past. The rails have been rolled up to make bicycle trails along some routes in Nebraska, but trains were an era of my girlhood that I will forever remember. And the call of the conductor echoes in my mind - "All aboard. "

Lorraine Donason Wenger
Gregory, South Dakota

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.