Railroad Stories: Father Worked for Rock Island Railroad

Leaving Rock Island Railroad in Goodland, Kansas, and traveling to Missouri proved to be a thrilling memory of a first train ride.

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Oh, the wonderful memories and heartaches of childhood. I was born to a family in which my father was a boxcar inspector and a wrecker engineer for the Rock Island Railroad in Goodland, Kan.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I would watch for my dad to come home.

Mom used to say, "Don't you go to the corner to meet your dad."

Well, I always went anyway, but Dad wouldn't let Mom punish me for meeting him.

On warm summer days, my sister and I took lunch to Dad while he was working. It was always a thrill to be close to the trains and sit in Dad's shack and watch as he inspected the boxcars. We would walk on the tracks, looking for old spikes or pieces of coal to take home.

When I was 6 years old, I took my first train ride all the way to Missouri. What a thrill it was to see the porter selling sandwiches, fruit, cookies and candy bars. Mom bought me a candy bar, and I thought I was in heaven for sure.

Heartache came when I was 7 and Dad slipped and fell, breaking three ribs, while inspecting a boxcar. Before his ribs were healed, he got called to a wreck west of town and the wrecker tipped over on him. A man pulled him from the wreckage, but he was never able to work again. After that, I could only sit and watch the trains go by.

But even now, when I hear a passenger train go by, I am still thrilled. I have ridden trains in Germany and all across the United States, but my first train ride holds the most thrilling memory.

Ina B. Smith
Abilene, 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.