Railroad Stories: Family Watched Trains For Nearly Five Decades

For many years, family watched trains, and even witnessed a miracle.

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For 47 years, our family watched trains from the Burlington Northern Railroad rumble on the rails across 80 acres of farmland, south of our home. To this day, our family has never forgotten the miracle of a freight train pulling more than 120 cars, that managed to get stopped and prevented a tragedy.

On Memorial Day, 1980, our son, his wife and their three children came to visit us at the farm. That afternoon, my son drove his car along the quarter-mile lane, over the newly graveled railroad crossing so he and his dad could take my grandsons fishing in the big farm pond. They caught three fish, and Grandpa showed them a giant turtle. Then they left the pond to return to the house for supper.

When they drove up the steep slope to go over the railroad crossing, the wheels spun in the loose gravel, and the frame of the car settled down on the iron rails. The car would not move, so my husband decided to get the tractor, knowing that the evening freight train would be coming soon.

My daughter-in-law, granddaughter and I brought the car down to where my son's car was hung up. We heard the train whistle a half mile away, then saw it coming down the track toward us.

My 11-year-old grandson sat down on the ground and cried. My granddaughter leaned out the car window and screamed for her mother, who was unloading what she could from the back seat of the stalled car, while yelling for my son to shut off the motor and abandon the car. My husband's noisy tractor was attempting to pull the car off the track.

Facing the oncoming train, with tears in his eyes, my other grandson stood between the rails doing jumping jacks, yelling, "Stop! Stop!" A wise engineer applied the brakes and managed to get the big train stopped, just 30 feet from the car.

The brakeman got out, calmly walked over to us and said, "No problem, we knew what had happened ..."

We got the car off the tracks, and the big train was on its way again. Our family, however, had lost its appetite, and nobody ate any supper. Today, we all remember that day we were blessed, when our family stopped a freight train.

Frances Forsythe
Albia, Iowa


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.