Railroad Stories: Train's Lonesome Whistle Was Unmistakable

When train blew its lonesome whistle, all the neighborhood children came running.


| Good Old Days



When I was a small child, approximately 70 years ago, my father was a conductor on the Norfolk and Western Railroad. We lived close to the railroad tracks, with an overhead bridge, and all of the neighborhood children would come running when we heard the sound of the train's lonesome whistle. We would wave to the passengers, and we were thrilled when they waved back.

Our friends envied my siblings and me because we could ride the train free. Daddy had to secure trip passes for us. However, he and Mom had annual passes.

Vacation time meant a train ride to our destination. My sister and I always enjoyed going to the bathroom on the train and seeing the sign that read: "Do not flush the hopper while the train is in the station." We would giggle over the word "hopper" - that was a new word in our vocabulary.

About 10 years after I got married, I was visiting my parents with my two small boys. My father, although retired from the railroad, thought the boys should ride the train. All of the other grandchildren had already experienced the opportunity. He made arrangements for a short train trip, and our sons were thrilled at the new experience.

They got their next opportunity to ride the train a few years later, when they were 8 and 10. It was 1959, and my husband and I, along with our sons, were leaving for the Philippine Islands, taking a ship out of San Francisco.

We purposely chose to travel by train from Winston-Salem, N.C., to San Francisco. The boys were very excited. They had remembered the short trip with their grandpa. They figured this trip, which would last from Friday afternoon until Monday morning, would really be neat. They wondered what could be better than sleeping in our own compartment and eating our meals in the dining car.





mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!

LEARN MORE