Railroad Stories: Military Trains Were Everywhere in the 1940s

Military trains were a common sight during World War II.

| Good Old Days

I was 11 years old in 1941, when World War II began. The railroads immediately became the means of transportation for the military. It was a daily occurrence to see passenger trains moving in each direction with waving soldiers hanging out of every open window. Freight trains were an equally common sight. Military priority took preference over all civilian travel. It was next to impossible for anyone other than military personnel to travel by rail.

Gas rationing grounded automobiles. Since I was too young to drive, it wasn't an option for me anyway. This, coupled with my need to travel, brought me to the bus. I made many trips between Denver and Buena Vista, Colo.

In 1947, I joined the Navy in Denver, and was given a week to return to Buena Vista, Colo., to settle my affairs before heading to boot camp. They gave me a voucher to catch the train, and when I expressed my preference for the bus, I was informed that the military only used the railroad.

I reluctantly boarded the train for what was to be a very enjoyable and memorable trip. We headed south, making two passenger stops. A swing to the west took us to our next stop. We had just entered the Royal Gorge, when the train stopped and the passengers were allowed to step out and admire the view of the sheer rock canyon and the suspension bridge, 1000 feet above.

The trip resumed, and I have to say, it was the most scenic adventure I've ever had. It was also educational. I learned to close the window in a tunnel. The smoke and cinders have to go somewhere, and if the window is open, they'll go in it. The trip lasted nine hours and was a day well-spent.

I am sorry to say, that experience is no longer available. I didn't realize that trains were passing into history until they were gone.

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