Railroad Stories: Old Railroad Tracks Were Part of Children's Playground

Children played on and near old railroad tracks.

| Good Old Days

When I was growing up, we lived less than a block - just a small alfalfa field - away from where the "Jerky" stormed through our quiet town twice each day. Those old railroad tracks were part of our playground.

We learned early on to "walk seven rails" of track at one time, balancing ourselves without touching a toe to the ground, earning a chance to make a wish. We would place pennies on the rails for the train to flatten, ignoring the warning that such actions might derail the locomotive.

When an approaching train was miles from our local station, we would lie on the ground, amid the wooden ties and the rough, gray gravel, and put our ears on the rail to hear it coming, then laugh at how silly we looked with our blackened cheeks.

We played on the mounds of gravel and sand, which were piled along the siding, telling each other stories we'd heard. We raced down unloading ramps, risking falling, and explored the loading pens in the stockyards, where hobos were said to spend their nights.

When there was a string of boxcars lined up on one of the sidings, waiting to be picked up by the next train, we would crawl to the top of an end car and run across the tops to the other end. Then in the early evenings, we would play inside the cars. Once inside, we would chew mouthfuls of leftover wheat and play "house," while the boys usually played cops-and-robbers.

Fern Ruth
North Newton, Kan.

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