Railroad Stories: Old Steam Trains Were Part of Childhood

Growing-up years were spent playing on old steam trains.

| Good Old Days

The old steam trains were a big part of my growing-up years. I grew up on a cotton mill hill, within 50 feet from the railroad tracks. Our family was poor - my father had died when I was only a year old - so my mother worked very hard to support me, my sister, my grand-mother and herself. I can remember her making $35 a week.

Rent on our three-room house was deducted from her paycheck. It was based on the number of rooms you had. Our rent was 75 cents a week. Back then, if you missed a day of work, you didn't get paid for it, and yet you still had to pay rent. Out of the 45 years my mother worked, she missed a total of three days.

As a boy, my friends and I were known as mill hill cowboys. We would play on the old steam trains until someone saw us and made us move on. Then we would sit on the banks and watch the trains go by, waving at the passengers on board. It was always a thrill to see the people eating in the club car as they rolled past us.

We just knew they had to be rich.

Living so close to the train station and the round-house, where the trains were worked on, we got to see just about everything. We saw both passenger trains and freight trains, including livestock being shipped, which was very common back then.

We often pretended we were train robbers, but unlike Jesse and Frank James, our biggest haul consisted of a few watermelons and some coal, which was intended to help heat our house. The houses back then were extremely cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

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