Railroad Stories: Family Trip By Passenger Train Travel

In 1961, the company my husband worked for transferred us to Fremont, Calif. I left with tears in my eyes, as I was leaving my parents and sisters. California seemed so far away from Missouri, where my husband and I were raised, married and started our family. We’d been in California for a couple of years, when my mother broke her hip. Naturally, I wanted to go home to see her. We had three children and not much money, so flying was out. We didn’t know if our car would make the trip, so we decided passenger train travel was the only way to go.

The trip would take two days and two nights. We started out, loaded down with books, crayons, games, snacks and three very excited children, ages 7, 10 and 11. The scenery around Lake Tahoe and through the mountains in the western states was beautiful.

The children managed to stay occupied with the activities and snacks we brought. They enjoyed walking back and forth through the cars to the caboose. There was a dome car on the train, but it wasn’t air conditioned, so you couldn’t stand the heat very long.

The most exciting thing to the children was going to the dining car for meals. We didn’t go out to eat as a family very often, and when we did, it was to a fast-food place. To go into a dining car, with white table-cloths, and to be waited on, was a real treat.

When it came to sleeping, the children had no trouble at all. They slept so sound, they didn’t even hear the train stopping and starting during the night. However, it wasn’t so easy for mom and dad. After two nights of sleeping in our seats, we were ready for a bed.

All in all, we had a great trip. When we arrived in California, we felt we were seasoned train travelers. To this day, our now-grown children still talk about their first train ride.

Jean Hieken
Merrimack, N.H.

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.