Railroad Stories: Passenger Train Travel Was Exciting

Children loved passenger train travel.

| Good Old Days

My father was a conductor for the Missouri Pacific. I have many precious memories of him and trains. We had a pass, so going to visit my grandparents in Oklahoma was not a problem. Visiting friends or shopping in the city was fairly easy, too. Many years later, the Stream Liner came through Winfield, Kan. My two older children would ride it to Wichita and spend the day, then ride it back home. To us, passenger train travel was exciting.

During World War II, many of us went to the depot to see the troops go through - they made a short stop, and the ladies of various organizations distributed cookies to the soldiers.

I remember the call boy who came around calling my father for work. When my father came in from his run, we would race down the street to meet him. If he had been gone overnight, which he usually was, he always had something for us and our mother. I got my start sewing by making clothes for the doll my father brought me from one of his trips.

In 1915 or 1916, my father brought my mother two pairs of bloomers, which had just become fashionable. Hers were one of the first pairs in our little town. The telegrapher at the depot gave much of the day's news to the locals, such as baseball scores and important events. Watching the trains pull in was a social time; people visited among the passengers and each other. With today's technology, it's hard for the younger generation to comprehend all of this.

I have made 17 round trips to California, watching the sunset from the dome car as we sped across the desert. For many years, I changed trains in Barstow and had a layover around midnight. I would take advantage of the restaurant in the Harvey House - one of the last ones on the Sante Fe line.

I had many rewarding experiences. Being a nurse, I was once asked by the conductor to go to the ladies lounge where a mother and child were. He had already alerted the hospital at Gallup, N.M., to have an ambulance meet the train. I could only offer comfort to them, but it seemed to help. Another time, a mother in the dome car was frantically sewing sequins on a costume her daughter would wear as she competed in a baton-twirling competition in Chicago. She had already won the state competition in California. All of a sudden, the box of sequins slid to the floor. All the passengers quickly dropped to their knees, and in a short time, the mother was back to her sewing. I've often wondered how that youngster did in her competition.

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