Railroad Stories: Railroad Towns Were Exciting

The depot was the most popular hangout in railroad towns.

| Good Old Days

Before the automobile and all-weather roads, the depot was the most exciting place in railroad towns. Small towns especially depended upon the railroad for supplies and transportation. The general store not only received all types of supplies, but it used the railroad for shipping cream, eggs and poultry, which had been traded for food, fuel, shoes and clothing.

A popular pastime was to meet the train. It didn't matter whether or not you were expecting anyone to get off the coaches. You could see those city people, with their beautiful clothes, through the window. My best friend's father was the station agent, and he didn't mind us girls hanging around. It was an exciting place, the best in town. We walked up the nice, gravel path to the station, which was clean and freshly painted. The waiting room had long benches, and it was cool in summer. We liked to sit, swinging our feet, listening to the chattering telegraph keys as a message was given in code regarding the train's arrival. It was magic.

As time neared for the train to come, the steel-wheeled hand trucks loaded with freight were pushed out to the side of the track. I can still hear the crunching of the gravel as they were rolled. Empty, flat-bedded carts were ready for the incoming freight, as well as the mail sacks and packages. The moment came when the smoke of the train could be seen in the distance, then the whistling would start. Later, we heard the grinding of brakes and the hissing of steam as it came to a halt.

It was a touch of the outside world and gave one the feeling there was a great and wonderful world out there to see sometime.

Ethel Bruce

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. 

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