Many years ago, railroad towns were numerous. Our town, in southern Minnesota, is a railroad town, built for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad. We miss the passenger trains, which no longer go through town. We could set our clocks by the 3 o’clock train, on its way west.
Our farm was located about a quarter of a mile north of the tracks. We never tired of counting the boxcars, or listening to the rumble and rattle of the lumbering freight heading west. Its piercing whistle at the crossings still echoes in my ears.
My dad was a cattle buyer, and shipped cattle by train. As he rode past, we children would rush out to stand on the big cement block that proclaimed our farm’s name. Dad would step out onto the platform on the caboose and wave to us.
My aunt, whose husband worked for the railroad, would come to our house on the passenger train because they had a pass. She would sometimes take me home with her on the train. I thought it was the greatest thrill to hear the conductor say, “All aboard,” then come around and collect our tickets. I liked to see him walk down the aisle, grabbing the seats when the train gave a sudden lurch.
The railroad songs that Roy Acuff, Vernon Dahlhart, Jimmy Rodgers and Boxcar Willie sing echo our feelings for the railroad men, who built and worked on the tracks so the Iron Horse could carry people from east to west in our nation.
St. James, Minn.
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.