Railroad Stories: Remembers Riding the Rails

I vividly remember my first time riding the rails. I was 16 years old, living in a small farm town in Iowa, when my sister and I took the train to visit our relatives in Kansas City, Mo. We took the Interurban, an electric train, from our hometown to Des Moines, Iowa. From there we rode the Streamliner to Omaha, Neb., where we had to taxi between stations in order to get our connection to Kansas City.

My much older, married sister was very nervous, and sure that we would get lost in Omaha. I remember feeling like an adult as I took charge of everything. I made sure we had our luggage, I hailed the taxi and made sure we arrived at the correct gates. My sister just kept asking if I was sure we were at the right place, and was I sure I knew what I was doing. Of course, I wasn’t sure, but I put on a big front, and we did arrive safely in Kansas City, Mo.

Later, while I was in nurses training, I rode the train between Rochester, Minn., and home whenever I could get a weekend leave.

A few years later, I married a handsome, young man who became a railroad fireman and later, an engineer. He had no regular run, but instead worked off of the extra board. He had to leave for work on short notice, which caused him to miss several family events.

My favorite memory of my many train trips occurred while my husband was working early one morning. He stopped at our home, in a small Minnesota town, about 3:00 o’clock, and persuaded me to ride to Minneapolis in the engine with him. That was a no-no, but who would know at night? So I went, and we drove home in the car he kept at the Minneapolis depot, arriving home in time to get the kids up for school.

Since that time, we have ridden on trains in Scotland, England, Norway, Sweden, China and Russia. The Norway trip was memorable for my husband because the engineer let him ride in the cab, as a courtesy to an old railroader. Our trip from Edinburgh, Scotland, to London was exciting, too. We had to stop to allow herders to get their sheep off the tracks.

I fell in love with trains during World War II, and that love affair has continued during the years. Now we are looking forward to riding the train in Germany and France and through the Chunnel under the channel to visit friends in England.

Maxine Ernst
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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.