Railroad Stories: Riding the Rails Was Great Fun

Child loved riding the rails.

| Good Old Days

Throughout my childhood, I traveled by train from Port Allegany to Williamsport, Pa., which was more than 100 miles. Twice a year, my mom, sisters and I took that trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa. We would go for two weeks around Christmas and two weeks in the summer. Riding the rails was great fun.

When I was about 8, I asked one of the train men what they did in the mail car and baggage car. I got permission to go back to the baggage car and observe the men doing their jobs. To this day, my oldest sister is jealous because I got to go and she didn't. She was told by the train man that only boys were allowed in the baggage car.

As we went through a little town called Driftwood, the train slowed down, a man opened the door and threw out a couple of mail bags onto a baggage cart that sat beside the track. The engineer knew if they needed to stop, as he had a stick with a wire loop that he held out the window to snatch the train orders from the telegrapher at each section. The conductor let the engineer know when the train was ready to move, by pulling on a cord in the passenger car, which sent a signal that the train was ready to proceed.

One thing we kids thought was neat was going around sharp curves. As we did, we could look out the window and see the engine and the rear of the train at the same time.

Grandma and Grandpa lived right across the tracks from the railroad station, so Grandpa would meet us at the station, and Grandma waved from their back porch.

In those days, Christmas season on the train was a special treat. The train was always crowded with servicemen and others who were headed home for the holidays. One year it was so crowded that people were standing in the aisles because all the seats were taken. Mom put our suitcase on the floor and my sisters sat on it until we got to Renova, where some more passenger cars were added.

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