My love affair with trains began when I was a young girl. We lived in Hoisington, Kan., and my dad worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which ran through town for more than 40 years. The shop whistle sounded the workday for the community. Growing up there, the way I did, it didn’t take long for me to become a train enthusiast.
I remember how exciting it was to be lifted into the cabs of those huge locomotives, and I never missed a chance to wave to the engineers and other trainmen on the caboose. They almost always responded with a wave, and sometimes with a toot. I still wave today. I guess railroad blood really does run deep.
Since it was a railroad division point, all trains changed crews and engines in Hoisington. During the World War II years, when the troop trains stopped, word quickly spread among the teen-age girls. Troop trains were easily identified by a white flag on the front of the engine.
One of the best things about Dad working for the railroad was the pass, which allowed the family to ride free. We also had access to a foreign pass, which allowed us to ride free on any railroad. A trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1940 was a freebie, and transportation to college in Emporia, Kan., never cost a dime.
I married a man who shares my love of railroads, and we have ridden from coast to coast with our two daughters. With trains few and far between, and living some distance from Amtrak, all I have now are my memories of the railroad days.
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.