The Train That Was Held Up

Discussion in 'Tall Tales & Fabrications' started by Bill Boggs, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    1,436
    The Texas Zephyr
    by bill


    When I was growing up in north central Texas I walked to school every day. The most vivid memories I have of that time were those memories associated with junior high school and waiting on a passenger train to load and unload its passengers. Now the school I attended was about three and a half miles from my house and it took about an hour to walk if I just struck out and walked, which I couldn’t do that because I had to cross a railroad tracks. From my section of town there were two streets that crossed the tracks on the way up town and on across town to my school. One of those streets crossed the tracts far to the north of where I lived and that route added an extra half hour of walking time. The other route was Seventh Street, a major traffic artery to the east side of town where I lived and most mornings Seventh Street was blocked by a passenger train. I would wait on that train ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes each morning. Some boys in a hurry to cross would crawl under the train.

    One morning as I stood by the tracts waiting for the train to load its passengers and move on, an ambulance came up on the blocked crossing. It sat there several minutes with its lights flashing and its siren wailing but the train did not move. Finally the driver turned around and went off to find another passage across the tracts. Another time, a boy about my own age became impatient and started to crawl under the train just as it lurched forward, moving. I held my breath and turned away because I had done this several times and I knew how hard it was to crawl under the train in a hurry. The boy didn’t make it. The train ran over his leg, severing it just below the knee. After that I was afraid to try again.

    On my way to school most days the train blocking my path was a long silver train with a silver engine and a black streak that ran its entire length. It was the longest passenger train to come through our town. It was said to be one of the fastest trains on the tracts.

    I would stand there beside those tracts, my lunch box in hand, looking at the people seated behind those windows staring back at me. Sometimes one of them would wave and I would wave back and I wondered to what far off destinations they were going. I could see myself seated behind those windows, in the club car, having my breakfast, impatient that the train did not get under way again, taking me to some distant place.

    The newest trains had names and this sleek, shining train was the Texas Zephyr. One morning standing there looking in, I saw a porter in his neatly pressed uniform and his distinctive cap lean over and light the cigarettes of a gentleman and his lady. How I longed to ride that train.

    Some years later, en-route to Ft. Lewis, Washington I rode the Texas Zephyr. The trip took almost four days and it was a royal experience. Out northwest of Denver the train struggled as we climbed ever higher, seeking out a pass that would let us cross over those majestic mountains. In Wyoming west of Laramie the train was halted by deep snow. We sat there one evening and all night waiting for a repair train to come from the west to clear the tracts. We got off the train and threw snowballs at each other and some of us walked back down the tracks several hundred yards and were amazed how steep the grade was. Off in the valley below we could see a herd of elk and a stream that ran through the valley and from where we stood the stream was no bigger than a string and there were a dozen shades of green among the grasses and the shrubbery and the trees and I marveled at such beauty and God’s grand creation.

    I did not sleep that night, instead I played gin with some colonel‘s wife. We would play gin for an hour or so then get up and stretch our legs then play some more. Occasionally, the porter would come by to refresh our drinks and to light my cigar. All night there was a party-like atmosphere on the train with much drinking and singing and merry-making. The passengers got to know each other. At one point that night I got off the train again and walked forward to the engine. The engineer invited me up and he showed me around his domain there in the engine compartment and we talked a while. He told me about his job, how long it took to stop the train when he had a full head of steam and how boring it was to constantly keep his eyes on the track ahead of him. I asked him if he had ever seen anything on the tracks blocking his way. He said he’d seen trees pushed over on the tracks by rock slides and an occasional boulder on the tracts, and once a stalled vehicle. That had caused an accident; he had hit the stalled car but no one was hurt because its occupants had crawled out of the car when they saw him coming. He said he was gone from home days at a time and he didn’t like that. He gave me a different perspective on trains and railroading. Later that morning as we passed through a small town in Utah, I saw a small boy, lunchbox in hand, standing by the tracts peering in at us. I waved to him and he waved back. I could imagine what he might be thinking.

    I rode the Texas Zephyr several times and it was always a grand experience, yet no other ride on the Zephyr was quite as memorable as that first journey. But that long silver streak with all its comfort and all its speed had somehow lost its mystique. My earlier memories faded and it became just another mode of transportation. Still, when I heard the railroad was retiring the Zephyr I was glad I had experienced those rides for I knew there would never be another.
     
    #1
  2. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2015
    Messages:
    5,897
    Likes Received:
    9,032
    Bill, that sounds more exciting than the astronauts on the space station, taking a space walk. Less dangerous, too.;)
     
    #2
    Bill Boggs likes this.
  3. Ike Willis

    Ike Willis Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2015
    Messages:
    2,450
    Likes Received:
    5,948
    Very interesting Bill. I had a great uncle who was an engineer on steam locomotives. I hope you'll keep writing.:)
     
    #3
    Bill Boggs likes this.
  4. Louise Williams

    Louise Williams Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2015
    Messages:
    19,251
    Likes Received:
    2,259
    An amazing well told story of your life in those days on a train ride you waited so long for....I have not been on a train since in my early 20's..
     
    #4
    Bill Boggs likes this.
  5. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2015
    Messages:
    5,897
    Likes Received:
    9,032
    Waiting for a train...
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    #5
  6. Lara Moss

    Lara Moss Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2015
    Messages:
    2,666
    Likes Received:
    5,160
    Bill, I really enjoyed that story. I liked your imagery and how you made bookends of your story with placing you in the beginning waving to the train's passenger and then ending with the little boy waving to you while a passenger….a nice little package of times gone by.
     
    #6
  7. Terry Page

    Terry Page Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,352
    Likes Received:
    8,546
    Yes a very good story Bill, I enjoyed the scenes you painted with your words, thanks :)
     
    #7
    Joe Riley and Bill Boggs like this.
  8. Louise Williams

    Louise Williams Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2015
    Messages:
    19,251
    Likes Received:
    2,259
    Joe, I loved that video too.. I loved how he made the sound of the train whistle too,, there is Museum of Casey Jones, a famous engineer from Jackson. Tenn. It a great biographical museum and they also preserved his home too, ..remember the song? lets see if this works or not..

    well it didn't work,, ..it was an old song about Casey Jones.
     
    #8
  9. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    7,144
    Likes Received:
    3,824
    "I would stand there beside those tracts, my lunch box in hand, looking at the people seated behind those windows staring back at me. Sometimes one of them would wave and I would wave back and I wondered to what far off destinations they were going."

    Bill, the train tracks ran through the farm where we lived for a while. I remember doing that same thing. I look at airplanes even now and wonder the same thing. When I went for my first plane trip last spring I thought, "Now I am one of those people going exciting places and doing exciting things!" What a thrill! :D

    I am so enjoying your stories. :D
     
    #9
  10. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    1,436
    I just now saw some of your comments. Thank you all. I'm appreciative.
    Thanks, Shirley.
     
    #10
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2017
    Holly Saunders and Terry Page like this.
  11. Joe Riley

    Joe Riley Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2015
    Messages:
    5,897
    Likes Received:
    9,032
    @Louise Williams , here is your song.
     
    #11
  12. Martin Alonzo

    Martin Alonzo Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2015
    Messages:
    2,736
    Likes Received:
    2,479
    Bill you brought back a lot of memories. Being old enough to remember steam trains and the city I lived in St. Thomas Ontario had large repair depot for trains we had many different lines running through the town. There was also an electric train which ran from London to Pt. Stanley the L&PS which we road weekends to the beach. I remember when in school a couple of children jump on a train for a ride and the train when too fast for them to jump off when it finally slowed down they were in Buffalo and the police had to call their parents to come and get them. Free 110 mile trip but I think the parents warmed the back sides.

    Thank Bill for bringing back those memories
     
    #12
    Holly Saunders and Bill Boggs like this.
  13. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    7,144
    Likes Received:
    3,824
    This is just as moving at the second reading as it was at the first.
     
    #13
    Yvonne Smith and Bill Boggs like this.
  14. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    1,436
    Thanks, Martin Alonso. I've hopped a few freights as a kid. Once when I was fourteen I smarted off at my dad and he told me to pack my clothes and make my own way in the world. I did and hopped a freight train and rode several hundred miles, getting off in a little town in New Mexico. I found a job by lying about my age and worked all summer and until almost Christmas, nobody knowing where I was. I hitch-hiked back home a few days before Christmas, only to learn everyone was looking for me. No serious consequences came of it, except I was behind on school work and I watched my mouth a little closer.
     
    #14
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
    Martin Alonzo likes this.
  15. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    7,144
    Likes Received:
    3,824
    @Bill Boggs , that reminds me of something that happened with my family. Back then, the boys would go to the pool room and hang around. One time, they brought home a young boy, probably about the age you were then. He was from Kentucky. He stayed with us all summer, working on the farm. In the fall, Daddy contacted his daddy somehow and he came and picked him up. I never knew why he ran away or what happened after. I still think of him and hope life has been good to him.
     
    #15
    Bill Boggs and Holly Saunders like this.
  16. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    1,436
    Thank you.
     
    #16
    Shirley Martin likes this.
  17. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2015
    Messages:
    21,437
    Likes Received:
    6,447
    When I was a child I was placed in foster care, and childrens' homes off and on all through my childhood.. Not because I did anything wrong, but the fact that my parents were dysfunctional and my mother was often too ill to care for me...and also through lack of nutrition I was often poorly and had to be hospitalised.

    During the times that I was in these foster homes, I rarely ever had a visit from my parents....

    However your story Bill... remind me of the very first time I was in a convalescent home after being cured of pneumonia... believe it or not I was just 2 years old.. and I have very clear memories of this

    I didn't know I was in recovery from an illness at the time , no-one told me, I have no recollection of being ill, just the convalescent home so I just thought I'd been abandoned by my parents..

    There was a large garden where I was allowed to play out with a big Oak tree at the bottom with a long rope swing attached. Tree and swing were right next to a high brick wall, and beyond the wall was a train line which sat above the wall so we could clearly see the Steam train as it sped past.

    I was desperately lonely for my mother, and for some unknown reason I'd got it into my head that she would come and visit me by train, so every time I'd hear the train chugging along I would run down to the swing and sit there and as it passed I would wave to it thinking if my mum was on the train she would see me and wave back , and see that I was being a good girl and she would come and visit me... she never was on the train...
     
    #17
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017
  18. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Very Well-Known Member
    Registered

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,231
    Likes Received:
    1,436
    @Holly Saunders Thank you Holly for your comments. Yours is such a sad and good story. It makes us aware of the human condition, how fragile and lonely we can be and I'll tell you this, it adds greatly to my own story, adding some shade of meaning that did not exist.
     
    #18
    Holly Saunders likes this.

Share This Page