Train Memories

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I was too young to have ridden the excursion train to West Jefferson, NC. It would not be until much later in life that I learned that most of my ancestors hailed from that area thus the reason for the excursion. People were traveling to visit the family they left behind.

The train cars were often parked by the old train depot when not in use. Many of them were sleeper cars which I found fascinating. They were never locked and we spent many hours playing in those train cars as if they were toys. I can still close my eyes and see the old bunks which through my child’s eye looked like the most luxurious of exquisite hotel rooms.

We also put pennies or pop bottle lids on the tracks so the train would flatten them. That was until one day someone told us that such actions could derail the train. This seems entirely unlikely to me because of the weight and momentum of a train. Please hold while I engage Google. Seems the penny thing is an urban myth. I found no reference to pop bottle lids but I did not look very hard.

As children, we often had suckers (lollipops) tossed to us from the train. I have written about this before. It was a big deal to run down to the creek bank as the train went by in hopes of catching the cellophane-wrapped suckers they threw to the children. I recently read about how this started while visiting the museum in West Jefferson.

Anywhere we walked, we usually chose the railroad as the fastest path. We walked across cattle guards and learned to listen for the vibration indicating a train was en route. Crossing the trestle was always precarious for those (like me) who had a fear of heights.

I would not ride a train until my husband and I took the train from Switzerland to Venice. The Swiss train experience was totally different than our experience on the Italian trains. I was glad our travel agent advised us to buy first class passage on the Italian train. Otherwise, we would have likely been standing the entire trip from Milan to Venice.


19 thoughts on “Train Memories”

  1. I traveled once by train as a teen, from LA to San Francisco. I was alone and a little frightened. It took longer than the drive. It was not too much fun. As an adult I traveled by train with 30 middle school kids. It was a different experience.
    I love the throwing the lollipops.

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    1. Our trains were mostly commercial with the exception of the excursion trains. I cannot imagine taking the train as a teen. I remember when my sister took a Greyhound bus from Ohio to Virginia. I thought that was very brave. I also cannot imagine taking a train with 30 children. What an adventure!

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  2. The childhood near the tracks reminds me of the book (and film) The Railway Children. If you have never seen it, I think you would like this version.

    I travelled to school on trains, when my parents moved to the suburbs of London.
    I also went from London to Biarritz and Marseille on sleeper trains, (in a cheap couchette) and much later went on overnight trains in Soviet Central Asia. (Uzbekistan)
    In 2002, we went by train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, and have also been on The Eurostar from London, to Paris and Brussels.
    But I haven’t been on a train since 2007. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Pete, train travel is much more prevalent in Europe than in the U.S. Those trips sound very adventurous. There is a certain romanticism I connect with train travel although reality may not be as romantic as my imagination.

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  3. When I was a little girl we travelled a few times by train, ones with sleeper cars. My father wouldn’t fly so if we didn’t drive we went by train. From a child’s perspective it was fascinating and boring to travel that way. I always wanted a train-flattened penny, but I don’t think I got one.

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    1. What great memories. I can imagine as a child it might seem boring. I noticed in Italy the scenery was not always what I imagined it would be — lots of industrial areas. But staying in a sleeper car would have seemed magical to me.

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          1. None – in our youth, we might have been a little sad. Of course, our only experience with derailments was our American Flyer.


  4. I rode the train a lot as a kid because we were in Oregon and our grandparents were in New York. No one flew in those days except business people with money. I grew up a block from tracks and regularly put things on them to get flattened. I also practiced walking on the rails a lot. The trestle was scary, but not as scary as the tunnel near our house.

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    1. We did not have tunnels, Elizabeth, but we walked on the rails a lot. We simply did not travel a lot and when we did it wasn’t far. We went in Dad’s car.

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