Tuesday, February 23, 2016


I can sympathize. Not so much with the truck driver, who had no reason to try to beat the train.  But with the engineer.  As I said, my Dad was an engineer.  First the Erie Railroad, then the Erie Lackawanna, and finally Conrail.  He started in the days of steam locomotives.  Unlike most, however, he was not nostalgic for the glory days of steam.  They were noisy, hot, and dangerous.  He was a fireman back when that meant shoveling tons of coal every day, straddling the engine and the tender, and looking down at the rails passing 70 mph underneath.  Exposed to cold, rain, snow and heat, he was happy to see diesels appear.

One thing that he never got over, though, was the constant stream of people who would try to beat him as he came down the tracks.  Gasoline trucks were what he, and the family, feared most.  Most other vehicles weren't much of a problem, though a shard of metal wedged just right between the wheels and rail could cause a derailment.  That's why sometimes a train can hit a car and still derail, and another times it can hit a tank and barely get a scratch.

Most who raced the trains, of course, made it.  But some didn't.  One time he made two trips in one week and hit four different people.  One was a suicide.  Two others were cars.  There were no other fatalities.  And one was just down the street from our house.  That day, on the way back to Buckeye Yard in Columbus, Dad hit a tractor-trailer that was carrying plate glass windows.  Messy, messy, messy.  The same policeman who arrived there had also been to one of the other accidents.  He asked my Dad what he had against the people around here.  But apart from the suicide, it was something we could chuckle about since nobody else was hurt.

It didn't always happen that way.  One time a car filled with women out on the town tried to beat him and didn't make it.  They were all killed.  He took some weeks to get over that one.  But overall it was a good job for him.  It took care of him and us, and after he passed, the Railroad's stellar pension plan has taken care of my Mom, though Obamacare has, in all honesty, compromised the Health Benefits they had.  Otherwise, a good living and good memories. 

On this, his birthday, I thought I'd do some reminiscing.  Those were happy times, at least for us.  It was pretty fun having a Dad who drove trains for a living.  Even better when I was able to ride in the engines with him.  Thanks for taking care of us Dad.  Happy birthday.  Wish you were here for even just one more hug.  God bless and keep you and let the perpetual light shine upon you.

I miss you Dad


  1. No way, I had never grasp that we were THAT close to steam power still, that it was only 1 away from living memory.

    My grandfather really loved trains (didn't work on them, he was an architect), I like to think he and your Dad would have gotten along great. :)

    A cheers to those we've loved and lost and the happy memories they left with us.

  2. Yep, he started in the late 40s when steam was still around. Diesels began popping up in numbers in the 50s, and he was thrilled to make the change. But he was sort of a 'new' type. He didn't wear the old overalls or engineer hat. Usually polo shirts and jeans and his trademark sunglasses. Though he had to wear strong shoes due to the terrain and ballast common to railroads. Truth be told, he didn't really get into trains until after he retired. Then it was mostly because of Christmas and birthday gifts. Much to my disappointment, he didn't even want a model train. When I was young, I asked him why he wasn't into model railroading. He said for the same reason office workers aren't into model officing, or factory workers don't spend their off time building model factories. To him, it was only a job. Though he was happy to help and talk to those who liked trains. Just as long as they didn't get him started on how trains are shown in the movies. :)

  3. lol

    Wow I know how I get when computers are show in the movies (hint: if they gave the "hacker" a wand it would still be as realistic) I never thought trains were that bad in movies. I mean they're trains! How much could Hollywood screw up?

    I guess that's like a rule. People are always conservative in the area of their expertise - and offended at how their job is shown in the movies.


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