Thursday, August 29, 2013
I have been fascinated with railroads since my childhood days in Kansas. As a youngster I was a regular visitor to the local train depot and spent long periods of time watching the telegrapher and trying to learn Morse Code (unsuccessful). Most warm days I would walk down to the tracks and watch the Doodlebug (Jitney) come to town. This piece of history was an interesting two car train with the front car devoted to the diesel engine and passenger compartment (a Pullman motor car) while the second car carried mail, cream cans and other odd bits of freight. This train, The Salina, Western and Lincoln Railroad (later purchased by Union Pacific) operated as the Plainville Short Line going east in the morning to the larger town of Salina and returning in the afternoon heading west to its night stop. So, one could pay a small fee and ride to the city of Salina, do some shopping/buying and return home in the late afternoon. The morning train carried the cream cans to a creamery in Salina while the afternoon train delivered mail from a regional post office. This was an interesting situation since one could receive two first class mail deliveries in the same day as the morning mail came by truck. I also fooled around catching the daily freight train for a few blocks before jumping off as the speed increased. Sometimes I rode it a little further and bailed off at a fishing hole! While in the 6th grade my parents let me take my first solo trip to Kansas City to watch the major league baseball game. We got off at Union Station in Kansas City and took a bus to the old Municipal Stadium and watched the Athletics (before they moved to Oakland, CA). I shudder today at the thought of putting a 12 year old kid on the train. But, I survived, and times were different.