There is something about a train that seems to bring young boys and old men to their knees at just the sight of the cold standard gage parallel rails. The wonderment of a massive iron locomotive once propelled by steam and now by massive diesel-electric engines dragging rolling stock seems to make their knees quiver.
My father is such a man and I’ve run into them on every social and economic level.
Men that would leave their first born at the opportunity to become an engineer, brakeman, or conductor of their own N, HO, O or G gage line. Endless days and evenings spent molding mountains; gluing trees, rail beds and small plastic communities for small plastic people.
“Grab the coupler, but watch the crank pin; no not that one it’s bad order! Good lord you are acting like a deadhead now check the backside as we’re moving into dark territory.”… now, looking back some of the best hours spent.
I believe that my first ride on a train was during a field trip with my boy scout troop just before they kicked me out after a fight with the den mother’s son. Just another lesson in life, never pick a fight with the den mother’s son!
The trip was from Klamath Falls to Dorris, California a total of about thirty miles. As I remember it was uneventful and most of the excursion was spent running up and down through the passenger car yelling, screaming and tossing bits of our lunch. I attribute this to the poor child supervision by the den mother.
My best time riding the rail came when childhood friend, Bruce, and I would take a break from shooing ducks on the ponds near the Klamath switching yards.
We loved duck hunting and best of all helping out the bums (they weren’t homeless in those days) who made living quarters by salvaging any wood metal they could find and build a cover over the many ditches near the tracks.
Bruce and I supplied them with ducks for their bufflehead stew which was made from anything they could eat found in the Safeway dumpster, add, one plucked and dressed bufflehead to snowmelt.
If you know anything about waterfowl, you know that a bufflehead may not be the best bird to build your meal around.
While waiting for the bird to boil it was a assured that you could talk one of the switching engineers to give you a ride around the yard as long as you abided by two rules.
One, keep your head down so the supervisor or bull didn’t see you. Two, keep your hands off the window ledge.
I managed one out of two when the jolt of slamming into the rear of the boxcar slid the sliding glass window back over my fingers.
With blood gushing and wrapped in a Kleenex we were quickly ushered away with “Just don’t tell anyone how it happened!”
Ahhhhh, just in time, the bufflehead stew was almost boiling.