A Train Ride for Jimmy

It was Jimmy’s big day.  How big?  It was the first time that Jimmy was riding the train.  He and his mother arrived at the train station as they were on their way to his grandparents to celebrate Thanksgiving.  He was amazed at size of the train station with the very high ceilings.  They walked to the ticket counter to get their tickets.

“Thank you for our tickets Mr. Ticket Man.”  Jimmy grinned from ear to ear.

“Thank you for riding the train.  I hope that you enjoy the ride on the train.”  The ticket man gave his mother the tickets.

They walked towards the train platform, but they stopped by the news stand.  The mother purchased two bottles of water.

“Thank you Mr. News Stand Man.” Jimmy smiled.

“I hope that you enjoy the train ride.”  The clerk handed his mother the water bottles.

The continued to the train platform, and they arrived at the train.

“Can we walk down to see the engineer?” Jimmy asked.

They checked their baggage at the baggage car.

“Thank you Mr. Baggage Man.”  Jimmy waved at his.

“I hope that you enjoy your train ride.”  The baggage handler tipped his hat.

They walked to the locomotive when the engineer was looking over the locomotive.

“Thank you Mr. Engineer.”  Jimmy waved at him.

“Thank you for riding the train.”  The engineer smiled.

They walked to their car where the conductor helped them board.

“Thank you Mr. Conductor.”  Jimmy smiled.

“Thank you for riding the train.  I hope you enjoy your ride.”  The conductor smiled.

They climbed aboard the train, and they went to their seat to sit down.

“You can sit next to the window,” she said.

Jimmy jumped into the window seat.  She sat down next to him.  She slipped her feet out of her shoes and put her bare feet on the seat across from them.  Jimmy stared as the train pulled out of the station.

“Mom?”

“Yes, Jimmy.”

“Thank you for taking me on the train.”

I hope that everyone has a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

The West Chester Railroad at the Glen Mills Station in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

The Gettysburg and Harrisburg Train Depot, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The town of Gettysburg in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania is famous for the battle in the American Civil War.  The town is also a famous railroad town where the railroad had a small role to play in the battle.  President Abraham Lincoln arrived in this town to deliver his famous ‘Gettysburg Address’.  Today, passenger trains no longer stop here, but the trains still come through town, and the old train station, commonly called the ‘Lincoln Train Station’, is now a museum.  So much of the railroad history of Gettysburg is centered around the Lincoln Train Station, but years later, a second train station was built one block west of the Gettysburg Train Station.

Welcome to the Gettysburg and Harrisburg Train Depot.  It is often overshadowed by the Lincoln Train Station as it was erected in April of 1884 long after the big war took place.  Well, it did play a role in the 50th and 75th Anniversary Reunions of the Battle of Gettysburg as it brought the former troops, both of the Union army and the Confederate army, to the reunion site at the Eternal Flame.  The rail line had regular passenger train service that connected the people of Gettysburg to the city of Harrisburg.  Originally owned by the Gettysburg and Harrisburg Railroad, it was later overtaken by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad who ceased passenger service on the line in 1941.  There was a tourist railroad that served the line until the 2000’s.  It continues as a freight line today, but the old train station remains.

The Gettysburg and Harrisburg Train Station is located on N. Washington Street at W. Railroad Street.  It is two blocks north of U.S. Route 30 and one block west of U.S. Business Route 15.  Parking is metered street parking.  The station is not open to the public.

Next time you are in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania visiting the Lincoln Train Station, talk a walk to the other train station that helped make post war history.

Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, Bristow, Virginia

During the American Civil War, there were many battles across the northern region of the U.S. state of Virginia.  The most famous of those battles were the two that took place north of the town of Manassas.  Many of these battlefields were overrun with development, but some of those battlefields were spared.  Among them was the Bristoe Station Battlefield in Bristow, Virginia.

No, most school history classes will not teach you about the Battle of Bristoe Station as it was not a famous battle.

Some of you are saying, “With a name like Bristoe Station, that means that the battle was fought around a train station.”

Well, the battle was not fought around a train station.  Where does the name come from?  It was a stop on the Alexandria and Orange Railroad.  The railroad supplied Confederate troops during the battle that took place here, and part of the Battle of Bristoe Station took place around the railroad, and the Confederate Army even had the tracks destroyed.  As you take a tour of the battlefield, it looks like a quiet field, you do not see what happened October 14, 1863, when the battle took place.  Today, the railroad line is still active and is now owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway.

Today, you can walk the battlefield and see the burial ground of eighty-two troops from Alabama.  It is located of Virginia Route 28 south of Manassas.  You can read more into the battle at https://www.pwcva.gov/department/historic-preservation/bristoe-station-battlefield, and you can also get directions.

Old Union Station, Frankfort, Kentucky

In the early days of passenger railroading in the United States, railroads stopped in the big cities and the small towns.  Among those cities was the city of Frankfort, the capital of the U.S. state of Kentucky.  A depot was built here by the Lexington and Frankfort Railroad, but that was replaced with the current station when the Louisville and Nashville Railroad came to town in 1908.  The railroad also built to rock tunnel just east of the depot.  Passenger service ended on April 30, 1970, when the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Number 5300 ‘George Washington’ was the last train to stop here.

Today, the old train station is not open to the public.  The rail line still passes by, but the passenger platforms are gone.  You can see the old rock tunnel just east of the station.  It is located on West Broadway Street just blocks from U.S. Route 60.

The trains may not stop here anymore, but a visit to the old union station in Frankfort, Kentucky will give you a glimpse of a site that once was.

The Train Comes

It was early in the morning.  The air was foggy, and there was a chill in the air with dew on the ground.  Steve and Tiffany was walking along the rail trail that went through a small town.  They were holding hands.  Tiffany had her shoes and socks in her hand feeling the dirt on the soles of her bare feet smiling with each step she took.  They took a walk on the trail every day, but this walk was different.

They came upon the old train station that was dilapidated from the lack of maintenance.

“They should do something with that station.” Tiffany pondered.  “It can be very useful as a community center or museum.”

“The problem is that nobody visits this town.  There is not much here.  Ever since the factory closed, the trains no longer come here, and neither does anybody else.”  Stephen looked around.

“Get off the tracks.  The train is coming.”

They were startled and frantically looked around seeing a man that appeared to be in his 40’s dressed up as a train conductor.

“Excuse me.  The train has not been in this town for many years.  There is no train here.”  Stephen informed him.

“No.  You do not see the train, but it is coming.” He pointed to them.

“He’s a kook.  Let’s get…”  She felt something with her foot.  She looked down and saw railroad tracks beneath her feet.

“How…”  Stephen was stunned as he heard the sound of a horn.

 He grabbed her shoulder and pulled her off the tracks as the train arrived, and it stopped at the station.

They could not believe what they were seeing as the door opened on a boxcar, and workers climbed out.

“You see.  The train is here.”  The man smiled.

In a moment, the train faded away.

“As you see, the train still comes here.  Did you see it?”  The man had a bright smile.

“But how..?  What..?  Tiffany was puzzled.

“It is said that the train no longer comes here, but it still does.” The man continued to smile.

Stephen saw that the tracks were gone.  He peeked at the station and saw that the man was gone.

“What happened?”  Tiffany was shaken.

Stephen looked at the station and its run down shape.  He saw the old railroad bed with the dirt path.  He took out his phone.  “It is Halloween.”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I guess that explains it.”

“It looks as if we will need to look out for trains today.” He warned.

They went back to the trail, and they continued to walk along.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

The cover photo is of the West Chester Railroad in West, Chester, Pennsylvania.

The second photo is the old train station in Vienna, Virginia next to the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail.

The third photo is the old railroad bed of the Chesapeake Beach Railway in the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Lothian, Maryland.

The fourth photo is of Number 17 William Simpson of the Northern Central Railway passing through the Howard Tunnel in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania.

The fifth photo is of the old train station in Point of Rocks, Maryland.

“The Ghosts of the Knox and Kane Railroad”

Old Train Station, Kane, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

In the mountains in the northern region of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania was the Knox and Kane Railroad.  It was a short line railroad that ran on old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad tracks after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad abandoned the tracks and the Knox and Kane Railroad purchased them to run freight trains and excursions trains.  Yes, there were excursion trains run by the Knox and Kane Railroad.  Passengers boarded the train in Kane, Pennsylvania, and they took a ride.  As they rode out, they came upon the biggest feature of the ride: the Kinzua Bridge.  What was the Kinzua Bridge?

Some of you are saying, “Well, duh, it was a bridge.”

But not just any bridge.  It was at one time the highest railroad bridge in the world.  As the train came upon the bridge, passengers looked down into the deep valley below.  It was an amazing site to see.

Sadly, in the early part of the twenty-first century, the Knox and Kane Railroad went through many mishaps and disasters to include a rare tornado destroying the Kinzua Bridge and fire to the railroad shops, the Knox and Kane Railroad was no more.

Today, as you drive east on U.S. Route 6 from the town of Kane, you see the old railroad bed.  You see the old train station.  You imagine the people boarding the train.  You can see the train departing the train station headed for Mount Jewett.  You continue along U.S. Route 6.  You see the old railroad bed cross the road and go into the woods.  You miss seeing the roadbed but wait.  What about the journey over Kinzua Bridge?  You continue to the town of Mount Jewett and make your way to the Kinzua Bridge State Park.  You see what remains of the train trestle, but you can see the train pulling onto the bridge.  You watch as the passengers are amazed at the valley below them but wait a minute.  Why are you just looking at the bridge?  You can look for yourself.  You walk over to the bridge, but you stop.  You see the rails and see the train on the bridge, but then you realize that only a portion of the bridge remains.  You go to the end of the overlook, and you look down.  You look down into the deep valley.  You see yourself on the train on the bridge.  As you look down, you see the train departing back to Kane.  The people wave, but you wave back.

You go back to your car.  You notice that the Knox and Kane Railroad is gone, but then you see that the train still comes.

Old Train Trestle of U.S. Route 6 east of Kane, Pennsylvania

Kenefick Park, Omaha, Nebraska

Union Pacific 6900 and 4023

John Cooper Kenefick (December 26, 1921 to July 20, 2011) served as a senior officer for the Union Pacific Railroad from 1970 to 1986.  During his years of service, John Kenefick made many contributions to the Union Pacific and to the city of Omaha, Nebraska.  To honor him, Kenefick Park was built.

The View from Kenefick Park

As you drive west on Interstate 80 from Iowa across the Missouri River into Nebraska, you look up and see two massive locomotives, one steam and one diesel, on top of a hill.  Of course, you want to visit this place so you make your way there.  As you pull into the parking lot, you see a bunch of railroad wheels on the side of the hill.  This is part of a sculpture and is part of the park.  You made the climb up the many steps to the top.  You read about John Kenefick, and then you walk along a wall full of indentures of railroads and of the history of the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, but you then reach the top.  Just past the sculpture of John Kenefick is the real reason you came to the park: to see the two largest locomotives ever built.  The 4023 steam locomotive is the ‘Big Boy’, and you fully understand why it is called by that named.  The 6900 diesel locomotive is the ‘Centennial’ named in honor of the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad with the driving of the Golden Spike.  They both face towards the Missouri River valley at the point where one of the first trestles to cross the Missouri River was built.  It is a place of spectacular views of the Missouri River Valley, Council Bluffs, Iowa and of two huge locomotives.

Kenefick Park is located next to the Lauritzen Gardens on Bancroft Street.  It is just minutes off Interstate 80.  Admission is free, and the park is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.  If you do not wish to climb the steps, there is a tram that will take you up.  You can inquire about the tram at the gardens.

If you are around the Omaha area, Kenefick Park is a must see.  If you are not around Omaha, here is a reason to visit Omaha.  You will not regret it.

Vienna, Virginia, U.S.A.

The Freeman Store and Museum

The Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area is full of suburbs that are very rich in history.  Among them is the town of Vienna located west of downtown Washington.  The town has numerous historic buildings with Virginia Route 123 going through the center of the town.  Named after a town in the western region of the U.S. state of New York that that originally called Vienna (it is called Phelps today), it changed hands during the American Civil War with a small skirmish.  Today, many historic sites remain to include the Freeman Store which still operates as a general store but is also a museum that tells the history of the town.

Some of you are saying, “This is wonderful.  It is amazing that Washington D.C. is so full of historic suburbs.  I am pretty sure that this town is an amazing town, but without a railroad, this town with not be visited by me.”

If you were to visit the town of Vienna in the U.S. state of Virginia today, you will see a modern town that has not forgotten its history.  The Freeman Store is in its original location with the Washington and Old Dominion Trail running right next to the store.

The Washington and Old Dominion Trail

Some of you are saying, “That is nice, but what is special about the Freeman Store being next to the Washington and Old Dominion Trail?”

Well, the Freeman Store, now known as the Freeman Store and Museum, tells the story of the town.  In the museum you see items and photos and artifacts from the town.  Then you see a model of the store itself from the time of the American Civil War.  You see the Union Soldiers standing around, but then you see a set of railroad tracks with a wooden boxcar.

Some of you are saying, “Wait a minute.  This is not possible because there is no railroad in this town.”

Today, there is no railroad in this town, but this town was once a railroad town.

Old Bridge Connecting the Store to the Railroad Line.

In the 1850’s, the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire Railroad began operations between the ports of Alexandria, Virginia to the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.  The railroad passed through the town of Vienna.  The railroad went through rough times as it was under attack during the American Civil War from armies of both sides.  Through the years, the railroad went through different names before it was called the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad.  The railroad ceased operations in 1968, and the railroad tracks were taken up.  Years later, it was converted into a rail trail where bikers, hikers, walkers, and skaters stroll past the Freeman Store and Museum on what was named the Washington and Old Dominion Trail named for the last railroad to run on the line.

Some of you are saying, “Sadly, the railroad has been erased from the town’s history.”

Sadly, you are wrong.  Across the street from the Freeman Store is an old caboose.  Painted in the color scheme of the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, it sits in a park, and it is open on most third Saturdays in the afternoon.  Please note that the caboose is not handicap accessible.

Some of you are saying, “That is nice, but is that all?”

Nope.  Just a short walk along the rail trail is the old train station.  It was built by the Alexandria, Loudoun, and Hampshire Railroad in 1859.  It remained in service until 1968 when the railroad discontinued service, but the train station remained, and it is the home of the Northern Virginia Model Railroaders Club.  The station is open in the afternoons on the third Saturday of each month year round.  Admission is free, but they will gladly accept any donations to keep the model trains running.

Old Train Station

As for the Freeman Store and Museum, it is on the Virginia Landmarks Register and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is open in the afternoons from Wednesday to Sunday.  It is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible.

So, if anyone tells you that the town of Vienna, Virginia has no connection with the railroad, tell them that they need to visit the town.  The Freeman Store and Museum is located on Historic Church Street one block north of Virginia Route 123.  Parking to the store, caboose, and the old train station is street parking.

Adair, Iowa: The Site of the First Train Robbery in the West

Many of you have grown up hearing stories of the Wild, Wild West.  Although you do not see as many Wild West stories today, they surface from time to time.  For those who are younger and do not know about the Wild West, it was plagued with gun fights and lawlessness and outlaws.  One of the most famous outlaws is a man by the name of Jesse James.  The name stirs up the minds of many.  Jesse James and his gang of outlaws did many robberies in his heyday.  Although he was not the first to rob people in the west, he was the very first outlaw to rob a train west of the Mississippi River, and it was not an ordinary train robbery.

The day was July 21, 1873.  Jesse James and his gang set themselves up at a site west of the town of Adair, Iowa.  Days earlier, they had received word of a shipment of gold headed for Omaha, Nebraska, and it was passing through the town of Adair.  As the train was approaching, the men, who were hidden inside a cut in an embankment, yanked a rope that the tied to the rail causing it to jerk out of its place.  The train immediately derailed.  The locomotive overturned killing the engineer.  Many of the passengers were injured.  Jesse and his men made their way to the car with the safe, and they forced the guard to open it.  What they did not find was the gold but only $3,000.  (The train with the gold was delayed.)  They continued to take the money from the passengers before getting away from the train.  This was not only the first robbery of a train west of the Mississippi River, but it was the first ever robbery of a moving train.  Jesse James was hunted for the rest of his life as a massive reward was offered for his capture.  He was shot by one of his own men at his home in Saint Joseph, Missouri who later collected the reward.

Today, you can visit the site of this entire event.  One of the wheels of the locomotive marks the site and holds a plaque marking what happen at the site.  You can see a set of tracks with the split rail.  It is just south of I-80 / U.S. 6 at Exit 75 on Anita-Adair Road (Old U.S. 6).  The site is accessible day and night.

You have heard of Jesse James making history in the west.  Now you can visit the place where he made railroad history.

The Raymond F. Ratcliffe Transportation Museum, Pulaski, Virginia

What is the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Transportation Museum?

Some of you are saying, “Well, duh!  It is a museum about transportation.”

Yes, it is about transportation.  No, it is not as big as the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke, Virginia or The North Carolina Museum of Transportation in Salisbury, North Carolina, but it has a special uniqueness.

Some of you are saying, “That is very unique, but we have never heard of Raymond F. Ratcliffe.  How does this museum get the name?”

That is a very good question.  Who is Raymond F. Ratcliffe.  No, it is not a name of someone they pulled out of a hat.  To answer the question, we must first talk about the town where the museum is located.

The town of Pulaski, Virginia was incorporated in 1886 as Pulaski City, and it was a small town at the center of commerce and industry in the region, and the railroad played a major role in the establishment of the town.  The museum is named after the town’s thirteenth mayor, Raymond F. Ratcliffe.  Before he was mayor, he worked at numerous industries in the region, and he played a role in the town playing a major role in the region.  Although the town never became a major industrial city like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania or Birmingham, Alabama, it was still the center of the coal mining industry and the steel industry in the region.  He wanted to create a museum to remember the town as a center of industry.  After his death, the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Museum, after numerous controversies, was established.

Today, you can visit the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Transportation Museum and see photos and exhibits about a town that once was.  You can see old cars on display, and you can see the Doctor Milton Brockmeyer ‘O’ scale model train display that displays the town back in the days of Mayor Raymond Ratcliffe, and you can see the Willie Ryan ‘N’ scale model train display.

The Raymond F. Ratcliffe Transportation Museum, also known as ‘The Ratcliffe’, tells the life of a small town in the southwestern region of the U.S. state of Virginia and how transportation to include the railroad played a major role in the establishment of this town.  If you are an out of towner, you will appreciate this museum and have a great appreciation of small town life.

The Raymond F. Ratcliffe Transportation Museum is located in a shopping center at 51 Commerce Street (at U.S. Route 11) in Pulaski, Virginia.  Parking is on site.  You can get more information on admission, hours, and read more into the history of the museum and more into the life of Raymond F. Ratcliffe at https://www.theratcliffemuseum.com/.

Come to the town of Pulaski, Virginia.  Learn about small town life and how the railroad played a role in the town.