Trips on the Trains
When I was growing up the best way to get around was by trains. The interstate Highway system had not yet evolved and you could go everywhere on the trains for a small cost. The first trip that I remember was on the RI railroad out of Minneapolis to Owatonna Minn. My friend Myrtle were living and working in Minneapolis and we want to go to Owatonna for one day of the county fair. We went down to the Union station in Minneapolis and purchased our ticket to Owatonna. We were really country bumpkins and we sat in the station and missed our train. We went to the ticket counter and they told us we could catch another train to St Paul and then catch our train to Owatonna. We got into St Paul and had to run to catch the other train to get to Owatonna. This was in 1944 and the train was filled with young men from around Waterloo Iowa who were joining the army. Myrtle met the love of her life on that short trip from St Paul to Owatonna. In a couple of weeks Herman showed up in Minneapolis to see Myrtle and she married him after the war.
My next trip on a train was when I was hired by the Santa Fe Railroad and 17 of us from the Radio School were hired by the Santa Fe as telegraph apprentices and we went to Chicago to the Santa Fe Headquarters and were assigned different states as our final destination.
We stayed in Chicago one day and I had picked Oklahoma as the state where I wanted to work. We all left out of Chicago on Santa Fe No 5 from the old Dearborn Station. The train was crowded and the seats were horrible. The Santa Fe and other railroads had to get out all their rolling equipment to take care of their increase in traffic on account of the war. We were able to get a seat and didn’t have to stand up. But it was uncomfortable, the train was crowded with servicemen and young mothers with their crying small children and the mammas were cranky and fussy. We finally arrived at Arkansas City Ks after 18 hours on the train. We ate the dry sandwiches that the porters brought through the train. Think it was mostly lunch meat and cheese, not much choice.
We arrived in Arkansas City and stayed overnight and then started out the next morning on Santa Fe No 27 to get to our destination. We came through Ponca City Okla about daylight and the train went right through the Continental Oil refinery. That was a interesting sight. I and my friend Betty Soper arrived in Guthrie and we had to wait their for the doodlebug that ran from Guthrie to Kiowa Ks. If I remember correct it was No 54. Betty detrained at Crescent Okla as that was where she would take her training. I went on to Cherokee Okla as that was the town I had picked out to train for my job as a telegraph operator. The train was a small gas powered train that had one car. In the front of the car was the mail section and just behind that was the Railway Express section and behind that was the passenger section. At that point in time mail was transported from one part of the country to another by train. They also sorted the mail and you could mail letters at the train station and it would be sorted on the train.
I went through Crescent, Marshall, Douglas, Enid, Hillsdale, Nash and Jet before arriving in Cherokee in the afternoon. The train went through the south edge of the Salt Plains and I thought I was going to be living out in the desert.
The next train trip I took was probably going up to Wichita Ks and back on the same day. This was also a doodlebug that came out of San Angelo Texas and went into Wichita. This was the old Orient line that the Santa Fe had bought out. The train numbers were 45 and 46. This train came into Cherokee early in the morning loaded with railway express for small business people in Cherokee. They were often down at the depot to meet the train as they had ordered parts and stuff that they needed to get to their customers. I helped write up the express bills and give them to the delivery man. The railroad at that time in 1944 was handling a lot of the small package business as we did not yet have our interstate highway system.
When I moved from Cherokee to Newkirk I had to go into Wichita and then catch a train south out of Wichita to Cherokee. The railroad gave us a pass to get from one destination to another. We did not get a pass on the streamliners just on the other trains.
I rode trains getting from one place to another while I was working the extra board relieving operators and agents for a couple of years. When I was able to bid in the swing job between Newkirk and Ponca City I lived in Newkirk and rode the train back and forth all the time.
When we had vacations we were able to get passes on other railroad, so when I went to Minnesota I would get a pass on the Rock Island out of Kansas City to Owatonna…After World War 2 ended the trains
were no longer crowded and it was nice to ride the trains again. I went home to Minnesota in Aug of 1946 to spend a few days. Caught the Rock Island out of Kans City to Owatonna. I stayed about a week and then started back to Oklahoma. We had a cold front come through Minnesota and was wearing a wool suit and it was comfortable. Didn’t wear it on the train and when I got into Kansas City on the way back it was 11 p m and the temperature was 105 degrees. I knew I was back in the south.
I made another trip home before I was married and this was probably in February of 1946. The younger operators on the extra board had to take their vacations in the off months so that was why I was vacationing in February. On that trip I decided to take my brother Richard on the train to Minneapolis in the morning and come back in the afternoon. He had not been on a train before and was about 13 years old at that time. We went into Minneapolis and went shopping downtown. The station was only about 6 blocks from the downtown area at that time. Decided to eat a meal on the way back to Owatonna and that was a special treat for Dick. All the larger passenger trains had a dining car and the food was very good. The silverware was very nice and the plates and cups and saucers were real heavy duty so that they would stay on the tables and not shift around. The tables had cloth tablecloths and cloth napkins and you really ate in style.
In 1947 after I was assigned to the Newkirk-Ponca swing job I made a trip to Amarillo Texas with my friend Helen Alford. We were both able to get passes and so we went to Amarillo. We left Newkirk and changed at Wichita and caught 23 out of Wichita to Amarillo. We went out there about a week after a deadly tornado had started up the Santa Fe tracks near Pampa Texas and kept on going all the way to Waynoka Okla and then some. Everything looked like it was damaged at Waynoka and I think over 200 people were killed and some were found that were never identified. It also hit Shattuck and other small towns along the railroad. At that time no 23 was not air conditioned and this was the last part of May. The windows were opened on the train and the dirt blew in and that was something else.
We stayed with Helen’s fried for about 3 days and drove around Amarillo. At that time in late May the Paul Scarlet roses were blooming in Amarillo and it seemed like every house had some beautiful rose bushes. We made a day trip down to Canyon Texas and went down into the Palo Duro Canyon. You are just driving along and here comes the canyon. I have never been back and I understand it is quite developed for campers and such now. This is where the Native American people holed up in the winter time. We came back to Newkirk after staying in Amarillo for about 5 days.
When I worked in Edmond in the fall of 46 I used to catch the interurban trolley down to Okla City a couple of times a week. At that time the interurban ran from Guthrie to Okla City and then there were other connections down to Norman and then west to El Reno. I don’t remember when the interurban was abolished but think it was in the late 40’s or early 50’s. People were not able to purchase new cars until about 1947 and I think you had to be on a waiting list to get one.
When I lived in Minneapolis in 1944 the only way to get around was on the street cars. There seemed to be one going every 5 or 10 mins on the lines that were close to where you lived. That same thing exists today in Lima Peru but it is busses and vans and taxies that you see there. You can stand on a street corner in Barranco Peru for 10 mins and see 50 busses, vans and taxies go by.
The next train trip that I made and remember very vividly was the trip to Minnesota that I made in Dec of 1950. My parents had not seen our son Hugh and so I decided to go to Minnesota the first part of December in 1950 as I had a two week vacation. So off I go ,went to Kansas City on the Santa Fe and then took the Rock Island to Owatonna Minn where my brother in law met me and took me to their house for a couple of days. I visited with my sisters and then made a trip to my folks who lived at Willow River Minnesota at that time. The train was late into St Paul and I missed the connecting train to Willow River. It was storming at that time and I had to telegraph my Dad at Willow River and tell him that I was coming on the bus. He was sitting in the depot at Willow River so the agent was able to tell him I would be on the bus. Dad and Richard met me and we drove out to the farm. A blizzard came in and we were stuck out there for 5 days. Hugh had a cold and my Mother fixed up her onion cough syrup and it cured his cold.
We started back to Oklahoma when the weather cleared and the trip was uneventfull until we got to Kansas City. The Rock Island train was late for my connection, but I knew that No 23 should still be sitting in the yard with a Pullman car that switched out at Newton Kansas and came through Ponca City. So off I go and get some milk for Hugh and I found a porter to carry my suitcase and I had Hugh. I ran down the tracks and got on the Pullman car. The cost for a lower berth at that time was $3.50. So I paid the porter and we got in the berth, undressed and went to sleep. The porter would come by and wake you up at about Winfield so you would be ready to get off the train. A man in the upper berth also got off at Ponca City and I remember him saying that my baby slept well after getting on the train at Kansas City. Can you imagine traveling that way now?
I would go back in forth to Minnesota a couple of more times on the train while Hugh was small. Dale and I never got our vacations at the same time so I would go see my family once a year. Hugh and I and Gail went to Minnesota when Gail was 10 months old. I think that time we went over to Caldwell Kansas and went direct to Owatonna without changing. Dale could get us passes on the Rock Island at that time as I had resigned from my job on the Santa Fe.
The last time we went to Minnesota was in 1966. At that time the railroads had lost the contract to haul mail for the post office and they were beginning to cut out passenger service in the states. We caught the train at Caldwell and I left my car over there for a week or so while we were gone. The trip was interesting and it got a little more interesting after we left Des Moines Iowa on the way back. Gail and I were in the coach car and Hugh went back into the lounge car for a while. You could buy drinks and candy in the lounge car and the seats were a little more comfortable. Well several women got on at Des Moines and they were going to Kansas City for some kind of a convention. Seems they got to drinking and telling jokes and Hugh was having a great time listening to them. He was 16 at the time and said those women were so funny.
That pretty well ends my trips back and forth to Minnesota. I will now tell you about trains in foreign countries after 1970. We went to Peru in 1972 and drove from Huancayo to Cusco and then we took a train from Cusco to Machu Pichu. We got on the small train in Cusco and went through several small villages on the way to Machu Pichu. At each small village people would come on the train selling everything imaginable, but mostly something to eat and some crafts. The people were dressed in their colorful clothing and most were barefooted. You were considered wealthy if you owned a good looking pony. I can still see a man about 40 years old on his white pony at one of the small stations. He was really King of the Road. The train stayed at Machu Pichu and we went down and back in one day.
In 1980 I went to Peru with Betty and stayed in Huancayo with her family for a couple of weeks. We decided to go from Huancay to Huancavlico one day on the train. It was a couple of hours trip on a train similar to the doodlebugs that we used to ride in the states. We arrived in Huancavlica and I had felt a little under the weather on account of the altitude of 14000 feet. So off we march to the Tourist Hotel to get a cup of coco tea. After drinking that I was all right and we walked around town looking to buy some leather goods which Huancavlica is famous . We couldn’t get seats on the train back so we had to go to the bus station and buy tickets. Well we got our bus tickets and reserved seats and got on the bus. The bus travels one block and then fills up with people standing all the way to the back of the bus. It was really crowded and I remember one incident after all these years. A man got on and he was a little bit or a whole lot drunk and he took the liberty of trying to fondle some of the women. He got a hold of someone about 30 years old and she slapped the heck out of him and he then sat down and went to sleep. Nothing like traveling to get an education…Wow
The next train trip was in the United States on a narrow gauge railroad. We had taken a bus load of boy scouts from Enid out to Cimmaron New Mexico and left them there for 10 days. We had also taken one of our vans and so we decided to stay in New Mexico and look around for 10 days. We went to Taos and Santa Fe and then decided to go to Farmington across the northern part of New Mexico. We stopped at the small city of Chama and decided to stay overnight and catch the narrow gauge train up to Antonito Colo the next day. This was in the early 80’s and the area around Chama had not been developed much at that time. We went up to Antonito on the train and then came back to Chama the same day. This was in July or early August and it was snowing a bit at Antonito. The scenery was very good and it was a neat trip. We went through Chama in 1997 and it had really built up and lots of tourists go there now. Glad we went when it was still sort of undeveloped.
In 1985 I went to London with Gail while she was teaching a class for Conoco. Steve couldn’t go so I was happy to go on the trip. We decided to go to York from London while we were there. I forget what station we departed from but think it was Charing Cross. In London you all line up in neat lines to get one the train. No messing around and pushing and all that good stuff. We went to York and stayed over night, toured the area of york and then came back the next day as Gail was teaching the following Monday. There are trains going almost every hour to many of the large cities in England and they are very nice trains. It was interesting to see the countryside and see the old churches and such in York. We came back and finally got some of the English people to talk to us and had a nice visit on the train. Of course while in London we rode the trains in the tube. It’s not called the subway in London, it’s the tube.
In 1993 Dale and I went on a tour to Australia, New Zealand and Fuji. We were on a couple of train trips during this vacation. We left Hawaii and arrived in Cains Australia about 9 hours later and were very tired. We went to the hotel and deposited our luggage and then we went off on a tour of the surrounding area by train. This was a narrow gauge railroad and the cars were open as the climate is very hot. We probably went about 10 miles from the main part of the city and we saw some native dances and some native artifacts and then came back to our hotel in the evening to rest.
We then went to Sidney and later to Melbourne and then we flew from Sidney to Christchurch New Zealand. The plane was late out of Sidney and we arrived in Christchurch about 1 a. m. We had a room in an old fashioned Victorian hotel but were only able to sleep about 3 hours before getting up the next morning to catch the train. There was a big old fashioned deep bath tub and I filled it up and soaked for a while as I was very tired. Got up early the next morning and went to the train station. This train was used mostly for tourists and it ran from Christchurch up the mountain and the trip was about 4 hours. Saw a lot of the New Zealand countryside and then we detrained and traveled by bus the rest of the time in New Zealand.
The next and last trip that I have made on a train was into the Copper Canyon in Mexico. I went on a tour in 1999 and for part of the trip we traveled by bus. We went to a large city in Mexico and stayed overnight and the next day we started west on the bus. We went into the part of Mexico that had been settled by Mennonite people in about 1920. The Mexican government allowed them to settle and have their own schools and own language and with the understanding that they would never have to serve in the military. The Mennonite people have very nicely developed farms and orchards where they live. Our guide told us that when they know a hail storm is coming that they cover their apple trees with plastic to stop any damage to their fruit. We had a meal at a Mennonite restaurant and was the typical good German food. After leaving that part of Mexico we caught the train for our next stop. We would travel for part of a day and then get off the train, see the local sights and then catch train the next day for a few hours. We stayed one day down in the canyon at a tourist hotel. Quite a place, lights out at 10 p m and they had a water shortage and water had to be hauled in by truck. From this hotel we took a 2 hour bus ride further down into the canyon. The native people that live in the canyon come up near the top in the summer time and then in the winter they move back down into the bottom of the canyon as it is warm down there. The scenery is unbelievable and it was a trip that I had looked forward to for many years. Dale and I had always talked about making this trip but he was very ill and died before we were able to go. This concludes some of my trips made by trains over a period of 60 years.