Here's a little bit about me and how my love of trains grew.
I've had an affinity for trains for as far back as I can remember. To me they always symbolized power, and a great deal of awe!
When I was 4 years old (1955), my folks moved into a hotel on Oak Park Ave. in Berwyn, Ill - about a block away from the Burlington line (CB&Q) into Chicago.
All day and all night, I would hear the sounds of the mighty diesels; the hiss of escaping air, pistons pumping, fading into the night to who knows where. It rapidly grew to be music to my ears, and filled me with dreams of far off places.
About 6 months later my folks found an apartment on Stanley Ave., just a couple blocks away from the hotel, and right across the street from the tracks. I thought I was in Heaven. Being this close to the rails, the mighty behemoths would shake and rattle the walls, as well as my soul. I would lie in bed at night and wonder where those magnificent metal monsters had come from, and where they were going.
We lived there for a couple of years, then moved into another apartment on Harlem Ave. and 32nd St. We now lived about a mile away from the tracks, but that didn't deter my fascination. To the contrary, the distance only served to strengthen my bond with these mystical majesties.
Completely against my parent's wishes, I'd sneak out of the house and ride my bike to the Berwyn station, just to sit and watch the trains.
Over the next few years, I became progressively bored with the education system, and would cut school to spend my days along the tracks, or - if I had the money - I would ride the train into Chicago and jump on another train heading to somewhere. Somehow, I managed to make it to the 9th grade. Made it to, mind you. I never did finish it.
In 1966, my Mother passed away, a devastating event for me. Ironically, her passing led to one of the best train rides I've had.
My Step-Father had a brother that lived in California, so he made the decision to send me out west while he took care of the necessary arrangements. That decision put me on The Santa Fe Super Chief.
For three days, I witnessed some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen, coupled with the hypnotic effect of the clickety-clack of the rails. Somehow, it helped to ease the pain.
A year later, partly due to the lack of closeness between my Step-Dad and I, once again climbed aboard my red and silver chariot and made the glorious ride back to Chicago.
Even today, the sound of the diesel, the hissing of the air valves, and the clickety-clack of the rails, instills the love and pain from my youth.
Currently, my better half (of 35 years) and I live about 1 mile from the CSX W&A Sub, one of the busiest lines east of the Mississippi, also alleged to be the curviest line in the USA, as well as having very little level track.
The W&A Sub runs from Atlanta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is about 138 miles long. This is also the line of the infamous "Great Locomotive Chase" during the Civil War, when Andrew's Raiders stole "The General" in Kennesaw (Big Shanty), Georgia in an attempt to disrupt the Confederate supply line.
The General is now on display at the Railroad and Civil War museum in Kennesaw, after having been bought and sold a few times, as well as having been stolen a second time.
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