My Uncle Ed just loves trains, and when I asked him why the fascination, he shared the following...........
My Love of Trains (1)
by Eddie S. Sanders
You asked about my interest in trains; most of the places I lived early in life was full of trains. I spent many summers in Jenkins, KY and just west of Jenkins is a town called Dunham, KY where a very large coal tipple was located. There were coal mines that ran for miles and miles through those mountains and the coal was delivered to the Dunham tipple where they were loaded onto rail cars. We watched them every day and formed a love from them as you would a pet. We knew the train numbers, the crews and where the coal would be taken to. As a matter of fact if you ever get to visit the Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan you will see a large steam locomotive on display there. I watched that engine work in Jenkins and Dunham. From there we lived in Maryland on the Gun Powder River. The bridge between Washington and New York was about a mile away and we watched trains cross that bridge every day. More later.
This is a continuation of my trains story. As I said in my first email most of the places (and they were many) we lived had train tracks close by. First in Jenkins, KY, next in Baltimore, then in Tennessee, and then to Alabama where we lived with our Grandfather William L. Sanders who lived right beside the main lines of the L&N Railroad. The only place we lived that didn't have a train nearby was Sand Mountain, Georgia. And, that place didn't have much of anything and, still to this day, doesn't.
When we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana, we live in a nice area but it was close to several oil refineriary's which had many railroads serving them. We could hear the train whistles at night and it was the most lonesome sound you could imagine. My mother used to sit and cry when she heard those sounds because it reminded her of her home in Virginia. When our dad died in New Orleans they sent us to Virginia on the train and unbeknown to us, in Memphis, Tennessee, they put dads body on the same train that we were on. So, we rode the train the last several hundred miles with his body. The family met us in Abington, Virginia and took us to Jenkins and dad's body to the funeral home close by. So, much of our lives were centered around trains because that was the mode of transportation back then. The sound of a steam engine still reverberates through me and brings back sad and wonderful memories. More later, Love, Uncle Ed
More about my addiction to trains; by now you can understand why trains were so much a part of our lives back then. I loved to look at them, smell them and more than anything I loved to ride behind a steam locomotive. I have chased them all over this country but like most everything else, the railroads have changed. Now if you are a "Train Spotter" you better find yourself a place off the railroad right-of-way or you will land in jail for trespassing. I belong to the Cincinnati Railroad Club who sometimes sponsors train rides when they can afford the cost of insurance. We ride to Danville, KY or to Muncie, Indiana and sometimes up to Ashland, KY. Its a lot of fun but because of the cost to operate a steam locomotive the tickets are high.
After I came back state side from Okinawa, I was stationed around Washington, DC. It was so much cheaper to ride the train home than to drive and a heck of a lot safer. The railroads gave servicemen big discounts. I remember that I could buy a round-trip ticket from Washington to home and back for about $15. Then I could devote the travel time to drinking and partying in the lounge car. I must have made that trip twenty or more times and loved every minute of it. More later.... Love, Uncle Ed
Libby, this is the final installment of what sparked my love of trains. My mother and my heart always resided in the area where she and I were born. Don't know if you remember or not but Jenkins, KY and Clintwood, VA are only about 15 miles apart and no matter where we resided our hearts always yearned to be in those places. So, when mom heard the wail of a train whistle it was as though it was calling to us to return to the place of our birth. There were plenty of trains in Southwestern Virginia for it was a very large producer of coal and timber.
At Norton, Virginia for many years was the industries largest stoker producer in the country. Stoke is residue of coal heated to a high temperature and burned much hotter than coal itself. So, the demand was very high but you could hardly breath the air there because of the smoke and pollution the stoke ovens produced. As many as ten trains arrived and departed that area almost every day. The area also had two passenger trains per day, which was a lot. The activity in the area for a train lover was the very best one could hope for. One example of how badly the draw was for me, in 1952 I was 14 years old. A buddy and I decided to hobo to Jenkins. We caught a train out of Shreveport thinking it was going to Memphis but wound up in Houston, TX. From there we hopped another train and this time wound up in New Orleans. When we left Shreveport we may have had sixty five cents between us and now we have been on the road for two days. We go lucky in New Orleans thinking we were on a train going back to Shreveport but this time wound up in Memphis. There a railroad cop caught us and turned us over to the city police who called my dad. He sent the money for a bus ticket back to Shreveport. Needless to say, I was punished severely. The cops in Memphis fed us a baloney sandwich and cool aid and I had never tasted anything that good my whole life.
When we lived with Grand Pa Sanders in Trafford it was on the North and South main line of the L&N Railroad. Many trains passed each day and each one was more exciting than the last and there was always something different to see on that line. One time I remember that the railroad was sending several of its very old switcher engines to the shops in Louisville to be cut into scrap metal. These were still working engines but just outdated. Something went wrong and they set about eight of these engines on a siding at Trafford. Well, needless to say we had a whole set of new toy's to play and play with we did. We carried five gallon buckets of water to fill the tank and many buckets of coal so that we could fire up one of those engines. And, we did, and drove it around on a siding about a mile from town. The only problem was that to get to the spur line we had to pull out onto the mainline and that triggered an alarm in the terminal in Birmingham. They sent a crew out to figure out what had been on the main line and found us driving that engine back and forth on the spur. The took the engine away from us but ironically, we had just run out of steam when they found us. So, they had to carry water and coal to get the engine back to the siding and that took most of a day. They were a little mad at us but were astounded at the fact that we knew enough to fire up and run that engine. Never a dull moment and if nothing was happening we would make something happen. We had an entire railroad to play with. I am sure that you have seen the little work cars the railroads use for crews maintaining the road. These were run by a small gasoline engine and were easy to operate. Well, one day we found one running on the main line just south of town. We couldn't find anybody around and figured that it had just gotten away from a crew somewhere. So, we decided to take it back to the Birmingham yards (20 miles south of Trafford) and figured that they would reward us for recovering their work car. What we didn't figure was that there were many fast moving freight and passenger trains that moved up and down those tracks everyday. Well, we didn't get far when we heard a train catching up to us from behind. So, we got the thing stopped at a crossing and managed to pull it off the tracks just seconds before the train passed. Of course, a crew and a cop showed up right away and took the car and the cop took us. As it turned out there was a crew with that work car who were up on a bank having lunch who were very mad at us. They never left a work car running again after that…..
by Ed Sanders
Much of my young life was spent in Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. In 1944 dad moved us to Baltimore, Maryland. We moved from Baltimore in 1947 to Harlan, Kentucky and from there to Trenton, Georgia. We then moved to Trafford in 1948 and lived with Grand Pa Sanders for a year. We then moved to Shreveport and lived there until 1953. No matter where we lived it seems that I spent every summer with my aunts and uncles in KY & VA. Dad died in early 1953 and mom moved back to Jenkins. I entered the Army from Shreveport and was discharged in August, 1953. They found out that I was only 15 and kicked me out. I re-entered the military in 1954 and spent the next four years in the Air Force. While in the Air Force I was stationed at Cheyenne, WY. There we witnessed some of the most exciting railroading that I had ever seen. Big trains and lots of them day and night. Boy! What a place. I didn't much care for the people of Cheyenne but the railroad was a magnet to get me back there. I have visited Cheyenne twice since and would love to go out there again. Anyway, that's my story and I am sticking to it… Love, Uncle Ed
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