We have a couple of friends who work for the railroad, they are or were engineers for both Amtrak and freight. They are interesting people to talk to. I had a conversation one afternoon with one of them about the amount of time I had spent as a kid doing things related to trains or tracks or train wrecks. I decided to dig through the archives and post just a few of the shots taken in the 60’s and early 70’s of us spending time on tracks.
On every vacation we would have to stop at something that had to do with tracks – while this wasn’t a train it was a trolley at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Arundel, ME. It seemed like no matter where we were going on vacation we could always make a stop at a place like this.
Of course there was Steamtown, USA located in Bellows Falls, VT which was just close enough so we would go fairly often. It opened in 1963 and these photographs were taken in 1964.
Then there were the train wrecks. These were truly family events for us as kids. Very rarely would we go with our Dad anywhere except on our once a year vacation. If there was a wreck within a reasonable driving distance we went. Often we would go on consecutive nights to see how the clean up was coming along.
This was also before the days of lawsuits and liability issues so when there was a wreck it took on a carnival atmosphere (maybe it was because I was a kid that it seemed that way). People would walk around the wreckage – help clean out box cars taking home whatever they could (they would be called looters now – it was a different time). We would go at night and watch them work under huge lights, part of a gallery of locals where this was about as much excitement as you could ask for on a February night.
This last photograph was taken at Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, NH. We went there a number of times on vacation but it was only in recent years that I realized it wasn’t because my parents loved Franconia Notch, it was more about going to Clark’s and seeing the locomotive that they had there. We always had to take a ride on it and I’m sure Dad talked the ear off of the engineer. While there we would also have to go to Mt. Washington and watch the locomotives for the Cog Railway come and go. At the time they were steam and pushed the cars up the mountain.
In later years my father bought a 1923 Erie Steam Shovel (like the one in the children’s book Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel). He complete restored the multiple engines on it, had the boiler re-manufactured and would fire it up occasionally to delight and entertain family and guests. He would contact the owners of Clark’s and talk with them about it because Clark’s was the only other place that had one that ran. He sold it a few years ago to a man that wanted to finish the restoration, he didn’t want someone to scrap it.
There are still two large steam power plants on the property – one was used to power the sawmill. The other was a steam generator he took out of a factory in Vermont.
Steam has been an all encompassing passion of my father’s his entire life. He had always talked about putting tracks around the property so he could run a locomotive around it. I always thought that was more to get a rise out of my mother but have come to understand that it was probably a sincere dream of his. We may have been bored out of our minds on some of those trips to Steamtown but at the same time there is nothing I have found that gives me chills like a steam engine chugging it’s way along the tracks.