Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Trains" by Abraham Lincoln

Abe Lincoln returns with more recollections from the past. This time, Abraham reflects on trains in our area. Do you have memories of the days when trains were much more active in our area? Share them in the comments below the story...

A tragedy on Labor Day of 1945 happened when The Spirit of St. Louis and an automobile collided at the Albert Road crossing. Look magazine did a story about the accident and had a photograph of a baby setting on the street crying. I never knew who that baby was and realize it is now around 60 or 70 years of age. Makes me think the photographer was a man because a woman wouldn't let the baby set there on the street crying but would have scooped it up and tried to calm it down. Instead the man must have walked around and looked at the baby from different angles before taking the photo that appeared on the cover of Look.

The trains that came through Brookville traveled fast. You could stand there and watch the passengers eating in the dining cars. Their faces were mere blurs and passed before you could even react.

Some trains wrecked along Cusick Avenue and it was not uncommon to hear one go off the tracks and make a thunderous noise as the steel wheels bounced across the cross ties. I remember one train was backing up pushing an empty car that ran off the tracks and nearly hit the grain elevator. It made a terrible noise.

The fast train that crossed Route 40 used to mow people down like wheat on the Preble County Line Road crossing south of Verona, Ohio. Somebody was always getting killed there.

My son, Chris, told his younger sister that trains could jump off the tracks and travel across the grass right into our house. Our daughter told us that she was always afraid when she heard the whistles and was relieved when the trains stopped running.

Brookville isn't quite the same since the trains stopped. The rails have been replaced with a beautiful bike path that runs from Trotwood through Brookville to Verona. That was the best thing that happened to the old rail line. My home county, Darke, ignored pleas to convert the old D&U roadbed into a bike path.

Electric trains also passed through Brookville and were housed here. I don't know much about them but my dad used to ride an electric train from Gordon to Dayton and from Clayton to work at the DP&L substation on old Route 49 near what is now the Salem Mall. He said they were supposed to observe speed limits but most of the passengers wanted them to go faster and they did.

The last passenger train to Greenville was in 1931 according to the Brookville Historical Society but I remember waving to passengers who were riding on a passenger train that passed through Gordon, Ohio in 1935 or 1936. My mother called me to come and see the old Dayton and Union passenger train steaming into town. I remember the train was covered with flags and bunting and passengers waved and threw candy at us.

During the Second World War we used to set and watch freight trains pass by our house and each car carried tanks or trucks or a couple of Jeeps. It was an amazing sight to see and I wondered how long it would take for those things to get overseas to the war.

There is a story about a fast train that jumped the tracks northwest of Greenville and landed in a swamp and disappeared from sight. I first heard the story when I was about ten years old. People said the steam engine and tender sunk and were never recovered.

I rode a train from Dayton, Ohio to San Francisco, California when I was in the Army and it passed right through Brookville, Ohio. In Chicago I transferred from whatever train I was on to the San Francisco Chief. As I recall it took 4 days and 3 nights to make the trip and I slept in my seat. The clickety-clack of the steel wheels running over the gaps in the rails put me to sleep and the gentle rolling, back and forth, kept me asleep.

I was also fortunate enough to be able to ride trains in Japan long before they were equipped with modern bathrooms. The slits in the bathroom floors was my introduction to life without toilet paper in the Far East.

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