Railroads, steam engines and passenger trains remembered

Published 3:16 pm Sunday, September 15, 2013

A couple of western shows on television often show an old steam engine pulling a few old cars. They are old and in perfect condition and really pretty. The railroads and trains were big helps in the creation of our country and still operate in many places.

Several places in our country have sightseeing trains just for visitors. Colorado is one state that has a really popular train that takes people through the western mountainous area from Durango up through Ouray and on to Montrose. By the way, Ouray is named after the Indian chief that out negotiated the government agents and gained over 80 percent of Colorado as Indian territory. This was later overruled by a number of agreements with different areas, and the Indians were left with a small section in the southwest corner of the state.

The special train in Durango is sold out for every trip, and people will almost fight for a window seat. This gets to be a problem as the train puts on power through the mountains and the black smoke begins to pour out and goes down over the passenger cars. When this black smoke comes pouring in the window seated passengers wish they had a seat in the aisle, and the window seats are not so popular on the return trip.

We had our own trains here in Louisiana, and one of the well known ones was the Panama Limited that came down through Hammond on the way to New Orleans. It was rumored that it averaged 90 miles per hour in the open stretches of the track between the different cities. If it didn’t have passengers to pick up in Hammond it came through there at a fast speed, and one time some people tried to run through the barrier and beat the train. Parts of their car was scattered in pieces over several hundred yards.

Some young men in the college would go up the highway that ran alongside the railroad tracks to Amite and try to outrun the train to Hammond. They seldom won, but it was something that livened up the day.

We had our own railroad business here in Bogalusa, and I’m sure most old timers remember the Rebel. We all went to New Orleans on this pretty little train, and it was a real treat to come back after dark and enjoy the ride. We had a lot of people in town who worked for the train company, and one interesting job one young man did every day was when a train stopped and was getting ready to go he would go to each set of wheels and put some cloth material in the bearing area and add oil, and then do the other side. It was an odd job but did keep the bearings on each axle from ruining.

Several of our men who lived here were the engineers, and they drove whatever train they were assigned to. During the Second World War they had some sort of agreement that when they were on the road like 16 hours they had to stop, and another engineer would come take over the train. The part they liked about it is they were paid until they were back home, and that added to their paycheck.

A small town in South Alabama had the only track in the area, and some six different rail companies made regular trips through this town to get to Mobile.

One group began to jump on the train cars when they were carrying new cars. They would go in the new cars and steal radios, heaters and anything else they thought they could sell, but finally the new cars began to have federal agents hidden inside, and the thievery came to an end.

We were and still are blessed with some big railroad organizations and should be thankful for all such blessings we have.

May the Good Lord bless us all today.