Every once in a great while I take the time to clean out some old railroad related files and give the heave-hoe to a lot of meaningless railroad crap that I know I was saving for some particular reason but can't for the life of me figure out why. Once in a very great while, I come across an item that I had totally forgotten about, and in this case, the item I found brought back a long lost memory of three railroad crazy passengers of mine, a Dad and his two train crazy sons who, of all things, loved the railroad.
The item I am referring to, was a letter, and some photos, dated September 25, 1987. They were sent to me shortly after their trip on the California Zephyr.
(One of the California Zephyr photos)
I remember seeing the Dad shepherding his train crazed sons, Brian and Jeff, up the platform at South Station. They were totally insane about the train. Taking photos of each car. Writing down car numbers. Totally amazed and awed with this great kingdom of railroading.
As they approached me, their Dad pointed me out to them, referring to me as "The Conductor," which I was not, but it didn't matter any to them what my title was, trainman, assistant conductor, ticket collector, engineer, attendant or what have you, as their Dad put it, "All you railroad guys are heroes to them."
The excited trio asked if they could walk up to the head end to take some photos of the locomotive. I told them to go ahead and enjoy themselves!!!
I watched them as they ran up front, cameras dangling around their necks, excited as all heck about seeing the locomotive and maybe if they were lucky, they'd get to see the Engineer!
Our Hogger on that particular day was a great guy named Herbie Clark, well known and well respected throughout the railroad community and a legend to those in the railfan community. I gave Herbie a yell on the radio, cluing in him on the guests who were headed his way. Herbie replied "Roger!" and then flagged down the trio and invited them up into the cab of his screaming loud F40ph.
After a short but memorable visit with the great man and his grand locomotive, they headed back to the coaches even more crazed than they were when I first met them.
I'm not sure who was crazier about being on the train, the Dad, or Brian and Jeff, but no matter what, I realized that maybe we are indeed a lucky bunch, us railroaders. I mean, let's face it, how often do kids run into a lawyer's or doctor's office or stockbrokers office or any kind of office or venue (other than perhaps a toy store or a candy factory) for that matter and tell the people working there that they are "lucky."
Oh sure that lawyer or doctor or business person may have a much better schedule, make a lot more money and have an overall better quality of life, but how many times are they told by a Dad that they are "hero's" to a couple of railroad crazy lads!
We treated the trio like our very own special guests, having Brian and Jeff make some announcements, open and close the doors and of course, yell "all aboard." It was like a thrill of a lifetime for them. Before we knew it, we were at New Haven, time for the engine change and time for our crew to say farewell and best of luck to our fans.
About a month later, a letter showed up in Boston that was addressed to me, and it was from Brian, Jeff and their Dad. It included photos of their most recent trip aboard the California Zephyr and a thank you letter for being so hospitable to them. The photos were very nice indeed but it was the letter that really hit home and made me think for once in my life.
In the letter they wrote........."Jeff and I think you're so lucky to work on the trains."
I began to wonder how many other people think we, as railroaders, are a lucky bunch?
HIT HERE to see THE LETTER from Brian and Mike.
I learned a lesson that day. Don't ever forget that a great many people in this world are envious of us railroaders (although many would be afraid to admit it), and yes, all of us, no matter what craft we work in, are indeed hero's to so very many.
I learned a valuable lesson from these guys. People love trains. People love the railroad and people love Railroaders. So a tip to my fellow railroaders out there. Next time you see somebody waving to you or giving you the thumbs up, and you roll your eyes in disgust complaining to yourself or to a fellow railroader about "foamers" and "railnuts," keep in mind that in their eyes, you're someone very, very special to them.
It's been almost 20 years since I received this letter, and I have more than often wondered where these guys Brian and Jeff ended up. Did they end up becoming railroaders? For all I know, they may be working out west somewhere as trainmen or engineers or station agents or car knockers. Or one of them, maybe Brian or maybe Jeff, may become President of the railroad some day. But no matter what, the railroad will always have the likes of these guys and thousands just like them, as loyal fans and supporters, and the good Lord knows, we, as railroaders, need every bit of support we can get.
If in fact Jeff and Brian went to work for the railroad, I hope they realized another lesson that I learned a quarter of a century ago when I hired on the railroad. The locomotives and coaches and stations and all the other hardware are indeed a wonderful thing, but without RAILROADERS to add life to all of it, the railroad is nothing but one boring heap of hardware and crap.