One day you are making dinner in the afternoon and see a headlight on the bridge, that headlight you waited so patiently for as a kid.

Go back to the days when you were ten or eleven and the phone rings at home. Grandma needs you to get something from the pharmacy. She sends you there a couple of times a week for various and sundry goods, so you jump on your bike (a twenty-six incher—big time stuff there) and head to her house to get the money. Then off you go down the back road, not because it’s the most direct route, no because it runs along the edge of the hill and from there you can check out the B&O and their big bridge over the Allegheny River. The line is the Pittsburgh and Western (P&W) sub that runs from Glenwood yard west towards Ohio or (if they take a right at the wye in Eidenau) Buffalo.

You take your time going to and from the drug store on the off chance that you’ll see a big drag, most likely with multiple F units or old geeps, struggling to get a run at the hill. Sometimes you even stop, in a quiet bend in the road, to watch and wait. You can also see the Penn Central main off in the distance and maybe a few E units will roll by with the mail train. It was a cool time to be a young railfan.

Well as time goes by, grandma doesn’t need so much stuff and your little brothers will do the running anyway. The bike gives way to a car and suddenly you’re in college, then chasing girls, learning about gin and getting that first job. You get married, find a house in another neighborhood and the P&W and that twenty-six inch bike are forgotten.

Years fly by, as they will, and you bring your family back to your old neighborhood. The house you buy looks down on the old P&W, but my how things have changed. The F units and geeps are scrap, the B&O itself turned into the Chessie which then became the CSX. The P&W sub was almost abandoned, but ended up being divided between two regional railroads. Most of this happened while you were away, but it still hurts a bit knowing that those childhood scenes are gone.

Traffic is way down and the trains don’t seem to run at convenient times. Out at night with your dog you might hear them, or early in the morning you awake from a dream to hear them clunk on by. Then one day you are making dinner in the afternoon and see a headlight on the bridge, that headlight you waited so patiently for as a kid. A smile crosses your face as those days come back and it’s even better when it happens the next day and the day after. You ask a friend (who is in the know) and he says that this is going to be a Sunday through Friday run called for 3 PM out of Glenwood yard.

So now, as the weather warms, you sit on the porch and wait on that train and listen to the sound as it winds up for the run up the hill. It’s just you and the dog and all those memories and a new train to watch. That twenty-six inch bike is gone, but the kid that rode it is still here, waiting on a train.

Kevin N. TomasicPhotographs and text Copyright 2018

9 thoughts on “Waiting on a Train

  1. Thank you again for another wonder-filled story. Along with great photos, you’ve taken us on a journey back in time and then slowly brought us up to date. I feel relaxed whenever I get to take such trips in time. Thank you!

  2. Great story. We thought as youngsters that such an impressive mechanical organism would be there forever and we feel tremendous loss when it changes or even disappears. Often the parts of the organism that remain as lonely testaments as to what once was seem out of place and leave us feeling incredibly sad.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful story! It brought back memories of my youth, waiting for and watching BN coal trains run up Lenexa Hill at Lenexa, KS.

  4. Reminds me of watching trains go in and out of Sydney, Nova Scotia from my perch at the window at my Grandmother’s home across the harbor.

  5. Nice job! I enjoy your writing and photos! Brings back memories when my grandmother lived across the street from the Southern Pacific main through Davis California….1954. (The SP/UP Overland Route). I use to wait by her upstairs front- room window as a 10 year old waiting for a train. Trains did come from the Shasta Daylight to the Cascade to the SF Overland and City of SF. PA’s, F’s, RDC, GP-9, SD-9 AND STEAM in its last years. ‘Saw cabforwards, 2-8-0s, 4-8-2s and more. Those were the good old days. And freight cars were so interesting and pristine….no graffetti. ‘Use to love and dream as all those boxcars went by…..MP, TP, NYC. PENN, WP, NP, MILW, Leigh Valley, CBQ, DRGW,, ACL, Wabash< ATSF, GN, RFP, Nickle Plate, Eric, GMO……all gone forever.

  6. Kevin, terrific story, as usual. Once railroading gets “in your blood”, there is a lifetime of images, memories, and anticipation of encountering another railroad, anywhere or anytime, that is always there.

  7. Wonderful story, Kevin. And I love that photo with the Immaculate Heart of Mary in the background; you’ve inspired me to find that location the next time I visit Pittsburgh!

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