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. Tomasic – Photographs and text Copyright 2018