Many people have memories of their childhood. I am more fortunate than most to have had a father who took me to work with him. Of course he never looked at it like that because he would have preferred to be at home rather than at work on weekends like most people. When I think back to those days when my dad worked in the A&P supermarket in the dairy department part time, it brings a smile to my face. He would get up Saturday mornings and walk to the A&P and work from 9:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. Each week he would tell me not to come into the store to see him because it did not look right to the boss. Each week when I could, I walked down to see him anyway. I would try to time it to when he was cutting up those big wheels of cheese. There he would be in his white apron behind the counter, and I would pop in and say “Hi dad!”
He would frown and say, “What did I tell you about coming here!”
I have been involved with railroads, one way or another, my entire life. My very earliest memories at three years old are of being on board the Southern Pacific/Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific’s Golden State with my Mom. As a pre-teen, I would regularly ride my bike to the depot in Goleta, California, to take in what the Southern Pacific’s Coast Line had to offer an observer. Once a teen, and into my college years, I decided mere observation wasn’t quite enough, and I started hopping freight trains. It was at about this time that I picked up a camera and began recording these adventures.
In 1976 I snagged a job with the American Freedom Train and traveled the country for a year as the AFT’s Assistant Curator. Now my interest in railroads made a transition—I was getting paid!
In December 1990, the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad (RBMN) bought 150 miles of tracks in east-central Pennsylvania from Conrail in the process of expanding from a 13-mile shortline (the Blue Mountain & Reading, on the remaining portion of the former Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Valley branch) to a 300-mile regional. The “Anthracite Cluster” included mostly ex-Reading Company routes—both main lines and branches—as well as bits and pieces of ex-Lehigh Valley and ex-Central of New Jersey trackage.
To celebrate the expansion, and the railroad’s heritage, the Reading, Blue Mountain & Northern operated a weekend of freight and passenger trains in early June of 1991, using Reading Technical & Historical Society diesels and their own ex-Reading T-1 #2102—herself built in 1945 in the Reading Company’s shops in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania. For a few unseasonably hot days, the tracks between Reading and Cressona once again felt the weight of a giant 4-8-4 pulling coal cars, almost like the old days. (Unlike the old days, the engine wore Blue Mountain & Reading lettering on her tender, and all of the coal cars had Conrail markings, but I don’t think too many of the assembled fans minded much.)
Margaret Askew was the agent-operator at Providence Forge which was a train order office. During the summers of 1972 and 1973 when I worked at that depot, I never met Margaret nor copied a train order. However, I did handle a couple of small Railway Express Agency shipments.
I heard Margaret on the dispatcher’s line when she OS’ed passing trains. Her voice seemed elderly and all comments about her by other personnel were complimentary. She was among the women who were hired during World War II as telegraphers and had sufficient seniority to stay at Providence Forge as other agencies were closed. Read more
At this time of year, nearly everyone will have recollections of Christmas seasons, recent or distant, when time seemed to stop and it was almost possible to live a lifetime in that moment.
Moments like that are rare. People usually remember them with almost perfect clarity, regardless of whether the experiences are joyful or, maybe, not so joyful. For me, Christmas of 1976 was one of those experiences. Read more
My mother had fallen ill during the Christmas Season of 2011. That horrible demon known as Alzheimer’s was slowly tightening its grip on her memory and functions. It was soon obvious that she needed to be institutionalized and have round-the-clock care and treatment for her devastating illness.
The darkness of winter grew longer each day, and our holiday spirits were darkened as well. My wife Yoko and I thought it would be a good idea to brighten up her home once again with a Christmas Tree in the living room to help rekindle the flames of the Christmas season. So for the first time in more than a few years, there was once again a Christmas tree in mom’s house. Read more