Ghosts of Chessie

Inlaid into the floor of the waiting room at Prince, WV, is the C&O’s mascot “Chessie.”

Situated deep in the New River Gorge National River area is a little-known Amtrak station in Prince, West Virginia. In the late spring of 2018, my family and I used it as a jumping off point for a trip on Amtrak to Yellowstone National Park. The station is still served three days a week on Amtrak’s Cardinal line and is in CSX’s New River subdivision.

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Around the World in 16 Days

The Trans-Siberian Express

This trip, strangely enough, did not start with something I got in the mail. I was at a meeting of a group to which I belong, and met someone who also was quite well traveled. We started chatting about things we had done and places we had been, and happened to mention the Trans-Siberian Express. This is a fascinating train trip that starts in Moscow and ends in Vladivostok on the east coast of Asia.

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No Time to Waste

Part Three – The California Zephyr to Chicago

What the river does after a million years of work

My 1969 railroad adventure continues . . .

San Francisco has always had a special place in my heart. I lived there for three months in 1953, was the only non-Oriental in my third grade class, and as a curious eight-year-old soaked up the images of cable cars, street cars, Twin Peaks tunnel, and Golden Gate Park.

In 1953, with a family of four and luggage for three months away, the best way to travel was by train. From Grand Central Terminal, take the New York Central’s Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, connect with the California Zephyr to California, and see ground level America from sea to shining sea. For my eight-year-old curiosity, it was an exposure to travel and the USA that made a permanent impression on me.

The post war renaissance of long distance train travel was in full swing, and arguably the most aggressive effort to capture the travel market was the California Zephyr.

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Cell Phone Revelation

A couple months back, I entered the new age, trading an old flip phone for a shiny new “ iPhone”. My old flip phone could take pictures, but to my eye they looked like the “Brownie” shots I took as a kid. I’d tried shooting with my girlfriend’s cell phone a while back but owing to shaky hands and inexperience the results weren’t very good. Now I get this new toy and resolve to try again—hey, what better than to have a decent camera right there in yer pocket at any old time—right?

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No Time to Waste

Part Two – Southbound to Frisco

My railroad adventure in the summer of 1969 was going very well indeed. I’d taken two weeks off from my Operator’s job on the New Haven, left NYC for Montreal, then the Canadian National Super Continental across Canada to Vancouver.

The trains were everything I had hoped transcontinental streamliners would be; clean, punctual, well-traveled with interesting people having a great time enjoying the vast expanses and stunning scenery that only train travel allowed you to fully appreciate.

Now it was time to head south from Vancouver, to Seattle, Portland, and on to San Francisco to meet my Air Force and railfan buddy who was returning from Vietnam for a month’s R&R. The west coast corridor between Vancouver and Portland had regular service with convenient schedules operated by several different railroads. In these pre-Amtrak years, most lines were struggling with the financial burden of ICC mandated passenger services that were losing business to air travel and Interstate highways. Train-off petitions kept the lawyers busy, but the operating departments, to their credit, tried to maintain a high level of service, since passenger trains were often the only contact between the public and the railroads. There was still a lot of pride in their important work.

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Richmond Division Recollections

Part Three

Peninsula Subdivision

Providence Forge

Providence Forge depot.

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