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Steam Locomotive

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Steam Locomotive

"Steam Locomotive" drew favorable comment and many personal recollections from other readers. We are sharing these here, with permission of the authors.

I did enjoy reading some of your writings. I really enjoy the Steam Locomotive as I was born in a large railroad town in Colorado. and relate to the steam locomotives and trains. In those years I worked, while going to school, at a radio store which served all of Southern Colorado. We shipped a lot of items via a company called Railway Express. Now defunct, but then an excellent method for shipping small and large parcels. As the youngest person on the staff it was my duty to take the packages to the depot every afternoon. I never told the boss I loved doing so as I always goofed off long enough to go out to the loading platform and hope a train or two was arriving or departing and I would stand just as close as I could to the engines.

Even in younger days my brother and I and other friends played near the tracks by a river coming into town. We would put pennies on the track hoping we could retrieve them all flattened out. Once we got stopped by a railroad detective because we were goofing around a switch and he gave us holy hell. Needless to say we stayed away after that.

Al M.


I too flattened pennies on the tracks, though consumed with horrible visions of overturning the Sacramento & Northern diesel locomotive. These engines meandered through Oakland before stopping in the yard which was roughly at the south terminus of Claremont Avenue. The routing brought through the lower Montclair district, an odd dogleg I never understood, though I am one of the few who remember why Trestle Glen Road was so named.

These were switcher engines, and I believe they were used for the entire route. They never had much of a car load, just one or two boxcars and a caboose. and one day they just stopped, I am guessing about 1958-1959. As a youth I feared mightily that I would get caught "trespassing" on the right of way and be charged with conspiring to overturn a locomotive, but, some older kid had told me he had done it, that anybody could do it if they didn't get caught, so of course I had to try it too.

As I got bolder, I would lay several pennies out in a line on the shiny metal rail, and sometimes a pebble or some other object I wanted crushed. Then I would hide in the bushes where I could try to observe what happened. No railway detective would ever think to look for kids hiding in the bushes! The train was so awesomely huge and noisy there was never anything to observe. The ground would shake, a rumbling, groaning, creaking parade of giant iron wheels would roll by, and then it would be quiet again.

The results of my efforts were some fine embossed oval copper plates for my secret treasure box. The most prized of these has split Abe Lincoln's mouth wide open into a gaping maw that made him resemble a shrieking, laughing bearded baboon. I showed this to my younger brothers and, with great persuasive force, managed to get my brothers to try it too.

It was shortly after that that Sacramento Northern ended this run forever. My brothers asked me if this could be because we did not stop putting pennies on the rails. I felt a guilt that we had not shown more friendliness to such an old institution.


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