Lots Of Inconvenience On The "Ma And Pa", Published 17 March 1948
You can write it down as a certainty that the smaller the railway the more trouble you will have riding it, that the less important it is the less co-operation you will get. So nothing much except trouble befell me when I undertrook to ride the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railway sometimes called the Ma and Pa, and often indicated as the Mom and Pop Railway. It runs from Baltimore, Md., to York. Pa.
The Maryland and Pennsylvania ambles 77.2 miles cross country between the points indicated. Originally built as a narrow gauge line, it gradually converted itself to the standard four feet, eight inches. Last summer, Lucius Beebe, elegant champion of the short line railroads, staged a nostalgic trip down this old iron. He hired special cars, secured some potted palms, laid in some champagne, and started across country on the Ma and Pa. This was duly recorded in Life magazine. Strangely enough, nobody connected with the Mom and Pop seems to have seen the story.
I made a special trip down to York to tackle the Maryland and Pennsylvania. I went down to the head office, and told them that I proposed to ride from the first suburban station, Plank Road, into downtown York. The chap I found in the office graciously dug up a folder, and gave me his blessing. Where he later disappeared to. I do not know.
I then walked down the track. I the visited their roundhouse, and talked to the hostler who looked after the steam and diesel engines. We talked of this and that, then he called me a cab to take me out me out to Plank Road.
Here the trouble starts. In the first place, the driver never heard of Plank Road. I was in one of those taxis where they have phones, and he phoned in the office. They told him Plank Road was now known as something or other, and he started off there, I think in the wrong direction. Then the phone buzzed, and a voice said: "Where did you say the gentleman was going?" There was some discussion backward and forward about the strange gentleman who wanted to go to a non-existent street. I cut in to say: "Get the railway on the phone, and ask them to tell your car despatcher where Plank Road is."
Later came this: "I have the railway on the phone now, and they say they never heard of Plank Road."
Now mark you, the other Ma and Pa had known all about it, and I produced a folder in the taxi to show it was listed. But still the railroad office lunkhead said there was no such station. Need I tell you what the taxi meter was doing!
Finally, after geting the greatest run around I have had in years, I paid off at $1.60 and waited on the highway, where the Ma and Pa crossed. I was misinformed by the time keeper, at the factory nearby. I judged that a clearing in the ground was the so-called platform. He insisted the flag stop was right at the highway
After what seemed like hours of waiting, and being taken for a suspicious character in my black Persian lamb cap, the one-car train finally appeared. I flagged her down with the evening York paper, but of course I was on, the wrong side, and 50 feet irom the platform. But I clambered aboard while the conductor was talking with the engineer. Finally he saw me behind him and exclaimed exultantly; "I got .him."
So we were off. I tried to make conversation as he punched out a cash fare, but he was much more interested in a forlorn female who was somewhat reminiscent of a wall-eyed pike. He didn't care if I was a rail fan or not: he had Miss Wall Eye on his hands and he liked it. We rolled and rattled past all kinds of manufacturers' sidings, and I kept watching what scenery there was till all too soon, we arrived at the metropolitan downtown terminus of the Maryland and Pennsylvania, in the heart of cosmopolitan York. It was my 124th railway.
Not Steamed Up
I cannot sav that I got too steamed up about it. The conductor couldn't be bothered telling me anything about the railway. and the gasoline electric car trip was not productive of any live news about the Ma and Pa. However, I have not yet discovered any protection against ignorance.
In startling contrast to all this was my ride later on that night on the Pennsylvania Limited, when I rode the cab from Altoona to Pittsburgh. I went to bed at 9 p.m. on the Pittsburgh express, since I was to be called at Altoona at 4 a.m.
"You shore going to sleep fast," said the porter, as he took my ticket. I dropped off into the arms of Morpheus, or rather the Pennsylvania, and woke only once. as we left the Harrisburg depot at 1.48 a.m.. I was called at Altoona, and quickly debouched out onto a brilliantly lit platform as per schedule at 4 a.m. I then watched our big engine, a 4-4-4-4 type steam turbine, lift our heavy train, and disappear into the nlght. I was now ready to ride on the Deisel (sic) on the Pennsyjvania Limited, just as soon as that train hit Altoona.