Riding My 100th Railway, Published 2 October 1945For a long time. I had made up my mind that my 100th railway was to be the Thousand Island Railway. This delightful little item operates 4.5 miles from Gananoque Junction to Gananoque Town, and even enjoys the luxury of a suburban station known locally as The Umbrella. So when I had knocked off No. 99. the Denver and Salt Lake. I was just waiting for a favorable day to slip down to Leeds County, and to the T.I.R.
Fate intervened however, and recently I found myself motoring with Kamipoulos (gas rationing is off, and my faithful chauffeur Kamipoulos is back on the job!) through Toledo. Kamipoulos, I said to my trusty Hellenic, we're coming back here some day to ride the Wheeling and Lake Erie, I said. There was a nod of assent, and we stepped on the gas to clear the suburbs.
Suddenly I looked up, and what should there be there, but a Wheeling and Lake Erie engine. I crossed her tracks, where she was standing, and after a short block, I asked Kamipoulos why I should not turn back, and go for a ride on this train. So we executed a quick circle in the Sunday traffic, and I soon found myself standing at the foot of the big engine.
"If you give me a ride." I shouted up, "this will be my hundredth railway."
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Now railroaders are used to any kind of emergency, and so when I mounted into the cab. I don't think they were surprised much. They may have thought I was a lunatic, but beyond that, there was no particular reaction. However. I talked fast, told them of my hobby, and explained that if they would drop me down the line, I would walk back. I must say I was anything but dressed for the occasion, in white shirt, light summer suit, and similar garden party clothes. When I was through my ride, the wheel of my car, clean it as 1 did later, was smudged for weeks from my grimy hands.
The big 6200 type of freight started to roll, and she lifted her drag with her. We were off to the Wabash Railroad yards, and this was my hundredth railway.
But, since the farther I went, the longer would be my walk back, I decided after a few minutes, that I had had enough. So the engineer eased her down, I leaped for the gravel, and managed to light without my face kissing the ground. Then he highballed her and with a rattle, was away.
Thus, instead of riding the Thousand Island train, for my 100th railroad, I found myself travelling the Wheeling and Lake Erie.
But the weekend was productive of another railroad. We spent the night at Erie, Pennsylvania, the southern terminus of the Bessemer and Lake Erie. The B & LE is owned by a steel company, and its crest is a cross cut section of a steel rail. Its northerly terminus is Erie, and it percolates south as far as Bessemer, practically a suburb of Pittsburgh. Once upon a time it ran diners and parlor cars through to the Smoky City, but now the two-car local operates a mere 62.9 miles down to Greenville, and the rest of the trip has to be made next day.
I had a terrible struggle trying to find out where the Besscmcr's first suburban station was so that I could take the train in. A girl at the hotel tried to tell me that:
"That road doesn't rate around here; nobody bothers about it." I hadn't time to explain to her that I was a trifle touched in the head about trains, and that the less they rated, the more I wanted to ride them. Finally I got a sympathetic taxi driver, and he wheeled me out 11 miles to Fairvicw where they flagged No. 12. Down the track she came a-snorting, old No. 901 and her two coaches. She was the same type as we use on the atomic bomb line you know, up to Chalk River.
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A bride and groom were on the train, which is one way of starting life. The other passengers were not very exciting. We rushed along the Nickel Plate rails momentarily, then swung to our own, and so on into the town and right down the street with the rest of the traffic. Most interesting episode was when we ran through a red light. All the other traffic on the street stopped, but we just kept right on rolling along. Then we wound up at the little old-fashioned depot, and the 101st railway was history.
I cannot help seeing an inexorable trend of the times in these two small lines. I got out the 1927 folder of the Wheeling and Lake Erie. Where once it had day coaches, dining car service, and even parlor cars, not one single passenger train operates over 600 odd miles of track today. Where once it took people to Toledo and Cleveland and Lorain and Wheeling, today, not a single cash passenger is carried. Similarly the Bessemer, once a thriving lot of plush, today the best they can do is a couple of little locals. Their day may be gone, but I for one mourn their passing.
Meanwhile, I still have to ride the Thousand Island Railway.