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Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Black Friday To Remember

Engine 734, photo by Western Maryland Scenic Railroad
We never shop on the day after Thanksgiving anyway, but yesterday's family trip from Cumberland to Frostburg on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad was an alternative to remember. Partly because of all the memories it evoked from my childhood.

My father always loved trains. And I remember hearing the distant whistles of locomotives making their way across the Kansas prairie on quiet nights when we lived there from the time I was four until nearly seven.

Also, our move from Garnett County, Kansas, to the Shenandoah Valley was by train, some still powered by steam engines, with my mother herding all eight of us children in and out of passenger cars and through railroad stations for a journey of over 1400 miles to far off Stuarts Draft, Virginia. My father traveled in a separate freight train, in a rail car especially designed for such moves, taking care of several head of livestock and the farm machinery and household furniture packed inside.

On our Stuarts Draft farm we were within pleasant earshot of the whistle sounds of trains along the Norfolk and Western line, a railroad company that continued to use coal-fired steam engines long after most other lines converted to diesel. The coal industry was highly dependent on N&W for shipping coal from West Virginia and Kentucky mines.

Our three local grandchildren with us yesterday will grow up with a different set of memories, some of a day like yesterday and some of stories passed on from earlier generations involving, among other things, trains lumbering across the landscape at a slower pace and at a different time.

Yesterday some of us were able to interact with four of the five crew members on board the train, the conductor, brakeman, engineer, and the person making announcements--all but the fireman. And we'll take with us new memories of sights and sounds and conversations along the 32-mile round trip by rail, and including some time spent at the B&O Canal Museum on the ground floor of the Cumberland railroad station and of the Carriage House Museum and railroad turntable at the Frostburg Depot.

No amount of shopping in crowded malls could ever compare.
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