Trains have always been a big part of my life because of my Dad. This post is disconnected, but the main theme is trains throughout my Dad’s life, and I *know* I’m missing a great deal.

Trains used to run at street level on Washington Street aka Railroad Street in Syracuse, NY for many years. Can you imagine working in one of the buildings with the train running through? Or staying in one of the hotels? I can imagine the windows rattling, the building shaking, and the smell of the smoke.

NYS Conservationist Feb 2007 pg 16
From the New York State Conservationist, Feb 2007, pp. 16-17
The original painting hangs in the lobby of a bank in Syracuse.

In 1935-1936 the NY Central Railway station was built on Erie Blvd. in Syracuse and the trains were elevated. There was a big celebration in the fall of 1936, and my Dad remembered his Dad taking him as a young boy to see the grand opening of the elevated train tracks and the first running of a train on those tracks.

421 - NYCRR Station1 - 300dpi
From the collections of the Onondaga Historical Association

In the summer of 2006 a gentleman came into the Onondaga Historical Association research center looking to write an article about the elevated trains, and of course I told him about my Dad. The article he wrote was due out in the Spring 2007 issue of Syracuse Engineer, which I received just shortly after Dad passed. I was sad I couldn’t show him this article which I kept as a surprise for him!

When I was a young teen we took the cog railway to the top of Mt. Washington, and on the way back down the train needed some repair. Right. In. The. Middle. Of. A. Very. Steep. Slope. We were all very scared.

From the Mt. Washington Cog Railway website.

The crew made it seem like it was no big deal, but being hung in the middle of a mountain at such a dangerous angle was quite intense. Needless to say, I’ve never gone back on that particular railway again.

While growing up we didn’t have much money, so my parents used to take us for a drive on Saturday or Sunday afternoons for entertainment. Gas was all of 29.9 cents. One of the places we went to was the freight yard in East Syracuse to watch the trains do their maneuvering. It was actually pretty cool to watch them unhook and reassemble cars and engines.


They were much more intense than this old postcard shows, but you get the idea.

One Thanksgiving my Mom, Dad and I went to Washington, D.C. to the Smithsonian and spent a great deal of time looking at the old locomotives on display there. Dad enjoyed himself explaining to me how the steam locomotives worked.

My Dad worked for Rotelcom laying fiber optic along railroad beds across the country in the late 80’s-early 90’s after he retired from the NY Telephone Company. I remember he spent a bit of time in Ohio. He would bring home discarded railroad bed artifacts every once in a while.

In 2005 my Mom and I took the train through the Verde Canyon in Arizona. I have to say, I appreciate watching trains more than riding them. It sorta makes me feel yucky to ride backwards. It was worth it to see nesting eagles and eagles in flight.

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VC03232005 275

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A couple of years ago my Dad and my brother took a trip across Canada on the Canadian Railway. They were planning to go across the U.S. soon, and Dad was really looking forward to it.

On Friday I went to our local gardening store where they have a great model train display set up. My Dad and I used to travel around this time of year checking out the model trains at the various stores, including this one. I went into the store to buy my Mom a couple of Christmas presents, and something drew me to the trains, even though it was not easy doing it by myself. It was really cool, as always.









While it was weird being there without my Dad, it was nice to hear the familiar model train sounds, and to look at the intricate details.


This is my Dad hiking along the railroad bed in the fall of 2006 at Letchworth State Park.


He was happy being beside this railroad bed. He would have been happier to have a train go rolling by. He definitely instilled his love for trains into me. Except for when I have to wait for them while I’m trying to get somewhere in my vehicle.

What about you?  Do you like trains – real and/or model trains?

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sandy
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 11:23:12

    Pam, you will always know that your dad is with you when you are looking at trains, small or large, I think that is neat.

    I would not ride that cog railroad for five million dollars. When we went up the other side of the mountain by car, I had my eyes closed above the tree line. Our daugther was the only one who enjoyed that trip!

    I wish you happiness and the best of memories on this holiday.


  2. mon@rch
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 13:06:35

    such a wonderful post and so glad you put so much time into it! It is a wonderful honor to your father who would have loved reading this! I had toy trains when I was a kid.


  3. Linda
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 15:17:35

    I have similar memories about my dad driving us around. My dad gathered us all in the car on Sundays after church, took the backroads to discover places we hadn’t seen before. It was a fun and a cheap thing to do in those days.

    My experience with trains: Every year the kindergarten class got to ride the train in Preston, MN. I couldn’t wait! That is until the day I graduated from kindergarten. They stopped doing it. I felt really gypped…enough so that I still remember it 50 years later! It was one of the major let downs in my life, ha. As an adult, though, I got to ride the train just outside Jamestown near Sonora, CA. It was an old steam train that was used in many of the old western movies. It ended in a BBQ dinner. They had employees in period costumes that made it seem authentic. That was terrific. I rode the Oil Creek train in Titusville, PA for the fall colors. It is a short trip but it was fun. You can imagine yourself back in the late 1800’s.

    My only other experience was when my sister came to visit me here in Erie, PA. She is afraid to fly. She took Amtrak. It took three days for her to get here as it stopped just about everywhere along the way. She didn’t have a bed and just slept sitting in her seat. When we greeted her upon arrival she broke out bawling. She had pretty much had her brain rattled and hadn’t slept for 3 days. I drove her back to California in my car. But I want to try Amtrak at least once. I want to take the one that goes through the Rockies with the glass-top cars so you can see the mountains.


  4. jayne
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 20:00:39

    Oh Pam, what a lovely post and tribute to your dad. You know we LOVE trains in this house. Sam has always been fully enthralled by them from the time he was 2 or so, and his passion has never waned. He’ll love seeing these photos of the model RR.


  5. mary
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 22:09:41


    I love train gardens, especially the ones at the firehouses in Baltimore City – not as elaborate as the ones you showed, but awesome.

    My Dad was in love with trains and had train gardens under the Christmas tree for a number of years. It was always a dream of his to take a trainride around the country. He never realized his dream but that’s OK. The Metrolina would not compare to the passenger trains you see in the museums.

    Nice post. Your Dad would love it.


  6. mary
    Dec 23, 2007 @ 22:10:15

    I meant “Metroliner”. I really should proofread my comments :o/


  7. winterwoman
    Dec 24, 2007 @ 10:21:18

    What a great post on trains! We had a model train in the basement when we were kids. Technically, it was my brother’s… but we all played with it. (Don’t tell him.)


  8. Martha
    Dec 24, 2007 @ 14:56:00

    Merry Christmas! What a wonderful post this was. I loved the minatures and the trains. Memories of Christmases past. We don’t do the train thing anymore for some reason. Something that needs revived.


  9. Rondi
    Dec 26, 2007 @ 22:29:36

    This was a fascinating post. I sent it to my dad who is a huge train afficianado. He has a great HO layout in his basement and a wonderful garden railroad in the back yard complete with fish pond and to-scale houses he’s built. He thoroughly enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing it!


  10. Trackback: Garden Store Opens! « Nature Woman
  11. Joe Moyers
    Nov 17, 2011 @ 08:37:11

    Very thought provoking post. What a blessing to have such a powerful connection with your dad. I grew up in a very small town with the community school located very close to a rather busy train railway including a trestle that crossed a large creek. At times the teached had to stop speaking while the trains would pass. After school we would explore around the bridge and tracks. Vivid memories of the trains left a affection for trains as I grew up and ventured out to large cities and rode the commutor trains.


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