Sepia Saturday – A memory of trains

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I haven’t had much time to think about Sepia Saturday the past two weeks, and I was sure I wouldn’t participate this time around. But I have a couple of photos and a little time today, so here goes.

My grandparents, Tom and Eveline Hoskins, lived on Brick Row in Ottumwa, Iowa for many years. A row of houses lined one side of the gravel street near the city limits on the east side of town. On the opposite side of the street was a railroad track. The tracks lay on the rise of land behind my grandmother and me in this photo.

A ditch ran between the front yard and the street. Two railroad ties provided bridges, allowing a direct route to the house if you parked on the street.

One could sit on the railroad ties for a photograph,

or one might practice her balance on and off the “balance” beam.

My mother and I lived with my grandparents from the time I was about two years old until I was nearly eight. I don’t remember being bothered by the loudness of the trains passing by day and night. It just becomes the background noise of one’s daily life. If I was playing outside when a train came by, I would try to get the engineer to blow his horn and get a wave and a caboose whistle from the conductor in the caboose. I often succeeded through my enthusiastic waving – especially from the man in the caboose. If I was fast enough to begin as the train approached, I’d count the cars as they passed by, hoping to reach 100. The last couple of years I lived in this house, I occupied the little gabled room upstairs in the front and I could look out the window and watch the trains pass by.

To catch the bus to school, I would walk down Brick Row to this railroad overpass. On the right side, there was a narrow sidewalk with a short barrier, maybe 4 inches high, to act as a curb and offer protection for pedestrians. It is gone now – not many pedestrians walking to meet the school or city bus these days. The overpass is still in use.

There are more railroad stories in my family history, but that’s my trip down memory lane today.

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10 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday – A memory of trains

  1. trains are so evocative.Past memories of future travel ……
    What a great childhood!. ah those photos of yours.! I love them, you looks so happy……+ a cracking bit of balancing! Bravo X

  2. Love the photos and the story. I too, loved trains as my Dad was a Union Pacific employee for 40+ years. He worked on both freight and passenger trains as a Fireman and Engineer. We would drive to the train station in Junction City, KS to pick him up from work and I would always try to elicit a wave from the engineer. While we were waiting, I would listen for the train whistles as the train approached town and the station. Combinations of short and long whistles indicating crossings.

    • You could add some stories here! Let me know if you are interested! I’m in favor of “guest” posts from others in the family, although no one has taken me up on it yet.

  3. We have just 3 junctions in town where the train needs to blow the warning whistles…and the different engineers actually have their signature toots…though all are required to do the same number of longs and shorts. And though I hear it several times a day, I couldn’t tell you right now exactly what it is…yes, after 11 years it’s just background, and I really love it.

    • Funny how annoying the noises we are used to can be to anyone who visits. I know I’ve spent the night where a clock chimed every hour/half hour and couldn’t sleep because of it.

  4. I’m glad you found a few minutes to post this story. I can see you waving wildly to the engineers and trying to get them to blow the whistle. We used to do that when we drove beside a tractor-trailer, trying to get them to blast that horn. The ditch in front of the house reminds me of something I always thought of as a ditch when I was a kid. When I see it now, I keep thinking surely someone filled it in because it doesn’t look quite as thrilling as it did years and years ago.

  5. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be so close to the tracks on a daily basis. I’ve stayed in RV parks with trains passing and thought “Whoa! Too loud!” I always think back on the I Love Lucy episode when the four of them on their way to Hollywood and they spend the night in a cheap motel next to the tracks. The bed keeps moving from one side of the room to the other, depending on which way the train was heading. I’m wondering if there was a lot of breakage in your grandmother’s house, or constantly having to straighten picture frames.

  6. Great pictures and memories which reminded me of a photo of my Iowa Grandmother’s house so near the railroad it’s passing rattled the windows, dishes and pictures on the wall. She lived in Exira, Audubon County on the other side of Des Moines. I was born there, visited there, but not often…long way from Texas. You were brave to walk across the ditch and overpass/underpass.

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