Old Stories

When I was very young, a boy, my parents thought it was a good idea for some of us to spend the summer in Brooklyn. We traded a balmy summer in Long Beach where The Pacific Ocean was just a few miles away for the hot and humid streets of South Brooklyn.

We always took the train. I’m not sure it was less expensive than flying but it felt that way. This was in the pre-Amtrak era when passenger trains still had some panache and were fun to ride. We always took Santa Fe’s El Capitan which was a high level all chair car train. That meant you slept in your seat. Sleeping was not always easy.

The food was great. It was cooked fresh by real live chefs. Old school waiters brought the food to your table which you might share with other passengers if your party couldn’t fill four seats. It’s not as bad as it sounds. You talked to random people and learned a little about their lives which would serve me well in my later career.

You could sit in the lounge car and watch stuff as the train passed by. Usually you saw the back side of cities and towns which were usually pretty broken down which may explain my interest in ruined places and things.

Station stops were not very long, usually just long enough to let passengers board or get off if that was their final stop. This was true at all stops except when the train arrived in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This stop was twenty minutes long because the train was refueled and crews were changed. Passengers could get off the train and wander around the station, buy stuff from either the station owners or the American Indians selling their wares on the station platform.

Once again, see how how my past influenced my adult life?

The Albuquerque station was also a division hub which meant cars and engines were repaired there in big huge buildings. Once, even when I was young, this was a busy place. By the time I moved there following Hurricane Katrina, most of the engine houses and car barns were no longer working. They were cleaned out and locked up. If you contacted Amtrak’s local PR department you could organize a personal non-hurried tour.

The photograph is a kicked up version of one of the engine house’s external walls. Some of the windows are broken, some of the glass has turned colors from the heat and the walls are filthy. And, there is what looks like a cross at the top.

It’s not a cross, it was the old logo for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. It was once painted blue and white.

Of course, this was about forty years after I last passed this way on the train.

Change is inevitable. That’s a good thing.



7 responses to “Old Stories”

  1. allentimphotos2 Avatar

    Your story brought back fond memories. I travel between Emeryville to Chicago but came back via the Southwest route you describe. Thank you for the reminders.


    1. Ray Laskowitz Avatar

      You’re welcome. We did it almost ever summer from about 1959 to about 1969. I didn’t changing trains in Chicago. Santa Fe was a predictable three hours late and we had a NY Central System train to catch. The two terminals were about a mile apart, Whew.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. allentimphotos2 Avatar

        It sounds like some of the antics we go through today to get some place that’s not a major hub. Did you have siblings traveling with you? I was in 10th grade when I went by train.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ray Laskowitz Avatar

        It’s the reason we fly into Dulles to get home rather than through Charlottesville which is only 20 miles away. I was six and my poor baby sister was four.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. allentimphotos2 Avatar

        That’s very young to travel. Strangers tended to look after each other more. Definitely an impressionable age that as you said really forged a life of experiences.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Ray Laskowitz Avatar

        Now you know why I am almost on the road.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. allentimphotos2 Avatar

        Yes it’s somewhat inbred. We wouldn’t do it if there was not enjoyment in it.

        Liked by 1 person

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