Now here was a train! We were coming back from Staples, Minnesota in December 1979 on our way to Grand Forks on a cold snowy day with a full consist. In fact, we were called a mixed train. You can see a flat car or two with stacked lumber, tanker cars and boxcars with lots of other commodities. No ubiquitous train with just containers.


A trainmaster once told me many years ago that a boxcar had been put on a siding and forgot about. When they opened it 25 years later they were surprised to find it was full of 1949 Ford sedans. Believe it or not that’s how they shipped cars back in the day.


I know that container trains pay the rent but boy oh boy I just wish we could see some boxcars now and then. Maybe with a Herbie painted or drawn on the side. For those of you that don’t know what a Herbie is, let me know and I will see if I can find a picture of one and post it.

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Lately I’ve been watching Mighty Trains on the Smithsonian channel and they’ve featured primarily high-speed trains in Italy, Switzerland and Spain. There are no trains featured from the United States although there has been a train called the Rocky Mountaineer that runs through the Rocky Mountains in Canada that has been on the show.

Interestingly enough, the most recent show featured the high-speed trains running between Barcelona and Madrid in Spain. It’s 386 miles between the two cities and the train makes the trip in about 2 ½ hours. The Texas Central Railway, which is trying to build a high-speed line between Dallas and Houston, plans to use the Spanish company that operates Spain’s high-speed lines. But will Texas Central be built?

Since the COVID crisis began, many companies have laid off significant portions of their workforce and Texas Central has been no different. One of the last updates I received from Texas Central was that it was laying off most of its personnel because of the pandemic. In going to the Texas Central website, there are no new updates that I could find.

Originally, the plan was for the train to begin operations in 2026. The trip to Houston from Dallas would take 90 minutes, a considerable improvement over driving or flying. I hate driving on Interstate 45 to Houston because it is a nightmare of traffic and dangerous to boot!

Let’s hope Texas Central rebounds after we get through COVID. And that a future (way in the future) Mighty Trains episode features Texas bullet trains! It will have to be Texas because what I’m hearing is that the California high-speed rail system is dead and will not be built.

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In my last week as a trainmaster for the Colorado & Southern Railway in Denver, I realized I was finally leaving the railroad. And while driving down little dead ends in Denver, I happened upon this old tired F9 unit, one that I had worked as a brakeman years before. It was sad like I was .

I had such high hopes when I went to work for the Burlington Northern in 1979. My father had always preached to me the importance of getting a “permanent” job that would give me a place to hang my hat for 30 years or longer and provide a pension and gold watch when I retired. Those were the good old days that everyone talks about but that now just don’t exist. When I went to the railroad extra board as a novice brakeman, I was excited and looked forward to a prosperous career with the BN. When I was given the choice of either being a locomotive engineer or trainmaster, I felt like I had finally been given the opportunity to follow my dad’s advice.

Those were the good old days. In the crazy times today, where people aren’t looking for jobs and careers it seems, but for statues to topple because of some sort of perceived grievance, I wish we were back in the good old days.

Of course, the good old days are hindsight. Sitting up in the caboose cupola gazing out at a vibrant multicolored Minnesota forest on a warm fall day was a time not to be forgotten. But pleasant hindsight is not riding a cut of cars down a narrow sidetrack in a 30 below blinding snowstorm straining your eyes to see how far away the boxcars are that you are supposed to make a joint with. And at the last minute discovering that the handbrake on the propane tank car you are riding doesn’t work.

It’s all in perspective.

I can think of many pleasant memories of my years with the railroad and I wrote about them in my book. And some not so pleasant memories but memorable for sure!

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