Trains and More Trains

Photo by Saloma Furlong

Every time I saw a freight train during our trip to the Southwest, I thought of Datt. He loved trains. He seemed to have a nostalgia for them, likely from his days of working on the railroad when he was in his twenties. He had left the Amish to join the military when he was 18. This would have been in 1936, so he could have ended up in WWII, except that he apparently burst his eardrum when he shot off a gun too close to his ear. He was discharged after that. He subsequently got a job as a brakeman on the B&O railroad. I have five years of his time sheets, but I believe he had the job longer than that.

Datt was touchy about talking of his days out of the Amish. If anyone brought up the fact that he had left the community, he would become angry and defensive and forbid us from talking of that time. Yet he couldn’t resist talking about his job on the railroad.

I remember whenever I saw Datt around a train, he would count train cars as they went by. And wouldn’t you know, I found myself doing that more than once during this trip. Some trains were longer than 100 cars. Many of them were carrying containers from the shipyards. We saw lots and lots of Costco labels, as well as China Shipping and OOCL (whatever that stands for). There were others that I’m not remembering at the moment.

Photo by Saloma Furlong

David and I were both surprised just how many freight trains go streaming through the desert. It seems they are part of the landscape. Sometimes they were spaced only five minutes apart from one another. So often when David and I are on road trips, he repeats his mantra, “Every one of these trucks should be riding the rails!” During this trip, we drove between 3,500 and 4,000 miles, and I didn’t hear him say it even once.

Below are several more of train photos from the trip.


Photo by Saloma Furlong


Photo by Saloma Furlong


Photo by Saloma Furlong


Photo by Saloma Furlong

I also frequently thought of Mem during this trip to the Southwest, but for a very different reason. There were times when I felt her spirit close to me. I knew that she’d taken a cross-country trip when she was 29 years old, three years before she got married. She kept a scrapbook of the trip, which one of my siblings ended up with. But at some point, I had transcribed the journal part of the scrapbook. I didn’t have a scanner at the time, or I would have scanned the photos she had in there.

During my travels, I wished I had re-read her journal before going on this trip. I knew she had been to some of the places David and I visited. Upon my return home, I did read it, and I found I had been to more of the places she’d visited than I knew. In my next blog post I’ll be writing more about this.

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11 thoughts on “Trains and More Trains”

  1. Saloma,

    What a great trip and the photos are super…

    Using my skills as a librarian,,,


    Orient Overseas Container Line

    Its a international shippiing company based in hong kong.
    They have port facilities in long beach california where
    They put their containers of products onto trains. They travel all over
    The United States…

    Enjoy your blog journal so much….

    John wiehn
    Connecticut Librarian

  2. John, it’s so wonderful to see you here! And thanks for that information. I was too lazy to look that up last night.

    Thank you for letting me know you’re enjoying my blog. Readers are what keep me going.

    Happy Spring!

  3. Trains have always been so fascinating to me! I have a friend in Southern California whose father has worked at the Long Beach shipyard for years. He is one of the workers responsible for sitting high up in the big machines that unload the ships with the containers that will then be put onto trains. I’ve driven by the shipyard multiple times throughout my visits to California. These pictures make me want to spend time exploring the states west of Texas!
    -(Your niece)

    1. Kate, it’s you! I’m so glad you told me WHICH Kate, otherwise I would have missed that. It’s great to see you here!

      How cool that you knew someone’s father who may have loaded those very train cars we saw.

      I hope you get to explore the states west of Texas… who knows, maybe even by train?

      Thank you so much for stopping by, Kate. I hope you’ll visit again.

  4. Michele Larson

    Hi Saloma,
    Thank you for sharing your photos of your trip. They remind me a little of our trip to Colorado Springs 2 years ago to visit our son and family — such beautiful country.

    Bob loves trains and is working on a model train layout (mostly freight). I remember taking a train often from Montpelier Jct. Vt to Springfield MA to visit my cousin and family (in East Longmeadow) when I was young. As an adult and not that far in the past I took the train with my then teen daughter to Montreal from Montpelier to spend a day there and to visit the art museum (a wonderful memory) and Bob and I took a trip on the train to Montreal a year or two later. We often talk about taking a train trip in the future. It used to be a cheap way to travel but not anymore.

    Just this past week we were in Asheville, NC and we had to wait a long time for a very long train to go by. It had many tankers and flat cars with shipping containers. We got to it after much of it went by and it seemed like it was never going to end. The next day we had to wait again. I thought of you when we went through the Shenandoah Valley. (Our son and his wife gave us a trip to the Biltmore and they and their children came with us.)

    I enjoy your blog so very much. It feels like I am getting a letter from a friend.

  5. Saloma, I enjoyed your photos and story about the trains. My husband and I have many photos of the long trains taken on our trip to the west. My brother lives right next to a railroad track and our farm where we grew up was a bit farther from the track but when I was still at home, the train carrying limestone from the quarry would rattle past at least 3 times a day. Now it only goes one time and at 11:00 p.m.
    I love the whistle and the sound of the train going down the tracks. It is quite unusual but quite often when we are visiting family and friends in America, they live close to railroad tracks. I love the sound and I don’t care if the train goes past in the middle of the night. We found glass marbles on the tracks that go thru Hesston, Ks and also in Hagerstown, MD. We brought a bag full of the marbles back to Holland and they are in a glass jar on our windowsill.
    take care, Mary M.

  6. Those trains are always nice to see. Also here in Canada. When driving to Manitoba and we are in Saskatchewan, What can be so boring to drive, we can be happy to see a train.
    Here we hear the train too. One block away are the tracks. Don’t really like the while, but I have no other choice then hearing them.
    Can be frustrating if you have to wait when they are just leaving here after loading. Worst was a 30 min wait.
    Enjoy your trips!!

  7. I’m betting that you saw COSCO (China Ocean Shipping Company) containers rather than COSTCO. But in any case, multi-modal shipping is HUGE business and EVERYWHERE!!! It’s a big change from the freight trains when I was a kid back in the ’50s and ’60s.

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