thanks for the memories
We probably all have our first remembrances of trains. For me, it’s pretty easy since my grandparents lived next to Radnor Yard in Nashville. I was just a tyke in the 1950’s, but some of my fondest memories were visiting my grandparents every Sunday. Of course, all of the kids were outside playing ball, kick the can or any number of other neighborhood games. I, of course, enjoyed those activities like everyone else, but my favorite times were sneaking off and going behind the house to smash a few pennies on the rails or just sit and watch all of the action in the rail yard. This is my earliest remembrances of my connection with trains.

However, what probably cemented the relationship was my first train ride. I was probably about 7 or 8 years old. My father was a member of the local Shrine in Nashville, as I am now, and he came home one day and asked my brother and I how we’d like a train ride. Of course, you know the answer to that already.

It so happened that the Shrine was having their annual spring picnic at a resort about 20 miles to the east of Nashville and as a special treat, the Shrine had arranged for everyone to ride a train from Nashville to the picnic and back.

When the big day arrived, we all gathered at some tracks down by the Cumberland River in Nashville, which I have now learned were the old Tennessee Central tracks heading east. I was just so excited about the whole adventure that was about to unfold.

My dad disappeared for awhile while my mother and brother and I waited. I noticed that people were starting to board the train, but my dad hadn’t returned. I was beginning to worry that my big day was about to disappear when I saw my dad walking back from the front end of the train with a man dressed in what apparently was railroad garb.

Dad, aren’t we going to get on the train was my immediate question.

Of course we are Son. How’d you like to ride in the caboose? I’d obviously noticed the bright red caboose at the end of the train. My father had a definite gift of gab and he had befriended the conductor of the train and managed to grab us a ride in the caboose out to the resort. You’ve got to be kidding me. Ride in the caboose? What else would a 7 year old say, or even a 57 year old for that matter. I didn’t even wait to reply to his question and took off toward the caboose with my brother on my heels.

It was a beautiful thing to behold. I don’t remember the lettering on it, but it must have been an L&N caboose from all that I can recollect. It was bright red, not dirty at all, and had beautiful yellow lettering and handrails. Better still, it was a cupola caboose. Well, you can guess where my brother and I headed. We bound up the steps, scurried inside and straight up the ladder to the cupola we went. Not a soul on earth could have pried us out of those seats. It was beautiful.

We sat there for what seemed an eternity to me when I heard the blasts of the horn ahead of us. Shortly, the sound of slack being pulled and the caboose gently jerked into motion. It’s not easy to find words to describe the rush of excitement that I felt at that moment. We were on our way.

The ride did not disappoint. As we pulled out, I could see the string of mismatched cars snaking their way along the track ahead of us with people leaning out of windows and the acrid aroma of diesel smoke filtering its way back to us. It was almost surreal. I had never even dreamed of anything so exciting.

The train didn’t move very fast as I recall, which was just fine with me. I waved at the people at every crossing that we passed only wishing that the ride could last forever. To my chagrin, the 45 minute ride was over in what seemed like 10 minutes. To this day, I can’t remember the picnic. After the picnic, we rode in one of the cars which I assume was to give someone else the opportunity for a caboose ride and I can’t even remember the ride back, but I’ll never forget, as long as I live, the day that I got my first and only caboose ride.