Ridin' That Train

I love trains. I used to ride the Wabash from Chicago's Union Station to my parent's home in Decatur (Decatuh, Decatuh, Soybean Capitol of the World!) Illinois. I've taken Amtrak's Pioneer from Seattle through Denver to Chicago, and Amtrak's Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle. I took the Empire Builder once again in a single berth to see my parents in Minnesota. Nothing beats getting on a train at 2:00 am, tired and cold after three hours in a cheerless, hard-benched station, and hearing, "Welcome aboard. Your bed is made up. Right this way."

I took a train trip with an old friend across Canada a couple of years ago. I've ridden a ghost of the Orient Express, bullet trains in France, and the wonderful British Rail that goes almost everywhere you really need to go, so long as you mind the gap. I entered Venice by train.

When I was a very little girl living above my father's grocery store in Badger, IA, the train ran through the grounds of the grain elevator across the street. I don't remember if anything other than freight trains used that track. I do remember that the trains had a red caboose on the end and, as the train went through, we children would run along the street beside the track yelling "Blow the whistle! Blow the whistle!" I can still hear that whistle blow.

There are no more cabooses. They were phased out in the '80's.

A caboose on a freight train was the first car Casey Jones hit on April 30, 1900, trying to make up time on the Cannonball Express.

The Ballad of Casey Jones was written by an African American train wiper named Wallace Saunders. Carl Sandburg admired it, but he thought it was pure invention. Pete Seeger and Johnny Cash have both recorded it.

I like this version of the original lyrics.

The Grateful Dead wrote their own version. A cautionary tale for a new generation.