Saturday, May 9, 2009

National Train Day

Engine at the Hamilton Logging Company, about 1912, Washington state, my great grandfather's last job

Engine on the Great Northern Railroad, my great grandfather the engineer

My great grandfather, Len Adams

It's funny how coincidences happen. I was on my way to meet a friend for lunch yesterday, listening to NPR, and there was an interview with Larry Tye who wrote Rising From the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class, and he mentioned that National Train Day was this weekend. You can read about National Train Day here: Basically it celebrates the day the United States was connected from coast to coast by rail. It just happens that I am packed and ready to leave this afternoon on a train adventure.

My sister-in-law and I are traveling on the Empire Builder to Spokane, Washington. This Amtrak line follows the rail route of the old Great Northern line, a line on which my great grandfather was an engineer from about 1900 until 1913. One of my goals for the trip is to meet relatives where he grew up in Washington, to see the landscape where that family lived, and to try and understand my grandmother's early life and history. I want to walk the cemetery where he is buried, and talk to people who remember things from before I was born.

I also want to see sights, eat out, draw in my travel journal and have a real good time. I'll be back in a couple weeks.

PS - Train Day was fun.  Even the tiny station in Columbus, Wisconsin gave out goodies like cake and coffee, packs of cards, paper conductor hats for the children.  I heard that in Chicago they had live music.


Anonymous said...

I heard that interview too, and found it fascinating and then was delighted to see these wonderful photos on your blog and to learn that your family has a history on the rails too. One thing I love about where I live is that I can hear the trains going by (far enough away to have it be a soothing sound). I once took a train from Oakland CA to Boston MA with my teenage son as a sort of healing journey after he'd gone through some really rough stuff. It was an amazing experience, living together for those many days and nights in a tiny cubicle, resting and watching and eating. Have a great trip!

Ann said...

Have a wonderful time! I have been on the Empire builder, years ago, and we stopped at Glacier Nat'l Park en route from Seattle to Minneapolis. It's a very cool train ride.

laura said...

Peter's father rode the Empire Builder to see his daughters in OR and had a grand time--I know you will too.
My father's last job, before he had a stroke and had to retire, was for Conrail--he's a (civil) engineer.
We're all great fans of the railroad.
I love Conrail's motto: Keep It Moving.

Margaret Ann said...

Enjoy every lovely moment of your trip...Hugs! :)

Kim said...

I'm loving this topic on many levels. My great grandfather was a train man as well and I have some wonderful pictures of him like this.

My husband has been mourning for many years the loss of his profession slowly dying and being shipped overseas. These photos and our great grandfather's stories give me perspective.

Ruth Reichl was interviewed on KQED today. Part of the discussion was how we have a relationship with our parents our entire lives whether they're living or not. I would add we have this relationship with our grandparents our whole life too. (And great grandparents if we're open to it.)

I look forward to hearing how your relationship grows with them over this trip.