I have always had a fascination with trains, planes and anything motorized.
Back in the days of my youth, trains ran all the time. Although we lived a couple of miles from the railroad tracks (as the crow flies), I remember hearing the train whistle on a cold, clear night as it blew at every crossroads.
I could tell where the train was just by listening to the whistle. If it were coming from the East, it would blow the first whistle at Experiment Station Road, (now MLK Blvd.). If it blew traveling from the West, it would blow at Bostic Road first.
So, if I could not sleep, I would imagine that train as it traveled through town. It was not unusual for seven or eight trains a night to pass through town in both directions. There were even more trains during the daytime, believe it or not.
Very seldom did we not get caught by a train if we went south of town, especially on Lake Talquin Road. I used to enjoy counting cars, too.
On more than one occasion I have seen trains with four locomotives pulling over 100 cars. You might as well shut your car off and visit with the person in front or behind you. I have seen people do that many times during one of those long waits.
I remember one specific time we were stopped at the Lake Talquin Road crossing, and I was counting cars as they rolled by. There were a few regular box cars, then the remaining were flat tops with military equipment, everything from tanks, to troop carriers, and jeeps.
It was fascinating to watch all of that military equipment as it went by. I ask my father where all of that was going, and he had no idea.
This would not be the only train that I saw with military equipment headed east. There would be other trains during that time that would hold up traffic as the lumbered through town.
I would learn later that it was the buildup of equipment during the famous Cuban Missile Crisis.
Back then there were a lot of crop dusters flying; that, too, was fascinating to me.
My dad would pull off the road sometimes and we would watch the planes as they would fly just above the fields, then at the tree line practically go straight up, turn, then fly back across the fields from a different direction.
There were few commercial planes back then, so when you saw one, especially a jet, we had to stop and watch it as it flew by.
Big trucks on the other hand were plentiful, since U.S. 90 went through the middle of town I got to see thousands of them. I could pick them out by make and model having seen so many.
I knew a Autocar from a Mack, a Peterbilt, and a Kenworth. My cousin worked for Brockway trucks in Courtland, New York, and I would occasionally even see one of his trucks as well.
Seeing a motorcycle on the highway was unusual, so they drew a lot of attention. What you did see was those Harley Davidsons, especially the couple driven by the police department. I do remember seeing Indians, BSA, and Triumph’s. Later when the Japanese models started showing up it was Honda’s and Suzuki’s.
Now seeing a motorcycle is an everyday occurrence.
Things have changed, big trucks are much more powerful, therefore you don’t change gears as much. You see planes almost every day, especially their vapor trails in the sky. Trains, however, are seen much less.
So, the world changes. I wonder if one day some writer will sit down to write about the first all-electric car they saw.
Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell” in a series of three books. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.