It was the swan song of steam. Diesel was already replacing steam on the passenger runs, but I remember the steam switcher that used to stand at 5th & Main near the PRR Freight House chugging away while the crew grabbed lunch. I remember walking north out to the coaling tower that sat along with a water tower on the west side of the crossing with Madison Ave. (Rd). They were on the south side of the tracks. And, of course, the water tanks and the freight and passenger stations here in Anderson.
I remember the steam whistle of those early morning passenger runs sounding like a lost soul calling to whoever would listen. They called to me across the night and I listened. I listened and they became a part of me. Those whistles were for the grade crossing at the DOW. Later, I would stand in the brisk air of cold winter mornings and look across the fields before the houses and subdivisions and trees blocked the view and watch the dim lights of the passenger cars as they cut through the night swiftly passing DOW Tower on their journey south.
Anderson was criss-crossed with rail lines. There was the Pennsy and the New York Central and the Central Indiana Rwy. Not too far away I could find the NKP, the N&W and the B&O. I liked the Pennsy and the Central though. They were MY roads. Those were the roads that had people going places and doing things and then I was in the Navy and riding to Chicago and back. Suddenly, I was one of those people going places in those passenger cars that moved back and forth through town. And I never noticed the whistles calling through the night.
I rode trains to Washington, DC and Chicago and Sanford FL. I rode the North Shore line under wire and watched the grade crossings fly by. And the PRR and NYC and B&O and NKP all vanished into the night and Conrail came to be and then CSX and the trains still move all day and all night. The nearby yard has grown busier and the trains grow longer and still I listen and watch, but I never hear those whistles calling through the night.
I model in HO scale and I owned a Model RR shop for a short while and my railroad sometimes gathers dust while I do other things, but it is always waiting for me to return to it, to dust it off and run it and build it. It is my Model world and my hobby and I love it. But sometimes, just beyond the throb and roar of the CSX diesels that I hear just a block or two away, sometimes late at night, it seems that I can still hear the call of those Pennsy Steam whistles calling to me through night and across the years.
Northbound PRR E-Unit crossing Broadway in Anderson in 1965 - Photo by Roger P. Hensley.
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