Thursday, April 29, 2010

TANK TOWN

In the silver cold of a winter night the sound of a train whistle could be heard over three miles away. The massive black steam engine slowed only enough for a single man with a suitcase to drop to the side of the tracks. He walked a few yards to the small post office, stepped inside the nearby phone booth and dialed a number. He let it ring three times and hung up the receiver. Mom heard the train wail and was almost out the door when the phone rang. She knew Dad was letting her know he needed a ride home.

 
When farming slowed in the cold months Dad would get a job working for Union Pacific Railroad.  He came home on weekends, often with a package or two for his kids. He even delivered presents for Santa.

Black locomotives pulled freight and passenger cars from Denver to Portland through our little community at all times of the day. The steam and smoke that gusted from their bowels rolled away behind them and then lifted into the air. For the longest time I thought the trains made the clouds.

A few miles down the line was a town with a depot where passengers arrived and departed with their luggage being carted by black men wearing porter uniforms. While the baggage was loaded, the engine rested a quarter of a mile down the tracks. It waited, breathing like an exhausted race horse, as its boiler was topped off with water from huge tanks on stilts and another cargo of coal was loaded. When all was ready the conductor signaled the engineer and the monster eased out of town and was soon gone, leaving behind nothing but swirls of smoke in the sky and a long sad scream.

Train photos redone with Photoshop and original transparent watercolor of water tank by E. Black

12 comments:

Flea said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your story. :) I love it. Love the train re-do and the water tower, too.

DayPhoto said...

I love the story about your family. The photos are amazing. You are very, very talented Leenie.

I thought at first the first one was a photograph.

Linda
http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

Linda Sue said...

This is awesomeness at its most awesome Leenie! Having grown up Union Pacific I SO feel this! Love this post and your words and your heart- BIG KISS.

ELIZABETH said...

Love the first picture. My grandfather worked on the trains and and I remember mom telling great stories of the trips they took across the country by train to visit family.

Krista said...

My two grandfathers worked for Pennsylvania RR. My mom has a lot of pictures of trains. Your's are gorgeous.

Elizabeth said...

I really miss the steam trains of my youth!
What a wonderful family tale!

rebecca said...

i remember dad talking about this, and how cold it was sitting on the sled while grandma pulled it on skis.

Jill said...

This is definitely sounds as if it is written from the heart, and beautifully illustrated.

lady macleod said...

I love trains! Always have. Lovely story.

CeeCee said...

Those are beautiful paintings!
We rode a steam train a couple years ago and it was breathtaking (Durango to Silverton in Colorado).

Mama Zen said...

Gorgeous writing!

Woman in a Window said...

Those photos are stunning! And the story something I wish I could live inside. Anything train, straight to the heart.

xo
erin