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