The Run-A-Way Train
I had family in both Sweetwater and Colorado City, Texas that I would visit
regularly. Before I turned 18, while I could still ride the train free on dads railroad
pass, I would take a train to visit them. The Santa Fe did not go through Colorado
City, so I would get off at Sweetwater, visit the folks there, then take a bus the 30
miles on to Colorado City.
Whenever I wanted to go to Sweetwater, I had two choices. I could catch a train at
home and ride to Ft Worth and wait at the depot there from 2:30 PM til 10:00 PM to
catch the train going west, or get dad to take me to the little town of Cresson, about
20 miles from home, and catch the train about 11:00 PM. I usually went to Cresson
to catch the train.
After leaving Cresson, the train went to Brownwood, where it made connection with
the train from Houston, both on their way to California. The trains joined together
in Brownwood with one of the engines staying there to be ready when the eastbound
train arrived an hour or so later, so it could be split and part of it could be taken
back to Houston.
The two trains would stop beside each other on parrell tracks in the switching yard.
The lead passenger car on the first train would be uncoupled from the baggage car
and a switch engine would pull it back past the switching rail, switch to the other
track, and then move it forward to connect with the last car of train two. After this
connection was made, then the baggage car on train two would be uncoupled from
the engine and all the passenger cars and baggage car of train two would be pulled
back past the switching rail, switch back to the first track, and then moved forward
to hook up with the baggage car still behind engine number one. Now, the two
trains are one and ready to continue the journey.
This switch occured between 1:00 and 2:00 AM when everyone would be asleep on
the train. However, on one trip something woke me just as they started switching
the cars. I was in the fourth seat from the front on the first passenger car in the aisle
seat. As my eyes opened, I naturally looked down the aisle toward the front of the car.
The door at the end of the car had full length glass in it so that you could normally se
on into the next car but this night all I saw was rail and crossties and we were going
backward. I’m supposed to be facing the front of the train and we are supposed to
be going foreward, I thought. My mind was racing now. At this point, the only
thing that I could think of was that the car had come uncoupled as the train was
going up a grade and we were rolling backward on our own. I did remember that all
the cars had hand brakes at each end of the car, so I jumped up out of my seat to go
see if I could stop the train.
Just as I got out of my seat a light flashed through the windows on the other side of
the car and I looked out the window to see where the light came from. At that point
we were going past a train station at a very slow rate of speed and as I watched the
station go by I saw the sign on the side of it that said “Brownwood.” That was when
I realized what was happening and I turned around and sat back down and hoped
that no one else was awake to have seen what happened.
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