TRAIN!!!!

And if you’ve never seen it, this is one of Peggy’s all-time favorite movies and the scene in question.

Oh yeah, this is a blog post not a movie critique.  Trains you ask?  Not as dramatic as all that, but last weekend we got to spend an nice afternoon at the Historic Rail Park in Bowling Green, KY.

This is actually the Bowling Green Railroad Depot of the historic L&N Line, opened back in 1925 and at the building’s dedication, they said “Unless the population of Bowling Green exceeds 2,000,000, this station will serve the needs of this city to the next century and beyond.”  Well Bowling Green’s population is about 150,000 and the last passenger train left the station on October 6, 1979 so I guess it barely made it a half-century.  Times they are a-changin’.

The Exhibits

The station was abandoned after that last train left, and nothing was done for quite a while.  But in the mid 1990’s a group was able to start the restoration and preservation effort, and turn it into a museum.  The first train car was opened in 2002 and the museum was fully renovated and open by 2007.  We walked through the exhibits (I like to read everything), and then got to take a tour.

 

They have an amazing model of Bowling Green from some time way before I was born, incredibly detailed.  When I asked about it, we were told there’s a model railroad club that meets there every week, maintaining and fixing, and adding new things all the time.  I spent quite a while looking it over, and the level of detail is really amazing.  Tons of work going into this.

I think my favorite exhibit in there was all about hobos – truly itinerant folks who rode the rails, looking for work and generally enjoying the free life.  There’s a whole room dedicated to them and the lives they led, the ways they moved, the towns/communities they built.  I think we are like modern-day hobos, traveling and working with no set address or agenda…we just have a bit more money.  🙂

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The Train

Once we went thorough the exhibits, we landed a spot on a walking tour of the actual locomotive and railcars at the museum.  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, starting in the old waiting area and then moving onto the train itself.  We started at the locomotive, where they have removed the old diesel engines, replaced with exhibits, but we did get to sit up front and play with the throttles.  With all the trains going by our current domicile, I wonder if the modern engineers have a similar view and what they think.

Next stop was the mail car, and according to our guide, the most dangerous place to be on the train.  Derailments and crashes were relatively common, and with the mail car’s position right behind the locomotive, all the hard surfaces, and the sheer mass all around, when it happened the mail workers often didn’t survive.  But it paid well, so they never had a shortage of people wanting to do it.  The method of picking up and delivering mail was pretty fricken’ cool, if risky.  A guy would hang out the door with the hook pictured below.  As he kicked out the mail bags being delivered (hopefully landing on the platform without breaking, which was called a “snowstorm”), he deployed that hook and snagged the mail bags to be picked up.

That’s right, the train DID NOT STOP for mail pickup and delivery.  Damn.

Owney

I’d heard the story of Owney before, but they had a nice display about the postal dog who rode the rails.  Fascinating story about a dog who lived on the train, and actually took a trip around the world.

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Then we got to spend some time in the dining car, seeing the kitchen and the places where everyone could come for something to eat any time of the day…unless you were first class.  Then you had specific seating times and don’t miss them!  After that was the sitting/sleeping car where accommodations weren’t too bad as long as you sprung for first class!  I think it’s funny that a trip from Louisville to Nashville took 5-7 hours and today it’s more like 3 hours in a car.

The last car was actually the personal railcar of the president of the railroad.  It was outfitted much more luxuriously, with a full bath and bedroom, a conference room and a “receiving” room at the very back of the train where he could take visitors, or relax with brandy and a cigar.  Not a bad gig if you can get it.

That’s all folks!

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