As with many other fascinations, my fascination with trains came at an early age. While I don't remember much more than the engines passing through Rector, they held such a fascination for me that if Mom missed me, she'd find me somewhere near the railroad tracks just across the street from the house in which we lived on McNabb St. I can still remember the ground shaking, the wind they kicked up, the noise and that steam whistle.
I've been told I would stand spellbound as they would go by. I was extremely young and of course very impressionable, but the love of the steam engine has never left me. I did have enough of a sense of loss to miss the mighty and impressionable steam engines when they ceased to run and the diesels took over.
That sense of loss would be magnified many times over later in life. The death knell for the huge man made beasts was sounding, but I never even knew about such things until I was nearly grown.
The street on which we lived runs due north until it is turned by the railroad tracks . It then runs beside them then comes to the crossing where it used to cross over within a hundred feet or so of the turn. I think that particular crossing has been since removed taking away more of the Old Town Rector character and charm I've always loved.
The last time I was there I saw the railroad crossing beside the Depot had been removed as well. I'll never forget the large Mayflower moving van which high-centered on that crossing in the late '50's and was torn asunder by a fast moving heavy laden diesel engined train. It was there at that early age, that I was awed at the raw power of the huge seemingly indestructable machines.
The manner in which the contents of the truck were strewn quite a ways up the tracks was proof of the monstrous force behind the beastly contraption. I do not know how, but that mangled truck trailer wound up out at my Uncle Raymonds house, and I remember going out with Dad to help dismantle it. It was only a few years ago that I lost the remainder of the screws we'd taken out of the trailer.
That one incident remains a valid subject for animated conversation to this day. I don't know that anyone other than the truck driver even saw the actual incident as it happened.
But I've seen enough movies of other train incidents to see it in my minds movie projector. I can place myself at the scene and remember with vivid detail the old buildings around the depot perched upon tapered foundation blocks. The truck tractor that attempted to pull the low-bellied trailer had nearly burned the tires off trying to dislodge the trailer.
The acrid smoke of burning rubber hung heavily in the hot still air, accompanied by the light blue smoke that billowed off the tires as they ineffectively screamed against the weight of the trailer solidly stuck on the tracks. A distant light reflecting off the shiny twin rails of track stretched into the distance belied the fate of the rig and possessions of some wayfaring stranger.
The scream of the locomotives huge horn could be heard wafting lightly across the heat waves. Long before the rumble of the fast approaching train could be felt or heard, the constant blaring scream of the huge air horns warned of the danger, the inability to stop, and the unchangeable destruction that was about to be wrought upon the now small in comparison resistance the once huge trailer had to offer.
I can see it now as instantly, everything in the scene goes into slow motion, and the engine makes contact with the immovable object attempting to block its unchangeable direction.
The huge trailer loaded heavily barely moves as the force of a thousand tons of rolling momentum blasts into and through the other side, ripping its guts out, scattering its contents in a mighty explosion. Tables, clothes, toys, furniture, and general household goods are flying through the air. Furniture is crushed as it lands on the rock beside the tracks, the very steel frame of the aluminum clad trailer is torn asunder and and creaks and screams of torture as the huge steel wheels of the train cut through it like a hot knife through butter.
The loud raucus scream of the horns are cut short by the head splitting sound of the impact, and it shakes the entire town of Rector. In an instant, the engine is through the huge yellow trimmed green trailer, and now the only sound is the rumble of the train of cars itself shakes the gound in its seemingly never ending line of cars. The only thing left to do now is cleanup.
But I love trains, train movies, train videos, train museums, train rides, train pictures, train memorabilia, (although I've never collected them), toy trains, train sounds, train smells, train traits, train characteristics. I've even included a few train running through the page. But the fascination started while a very young tot in Arkansas is just as alive today as it has ever been.
Yep, another wonderful life changing gift from Arkansas, but this time, overcast by the realization of the truth: that the sadness of another wonderful treasure and era has gone by the wayside and slipped quietly into the annals of history . . . gone, but not forgotten, remembered by imitation photographs, museums and static displays of those long ago beasts that once, in the not so distant past, ruled the earth.
The grandeur, the glory, the fearsome might, the fury, the unmistakable shaking power of those beloved dinosaurs was replaced by an even more powerful beasts; faster, sleeker, more efficient, needing fewer attendants . . . has passed into the sunset of history. How much longer before even the few die hard machines running on private lines are silenced forever?
In my mind I can still sense the distant rumble of a far off train coming closer, closer, ever closer as it thunders along in all its fury and glory, laboring under the heavy steam to pull its load with dignity, class, and an ever increasing urgency of time to make the next stop on schedule.
The glory of these monstrous machines will never be forgotten nor discharged from deep within the very soul of this lover of machinery.
Deep in the heart of this lover of the land of opportunity lies the love and continuance of the forever beating soul of a steam engine also bound to tracks; but these tracks bind to them the truth that the freeway of progress will always be lined with the rusting carcasses of once wonderful inventions cast aside by the ever growing need of speed, time, and money . . .