Press "Enter" to skip to content

Rail Recollection

Sidebar by Carol Slaughter

Transportation – July 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

I remember my excitement when, as a young girl, I took my first ride on a passenger train, from Buena Vista to Salt Lake City. My cousin, Hazel Hemstedt, who traveled the world teaching for the U.S. Army, had come home for a visit. Apparently, she thought it was time I started my apprenticeship as a traveler by taking a short trip. My excitement grew as departure time drew near. It was like being in one of those movies I loved, where the action takes place on trains steaming through the night; characters eating and sleeping in those elegant cars.

I remember that first long step up into the monstrous machine. The conductor escorted us to our seats and put our baggage into small compartments overhead. I chose the window seat, so as not to miss the beautiful landscape as we flew past. In seemingly no time, we were called to dinner. We were shown the way to the dining car where we had our first meal of the trip.

It was every bit as grand as the movies foretold! White linen tablecloths, napkins, china dishes and silverware adorned the just-perceptibly moving table. After dinner, we returned to our seats until it was time for bed. I grew apprehensive, though, when we finally took our turns in the restroom to change into our nightgowns. (Wasn’t this where a long blast of the train’s whistle merges into a shrill scream as someone finds/becomes a body?)

Hazel and I each had our own sleeping berth, and I was going to sleep by myself with only a curtain to protect me! Because I was much younger, I was given the upper berth. I don’t remember sleeping much that night, but I do remember the movement of the train in its insidious attempt to lull me to sleep. The night finally passed without horrifying incident and as soon as the sun was up I was, too. I couldn’t wait to get dressed to get a start on the day.

Even as we had breakfast, we could see the countryside change. We were leaving the beautiful green mountains for the desert. Before I knew it, we were pulling into the station at Salt Lake City. After a layover there, we re-embarked for the return leg of our trip.

I don’t remember the return as vividly, but I do remember the excitement that I felt as a little girl embarking on the first of many journeys, thanks to my cousin’s love of travel. Later, when Hazel and I traveled in Europe, we again took to the rails. This time, we were viewing the German landscape. However, nothing compared to the feeling of those first steps onto the huge monster that carried us away from Buena Vista during that first, unforgettable night.