Threshing The Wheat From The Chaff

| March/April 1972

As I sit pondering my thoughts before the lighted Yuletide tree, shining so resplendant in the telegrapher's bay-window of my simulated flag-stop depot, I suddenly become aware that Christmas is upon us and the Old Year will soon bow out to make room for the New.

I wait here in the silence, peering out into the December night's darkness, as if expecting any minute the old sounder will begin to clatter, announcing the next train's arrival from the dispatcher's office many miles down the line. Yet the sounder remains silent an ominous reminder that no train will be passing this way. And I remain alone with my memories of the great days when steam ruled the high iron that knit every city, village and town into one mighty network of rail transportation. Instead of the multicolored semiphor lights that once beckoned their safety signals to the onrushing steam locomotives, there is but this tiny Christmas tree with its red and green, amber and blue bulbs-the very same colors that meant stop, or go, or proceed with caution to each wheel that ever turned on an American railroad and still does.

There was that New Year's Eve, when I was returning from my brother's in Richmond, Indiana, and the New York Central tracks paralleled the highway between Winchester and Union City.

'There goes Steve and the midnight eastbound passenger,' I said to myself, as I pushed the accelerator down on my old '36 Chevy to try and keep pace (which I couldn't). 'If I can only make it to Union City before he pulls out, I'll run up and wish him a Happy New Year.'

Sure enough, Steve had beat me to the hometown depot where the mail and baggage had already been set off and loaded as well as the arriving and departing passengers exchanged seats before the lighted windows of the big, standard steel coaches.

Parking my old Chevy as fast as I could, without respect to its location, I ran up to the locomotive cab and yelled, 'Happy New Year, Steve!'


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