Friday, January 21, 2011

A Ride On The Texas Chief!!!

The Mighty Texas Chief Departs Houston, Northbound to Chicago in 1949.  A Five Year Old Boy On This Train Would Never Forget the Experience.
One of my earliest remembrances is from 1949.  I was five years old at the time, and our family lived in Houston, Texas.  My mom decided that she and my baby brother and I would ride the train from Houston to Chicago, Illinois to visit her parents for a couple of weeks while my dad remained in Houston working.

Houston's Union Station Outside (Above) and Inside (Below) Seemed Huge to a Five Year Old Boy

I clearly remember this trip, for it was full of wonder as seen through the eyes of a little boy.  When we arrived at Houston's Union Station, I couldn't believe how big it was.  And there were so many people bustling around!  And when I looked out the back of the station, there were all these different trains lined up, and passengers were getting on them and getting off of them---I was in a wonderland!

The Huge Diesel Engine That Powered the Texas Chief Scared a Little Five Year Old Boy so Bad That He Remembers the Experience 61 Years Later

As we prepared to board our train to Chicago---the Texas Chief, we walked alongside the engine back toward the car we would be riding in, and all of a sudden a huge rush of steam burst from the bottom of the engine.  It scared me so bad that I can still feel the fear that washed over me back then.  I was trembling at the thought of this great dragon of an engine, hissing fire and steam and causing me to tremble.  I was so happy to get away from that beast and enter our car farther down the tracks.

I Loved Watching America Glide Past
The Texas Chief was a Santa Fe train---one of the most comfortable modes of travel that existed (to this day, I maintain that America's trains of the first 60 years of the 20th century were the best, most hassle free ways to travel in our nation's history). 

My mom got us seated.  By and by the mighty train began to lurch and slowly pulled from the station.  I watched in wonder as downtown Houston passed by and receded.  The train now began to pick up speed as it bore northward toward Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Fort Madison and Chicago.

The Dining Car Was Another Wonderful Adventure
In fact, this train made 29 intermediate stops between Houston and Chicago.  It covered the distance in 25 hours.  This meant that we would be on the train all day and all night before arriving at our destination the next morning.  What an adventure!

Another Part Of the Dining Car
Our magic carpet made of steel flew across the countryside.  I marveled at the sights.  Automobiles were stopped at crossroads as the train roared past.  The conductor would walk through the passenger cars repeatedly shouting the names of the towns that we were approaching--- "OKLAHOMA CITY!"  or  "FORT MADISON!"

When the train stopped in towns to take on or let off passengers, I would watch intently from the windows.  I was seeing America as it really existed.  Of course, I couldn't sleep after nightfall, because I certainly did not want to miss anything.

And then there was the wonder and excitement of the dining car and the club car.  We would eat our meals in the dining car, often sharing a table with other travelers we did not know.  Everyone, it seemed to me, was friendly.  The food, I recall, was excellent.

The Club Car Had the Best Views
In the club car, you could get a drink of any kind.  Lots of people seemed to be playing cards.  But what I liked best about the club car was the fact that it was an elevated car, with windows extended upward so that the view outside was expansive and unencumbered.  I loved watching America go past.

The next morning, even more excitement began to build as we neared Chicago.  I knew my grandparents would meet us at the station, and I would soon be asleep in their home, my mind filled with dreams of huge hissing dragons, speeding trains and shouting conductors.


  1. One of your best posts yet! Oh how I would have loved to have traveled by train in those days. I always enjoy such scenes in the old black and white movies.

    The grandeur of Houston's Union Station! How rare is such architecture today? Makes me sad. No wonder you have such a vivid and memorable impression from your youth!

  2. Clint, thank you for sharing that adventure with us. This is my first visit to your blog and I've really enjoyed poking my way through some of your earlier entries. You've created a wonderful spot for your visitors. I'll be back as often as I can. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  3. A great post, cool. I also remenber a trip with the train when I was a child. It was so exciting.
    Have a nice weekend.
    Many greetings Sabine

  4. Mary---thank you! You are welcome here any time! I have visited your blog and I must say I am so impressed. I am now a follower. Blessings.

  5. Sabine---Have a wonderful weekend! God bless.

  6. A wonderful education, it was a real pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing.


  7. Clint,
    That was a great story and great pictures. I remember how big the train station was in Detroit. Mine was a Kindergarten school trip. Even the small train station in Plymouth looked big to me. I also remember a trip to Willow Run Airport to tour a DC3, that ages me :) Oh my

  8. WOW....must be very exciting. Thanks for sharing.

    Have a nice weekend

    Greetings Petra

  9. Wow, trains!
    Wonderful story and images!
    Thank you, Clint!
    I wish you both, a perfect weekend!

  10. very interesting..especially I love your photoes..are they yours?private?

    I wish you a peaceful weekend to you and family.

    kisses from norway)))