They walked down the tracks, heading over to the trestle to walk across – the view down from the trestle was spectacular, and the thrill of being out there, suspended in space was indescribable. Pop (my grandfather) had worked on a crew that built trestles and Uncle Boykin worked for the railroad as a young man. A lot of us are fascinated by trains and this trestle, just down from Parkman’s Pond was fabulous. It was 5 bents high at the middle and had a barrel platform jutting out over nothing.
The three of them: Daddy, his older, somewhat infirm brother and his 10 year old niece. As they neared the trestle, Vonda ran ahead, jumping from cross tie to cross tie with no fear. The men, more aware of gravity took more care, but still wandered out over the void, taking in the experience.
That’s when they heard the train. No problem, the train would be slow coming out of the rail yard in town, and there was a speed limit across the trestle. They headed back to the bank, to get away safely, and were about 100 feet away when they first saw the train – and it wasn’t slowing. Instead, the conductor was on the horn hard and speeding up!
Daddy reached down and picked up Vonda and ran down the trestle. He realized that Boykin wouldn’t make it and picked him up too. The rail thin Boykin was tucked under his arm, a man a foot taller than himself, but frail from age and injury. Boykin eventually ran himself over to the bank and jumped to safety, but Daddy, holding Vonda wasn’t going to make it, so he stepped out onto the barrel platform, a tiny sliver of wood meant to hold fire-fighting barrels of water. The train was close enough to feel as it sped by, close enough to touch if you weren’t careful. The two cars – an engine and one car of coal raced by, with the conductor still holding down on the horn and grinning like a fool. What kind of idiot was this guy?
After the train passed, they made their way back to the car, where they found a sheriff’s car waiting to arrest them. After Daddy explained what happened, no arrests were made, but Daddy called the railroad office as soon as he got back and let them have it.
The conductor denied it of course and said it never happened, but he did see some vagrant types trespassing on the tracks. Apparently the railroad man on the phone said something about sending railroad detectives out to discuss trespassing on the tracks and trestle and Daddy said something about shotguns and trespassing on private property. Nobody ever came out to discuss anything. No, nothing was ever done about the incident officially – but somebody on the other end of the phone got an earful of Daddy’s best profanity that day.
And its an odd thing – that trestle burned down a few years later, and is now replaced by a large metal culvert surround by a whole lot of trucked in dirt – it looks like a big, ugly ditch. Accidents happen to old wooden trestles.
A little background and context:
This had to have happened in the late 1970s, but I don’t know the exact date.
Here is a picture of a similar sized bridge with a barrel platform.
For family members – you remember this trestle – they used to take us fishing down by there – it was accessible by driving below Parkman’s pond, across the tracks and through some pretty thick foliage. It does look like a big ditch now and after a flood 20 years or so ago, I saw a millstone from the mill that used to be at Parkman’s pond. I took pictures of it standing on its end in the mud and told a couple of people about it. I didn’t see it on my next trip down, so don’t know somebody pulled it out with a truck or it went back under the mud, but it was pretty impressive.
And I have no idea how the fire happened that destroyed the bridge, but I’d like to think that the karma fairy played a role in it.
© 2019 Susan Bulloch
Categories: Dad's Stories
I write. I fix computers. I feed cats.