Sunday, October 21, 2012

Travel - A trip to the past aboard the WK & S Railroad

     There are photographs taken of me as a kid that draw out belly laughs from family and friends. Whether it's the outfit I'm wearing, a bad haircut or wacky expression, there is no living down these images captured for posterity. I think my parents took these photos as a way to get even with me for all the aggravation I caused as an ornery little kid.

Strick's Pics, left with sister Lisa and brother Gary in '67

     But, I have one photo that I'm very fond of and consider it my favorite taken in my youth. The picture shows my sister Lisa, brother Gary and myself standing in front of steam locomotive 250 in October of 1967. We looked like refugees ready to board the train for a trip off to Siberia. Style wasn't a concern of my parents. Back then I wore pants with the knees covered in patches. If they didn't have holes and were clean, they were dress clothes.
     My sister loved her little mint green jacket and wore it everywhere. Gary never took off his knit cap. He even pulled it down over his head at night to straighten his curly hair. There's nothing fancy about my outfit, but I liked the goofy black sweater with the red diamonds.
     For year's I thought the steam train we rode was at the Strasburg Railroad in Lancaster County. But, with the help of the internet, I was surprised to find out that the home of the train we rode over 40 years ago was the Wanamaker, Kempton & Southern Railroad in Kempton, Pa.
     Seeing where the train was located, I reached out by email to the staff and sent the old photo which they verified was indeed a locomotive that ran on their line. From that point I made plans with my siblings and our spouses to recreate the photograph as we look today after decades of time having ticked by.
     As I've stated in other articles, Deb and I like to take train rides and have been on various steam and diesel passenger trains around the U.S. Whether it's a short ride or one of several hours it's a pleasure to travel back in time aboard the historic railroads. We rarely drive into Philadelphia. When planning a day trip, we will take the Septa R-6 line from Norristown and sit back on the way to the city. We walk around town, do some sightseeing, enjoy lunch, maybe some shopping and then it's back aboard for our return.
     We made a full day of our trip to Kempton on a recent Sunday. Driving on Rt. 73 we stopped at the Creekside Diner in Pleasantville for breakfast of our favorite Johnny Appleseed baked oatmeal. It's a tasty treat in the cozy western-themed rustic diner. Afterwards we traveled up over the mountains on Route 737 arriving at the railroad yard.
     My sister had made a reprint of the photo and we showed it to several of the workers who were running the train. The WK&S, #250 was no longer at the Kempton site and had been sold and moved by rail to New Hampshire in the early 1970s. The locomotive is currently at the Edaville Railroad in Carver, Massachusetts and is no longer in operation.
     We decided to shoot our picture in front of the old steam locomotive #2 that sits on site near the maintenence building and was the first operational engine when the WK&S opened in 1963. The #2 isn't in service but made for a beautiful backdrop for our current snapshot. To give the photograph an authentic look Lisa presented our brother with a gold beanie and he was a good sport wearing it on for the picture. 
As we look today in October 2012.
     On the crisp autumn afternoon and under a clear blue sky my wife Deb took several snaps to record our little piece of history. We could hear the whistle off in the distance so we made our way back to the platform for a ride on the rails. The train was comprised of locomotive #734, three coach cars with comfortable upholstered chairs, an open air car and a caboose that passengers could ride in.
     All of the cars were filled with families and young children taking their first rides just as we had. It was the 'Pumpkin Patch' train weekend and at the halfway point children and parents hopped off and raced around picking out their favorite pumpkins that were part of their day of adventure. The kids brought their prize back with them for the return trip.
     While we were stopped, I talked with engineer Jim Krause who is also the general manager of operations. Jim filled me in on the history of the #250 as he looked at our old photo. He knew the exact spot where it was taken. These little train lines have a unique history and it was nice to learn about the all-volunteer staff who give up many hours of their time to keep the WK&S running.     
     As we chugged along the countryside, the trees were in peak colors of red, yellow and orange just as they were in the fall of '67. Corn fields were a dry golden brown waiting for farmers to harvest. Leaves floated in the slow moving current of the cool Ontelaunee Creek. The hour long ride was a relaxing trip to enjoy.
     With our mission complete we looked around at some of the buildings and equipment. Before heading home, we matched up wooden siding and windows from a different photo as we figured out the angle from where it was taken. 
     I don't remember much from the time we spent as children on our ride in 1967, but I won't forget the fun we had this trip reminiscing with my family while the train rolled along.

No comments:

Post a Comment