I enjoyed reading your Leflore Illustrated article by Gavin Maliska about the City of New Orleans (“All Aboard,” Winter issue).
My grandfather, A.D. Caulfield, was the superintendent of the Mississippi Division of the Illinois Central Railroad for a number of years until his death in 1940. I never knew him but have heard that he was a “legend along the lines.” He was not a tall man, but he must have had an “unspoken demand for excellence,” and people could tell time by the trains, as they were always on time.
As a result of having grown up with trains, my dad and his sister never knew there was a Depression because my grandfather always had a good job.
As a child, my dad, Barron Caulfield, grew up in Water Valley, where the Illinois Central shops were. His mother’s family had also been in the railroad business.
I guess it was in Daddy’s blood, because we kids never knew when Daddy would stop in the middle of the road to watch a train go by, anywhere. And at least once when we got home from church on a Sunday morning, upon opening the car doors, my dad heard the City of New Orleans, or maybe the Panama Limited, coming through town. He hollered, “Get back in the car!” Off we would zoom those two blocks to town to see the train.
He could read the numbers on the engines a mile away. He had records that were nothing but train whistles and train magazines from the United States and United Kingdom.
When visiting my mama’s family in Vaiden, in a big white house beside the tracks, upon hearing the train, my father, according to one of Mama’s cousins, “burst from his chair at the table, hurried to the big, open window and watched the train go by.” Upon returning to his seat, he sighed and said, “I love trains.”
This was certainly my dad, who revered his dad for bringing the world of trains alive for him.
I grew up hearing the trains day and night chugging along or changing cars and engines. It’s a sound I wish I could replicate, but I can still hear it. It’s unforgettable.
Maybe trains are in my blood, too, as I long to hear them again from my bedroom window in a house on a hill in Water Valley.