I miss the steam engines!

by Stan Delahoyde

My grandfather was a station agent for the CB&Q, and that’s the road that served my hometown of Scottsbluff, Neb., but just across the river in Gering was the Union Pacific Depot - which still stands today, used as a museum as I recall. Neither of them was on the main line so, if you were taking a trip of any distance, you had to go “somewhere” and transfer.

A great-uncle of mine worked for the Union Pacific in some capacity involving railway mail - for some reason I never did ask any details. I always thought he actually worked in a railway mail car, but I think he was probably in a building near the Omaha Union Station (which also still stands), and probably in some managerial position. There is a vacant building across the street to the southwest of Union Station (if I have my directions straight), and I wonder if that might have been where the railway mail was handled.

We visited the Omaha station in 2007, but got there too late for a tour. The last time I was there was in the 1950s. I also recall my great-uncle taking me to a downtown Omaha Union Pacific building that had at least a small display of historical railroad items, if not a full-blown museum.

My parents both worked at the Scottsbluff Post Office and a man from there would make two trips a day to Gering, transporting mail to and from the depot. It was illegal for him to carry passengers, but I would often ride with him in his pickup truck. I’d take the train from Gering to Lyman, Neb., to spend time at a relative’s farm. When it was time to come back, I’d either call or send a postcard (1-cent) and they would let the mail carrier know I needed a ride back to Scottsbluff. This was in the 1940s, and I was probably age 8-12 or so.
The train wasn’t exactly a “streamliner” - it almost always included at least one cattle car along with one or two passenger cars. I can still remember so well the slow pace, the click of the wheels on the rails, and the gentle swaying back and forth.

I never did know how far east or west the train went, or what happened when it got to the end of its journey. There must have been a roundhouse or something which allowed it to make the return trip. It was such a pleasure to ride a train, also inexpensive and convenient, and I’ve always loved them. What a shame they no longer exist as they did then - especially those with coal-burning steam engines. I never have warmed up to diesels!

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Passenger Trains, Family
Scottsbluff, NE-Gering, NE
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