Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘train’

Riding the Rails – A Father’s Day Story

Rudy WencekHobo Rule No. 1: Decide your own life. Don’t let another person rule you.

Young boys thoughts often turn to adventure when they have nothing else to occupy their mind. Such was the case with my dad, Rudy, when he was a young teenager.

   His parents had died when he was but a young child so he lived with his sister and her family. At a very young age, he began working at Cambridge Glass Company and took pleasure in seeing the sand turned into beautiful glass objects.

   However, there were days when the glass company was not busy. Sometimes workers would sit outside and pitch pennies while waiting to see if there was a job for them that day.

   On days when there was no work, Dad often hopped on a train as it slowed down for the crossing near the glass plant. How he enjoyed the freedom to explore as he rode those trains from New York City to Chicago and all the places in between.

   This happy-go-lucky train hopper often told of the friendly people he met in his travels and the other ‘hobos’ who were riding the rails. They always shared their food, clothes and sometimes their cigarettes.

   Picture Dad in his ‘hunky cap’, gray work shirt and pants, and maybe a few dollars in his pocket. Perhaps he stopped in a hobo jungle to share a can of beans or mulligan stew with other wanderers. Life was simple on the rails so not much was needed.

   It’s interesting to know that in 1915 there were a million hobos in The United States. By 1930 when Dad was riding the rails, that number had increased to over two million.

   There were many ways of hopping on a train. They might find an empty boxcar, hop on between cars, grab a railing and climb to the top, or even ride under the train. These young and vigorous men had plenty of nerve.

   Clicking his fingers, Dad often said, “If I hadn’t met Kate, I would probably have ridden those trains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.” But marriage and full-time employment at Cambridge Glass Company stopped his riding the rails

   While Dad never rode the rails again, he still enjoyed driving anywhere Mom would go. Sunday drives always took us on adventures in every direction. Perhaps Dad set the stage for my being a gypsy.

This story was in our local newspaper as part of our Rainy Day Writers tribute to Father’s Day. It is a true story of his early life that my Dad liked to share with his grandsons. Dad went on to be co-owner of a local glass company, Variety Glass, so the glass industry played a large role in his life.

The Train to Nowhere

The Train to Nowhere

The Train to Nowhere

A beautiful diesel-electric locomotive awaits on the tracks in the small town of Byesville, Ohio. At this point in time, it is called “The Train to Nowhere”, as it remains in place unable to move down the Byesville Scenic Railway due to circumstances beyond their control. But that doesn’t mean the spirit of the railroad isn’t alive here! It continues with a program called “The Coal Miners’ Story.”

Bronze Coal Miner Statue

Bronze Ohio Coal Miner Statue

As soon as you pull into the parking lot, the bronze coal miner statue catches your eye. The Ohio Coal Miner was sculpted by Alan Cottrill at Cottrill Sculpture Studio and Gallery in Zanesville, Ohio, and dedicated in September of 2012. This statue is a tribute to miners and their families in Ohio, as well as across the entire nation. The miner’s brass tag reads 382, the number of coal miners who lost their lives in the deep mines of Guernsey County over the mines’ sixty active years. During the past few years, all contributions given to the Byesville Scenic Railway during their train rides were dedicated to building this memorial statue, which actually cost nearly $40,000 to reach completion.

A portion of the plaque in front of the statue states: May your personal sufferings, sacrifices and the hardships endured by your families, never be forgotten nor taken for granted.

Sadly, the train is not able to chug down the track these days due to some issues over insurance and track ownership, but the volunteers at Byesville Scenic Railway are still sharing a unique presentation of life during the days when coal mines were booming in the early 1900’s. At that time, Byesville had 77 mines, and was considered to be “The Coal Mining Capital of Southeastern Ohio”.

Visitors are invited to take a seat on “The Train to Nowhere”, where they are given information regarding the 1917 train cars and the diesel locomotive. Back in the coal mining heyday, the train ran from Cleveland to Marietta delivering coal from Guernsey County mines. The Byesville Scenic Railway volunteers are optomistic that the train will be running again a few years down the track.

Dave Adair tells coal miners' stories.

Dave Adair tells coal miners’ stories.

In their “old greasy mechanic garage” – sometimes used as a movie theater room, the volunteers have constructed a makeshift mine of black plastic walls. It is here in Entry 7 South that a living history of a local coal miner is portrayed by volunteer, Dave Adair. He describes the harsh life of a miner as well as the poor home conditions. Beans and cabbage were two frequent items on their supper menu, with meat seldom being a part of their food supply. According to Miner Dave, “All were poor but no one realized it because all were the same.”

"I owe my soul to the Company Store."

“I owe my soul to the Company Store.”

Miners were very superstitious and often carried lucky pieces in their pockets. Over the entrance to the mine, a horseshoe was often placed. It had to be placed with the open side up so the luck wouldn’t run out with 100,000 ton of rock above their heads.

Treasures for families of coal miners and train enthusiasts can be found in the Company Store. A variety of gifts for young and old alike range from engineer hats and handkerchiefs to mugs and wine glasses. You won’t want to go home without a memory of those hard working miners.

Steve Stolarik explains Mineres Museum.

Steve Stolarik explains Miners’ Museum.

The Miners’ Museum has been developed in more recent years for the education of the general public. It contains a collection of original coal mining equipment used in the local mines. On the wall are displayed the various bits used to drill into the coal face to insert a stick of dynamite, which the miners had to buy themselves from the company store. Steve Stolarik was on hand to explain how the bits and lanterns functioned when the miners were deep in the mines. Included for display are numerous pictures of the old Guernsey County Coal Mines.

Keep your eye on the track to see when the “Train to Nowhere” will again be on the move. In the meantime, visit the website of Byesville Scenic Railway to see their scheduled events. Local train enthusiasts are singing hopefully, “I hear that train a comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend.” 

Byesville Scenic Railway is located in Byesville, Ohio just off I-77 (Exit 41) south of Cambridge. Turn toward Main Street of Byesville, then left at the traffic light.  The train depot is one block on the right. Free parking is available along Second Street and Seneca Avenue. 

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