The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #121732   Message #2661536
Posted By: catspaw49
21-Jun-09 - 01:15 PM
Thread Name: For everyone who lost their Father
Subject: RE: For everyone who lost their Father
By the time I was 23 I had lost both my Mom and Dad as well as all my grandparents so these days have often been a bit sad but always filled with great memories. My Dad came from a generation that often worked just to live with never a thought towards "being happy in your job." Having a good paying job was far more important than liking what you did. But I was always proud of Dad for having a passion for his job without ever saying so.......He said so in the way he did it.

The following I have posted before but it fits well here. I came from a railroad town and a railroad family. A strike in the 20's all but completely closed the huge yards that were there but as a kid I went over to the roundhouse and turntable often just to watch what little action was left. We moved to Columbus in '59 to make it easier on my Dad who ran between Columbus and Pittsburgh on the PanHandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

My Dad was an engineman on the Pennsylvania Railroad for the whole of his adult working life. He started out of high school on the Section Gang and went into engine service a couple of years later. He was in a Railway Batallion during WWII and came back to the Pennsy as soon as it was over. The PRR was early in converting to Diesels but Dad fired the last of the steamers. Advancement on the roads was based on seniority and although he had qualified as an engineer he stayed as a fireman for many years until he could hold a regular slot on the board. So when the last of M1's and K4's made their final runs on the PanHandle Division in the early 50's, Dad fired those engines. I remember years later in about 1962 when the last of the steamers were cut up for scrap in the Columbus Yards, it was about as close as I ever came to seeing him cry at that point in my life. From '58, he was an engineer for the rest of his days and even with the Diesels, an engineer still had a reputation of some sort and the Ol' Man was known as a "smooth rider"....a term used by those in the caboose to describe a good engineer who could stop and start, take in or run out slack as needed, without disturbing their rest or their pinochle game.

Railroaders back then were still a special breed who loved what they did. Over 35 years later, one of the most poignant memories I have of my Dad is from a time when he was quite ill within only a few weeks of his death. He had me take him to the Columbus Yards so he could pick up some things out of his locker. We cleaned it out and packed up his "Grip" for the final time. But on the way out we sort of had to "detour" through an engine shop and though I protested, he went that way. Walking through the shops, we stopped at an idling GP9 and he slowly started to climb to the cab. Again, I protested that this was way too much effort that he shouldn't be wasting, but he looked down at me and said, "Just one last time." So we climbed up in the cab for awhile. He sat on the seatbox and his hands touched the throttle, air brakes,dynamic brake, and all of those things that had been his world for so many years..........and if I was ever closer to him, I don't know when it would have been.

The rails were close at hand for people to see and hear and feel and as the country grew, they grew with us. For those who long for older and simpler times, the sound, feel, and the smell of a great steamer is all that is needed to trigger visions of a different life in a different world, far removed from this current time and place. And today as on many other days, I miss my Dad......W.J. "Unk" Patterson, Engineman, Pennsylvania Railroad. I'm sorry too he never knew my kids and sorrier still that they will never know him.


Spaw