“All aboard!” the conductor shouted, and kids from our Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs climbed on the BNSF “Special” to take a three-hour trip to the middle of nowhere and back and they had a ball. Boys & Girls club directors, program directors, athletic directors and junior counselors herded 330 kids into 15 passenger cars without a hitch. Kids looked out the windows and sang train songs while the train was moving; colored and worked puzzles when the train stopped to switch engines. “Your kids are unusually well behaved,” said Joe Faust, Public Relations Director for BNSF Railroad and host for the trip. There were also plenty of parents on board to make sure the kids followed the rules. Many Boys & Girls Club employees and volunteer leaders brought their children who were too young to be in Summer Day Camp but just old enough to enjoy the ride.
Each club director hosted a volunteer council member from their particular club and Danny Roe, Council Chairman, attended and brought his three children. The club directors and guests were served lunch in an elegant dining car, restored with 1940s décor. Just as in the good old days, the tables were covered in white linens and the silverware gleamed. After the lunch and the presentation of a $10,000 check, the adults wandered through the kids’ cars. We knew we were entering a kid car as soon as we pried open the heavy polished-chrome doors because of the excited shouting and laughing. One car the children rode was a double decker with two stories of seating and one was a “dome car” with extra large windows. Kids and adults were given souvenir engineer hats. Even such ‘kids’ as Ricky Maranon, a reporter for the Tulsa World and Tim Carson, a photographer for OETA wore their hats. The train ride brought out the kid in all of us, which was by far the best part of the ride.
I grew up in a railroad town, Roanoke, Virginia, in the 1960s and in the eighth grade, my parents let me ride the train across the state to visit a friend. In our family, it was a rite of passage to get to ride the train by yourself. The railroad was then named the Norfolk & Western, it’s now the Norfolk & Southern.