Train, Talent, Tangent, and Tribute

THE TASK AT HANDI just took a trip.  It wasn’t a trip I intended to take but sometimes you just go there.

It started with an innocent email from a fellow train enthusiast named Linda Leinen.  I frequently get emails from visitors to, which I love by the way, commenting on the site or seeking train or railfanning information.  I had read Linda’s email and it seem typical in all respects.  It should have had the words “TICKET” printed across the top.

Linda had expressed her desire to go and see UP’s No. 844 as it ran through south Texas this weekend. She stated that she had made “a zillion inquiries” to ascertain the Valley Eagle Heritage Tour’s arrival time and departure route as No. 844 moved south.  I didn’t particularly know the details she sought but I love to help, if I can.

At this point I was, and continue to be, engrossed in my new iPad.  I thought that I would use it to research the details that Linda asked about and test my iPad at the same time.  So I went to the UP Steam’s GPS tracking site which shows the route in detail on the map when you have fully zoomed in.  I discovered the track routing out of Houston and then proceed to make a map for her showing the general route to Bay City that No. 844 would take.  I did this on my iPad in a cool drawing program I purchased for it.  So far so good.

I sent a reply to Linda’s email, which I used Pages to pen, and attached the map I created.  I gave her some advice on the chasing aspect and asked her to thank any crew members she encountered for their dedication and service to railfans everywhere.  

In her reply, she said she would.

She also graciously thanked me for helping her and detailed her plans for the chase.  She also took the liberty of including a URL to a recent blog post she has written about her childhood and her attraction to trains.

I  began to read her blog entry and was quickly taken by the fluid imagery and precise prose that held me captive.  Wow, “she can write,” I thought. Her blog, entitled “A Task at Hand,” is subtitled: A Writer’s On-going Search for Just the Right Word. I’d say she has found many of them. It is a very compelling post and a great blog that is certainly worth a read.

In her post she describes some of the railroad-themed music that she enjoys.  One notation, in particular, took me back to my time in the Army.  

I was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii in 1984 and thought of little else than being a good soldier and all of the women vacationing down at Waikiki.  Having been bitten already by the “train bug,” I did experience a departure from my idealistic pursuits briefly when I attended a Boxcar Willie concert on base.

For the uninitiated, Boxcar Willie was a persona created by Lecil Travis Martin and a legendary “hobo music” artist and a member of the Grand Ole Opry.  A truly talented singer and songwriter, he is best known for his uncanny ability to imitate a steam whistle sound with just his voice and a microphone.

As I read Linda’s post I clicked on the various links and took the “journey” she laid out for us. When I clicked on the Boxcar Willie link I smiled and got lost.  I clicked on link after link after link highlighting the various songs that Boxcar has performed. I had forgotten about his stirring talent and soothing sounds. Thanks for the memories Linda.  I learned more and more about Boxcar and discovered that he had succumbed to Leukemia in 1999. I feel fortunate that I got a chance to see him perform live and meet him.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (4)

Joe, I just was getting ready to send you a note this morning about my last glimpse of 844 when I glanced at my stats and thought, "What..."

I'm so appreciative of your kind words, the highlighting of my blog and especially your kindness in helping me, a complete novice, figure out how to "chase steel".

This has been a delight to read - not only because it references my work, but because it shows again how positive internet interaction can be. I mentioned to some other folks elsewhere how amused I was that a youtube viewer had contacted me, asking advice on how to find 844. When I got done laughing, I passed on your information, referred him here, and said another private "thank you" for your wilillngness to help us out.

This is my public "thank you". Happy chasing!

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Leinen

Yes, "The Task at Hand" is one of my favorite blogs, for Linda Leinen certainly does find the right words - and interesting thoughts to express with those words. Thank you for your part in her train adventure, which so many of us shared and enjoyed via her blog.

April 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrayTopMiata

Great post. Thanks for making us aware of Linda and for including the video of Boxcar Willy. How does he do it? Joe, if you keep writing we will keep reading.

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterUncle Roger

Thanks for the video. I had to listen about 4 times in a row before I could do anything else. I saw and met Willie around 1985-86 in Hunter, N.Y. at a summer festival. My Army service was already 15 years behind me by then. And thank you for yours.
I really like Linda's site. Reading about the Pufferbellies reminded me of the Wilmington & Western Railroad back home in Delaware. They have an event called Pufferbelly Day (May 16 this year) in which their 2 main engines are double-headed for all runs that day. Here's a link:
You'll find plenty of pictures and history at this site. The engines are:
#92 - 1910 Canadian Locomotive Co. (Ontario) 2-6-0 Mogul
#98 - !909 American Locomotive Co. (Schenectady, N.Y.) 4-4-0 American

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertomvet475

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« Become a Web "Rail" Ranger | Main | You've Seen Yesterday, Now See the Future »