random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries in Boxcar Willie (1)


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 ChasingSteel.com, 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.