I'd like to wish each of you wonderful railfan friends greetings and best wishes for a joyous holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah keep in mind the reason for the season. I remember my boyhood anticipation of Christmas morning when I'd always receive something new for my American Flyer train set. Maybe it'd be a pair of switches and a crossover, some new cars, working trackside accessories and, on the best Christmas of all, an 0-6-0 switcher to go along with my Pacific "road" engine.
A few years ago I wrote the following in an attempt to capture the spirit of the holidays and railroading as I remember it in my youth. I hope you enjoy the verses.
‘twas the Night Before Christmas a Long Time Ago
By Mark Foster
The markers were lit and hung on back of the way car but because of the snow couldn't be seen from afar.
The lamps in the crummy cast a flickering glow inside the car and out onto the snow.
The rear brakie had stowed his flagging kit and climbed to the cupola with a cigarette lit.
On the conductor’s desk inside the way car sat a minature tree topped by a silver star.
A wrinkled old hogger clenched a cigar 'tween his teeth and its smoke hung round his striped cap much like a wreath.
After a few scoops of coal and blowing water gauge cocks the fireman settled down on his left side seatbox.
The head shack snoozed in his doghouse atop the tender, fitfully dreaming of Rule G ‘cause he’d come off a bender.
The carknockers checked the journals for waste and for oil and when finished were weary from all of their toil.
A switchman lined all the leads to the main just right then headed to his warm shanty for this was the last train tonight.
The conductor’s lantern swung up and swung down letting the engineer know it was time to leave town.
With two shorts on the whistle he notched the throttle just back and for good measure sanded the snow covered track.
Past dimly lit switch stands the train slowly rolled onto the main through the snow and the cold.
The lightning slinger’s key flashed an OS over the wire then he turned and warmed his fingers by the station stove fire.
His thoughts turned to the kids and jolly Saint Nick, ‘twould soon be the end of his second trick.
Through the snow down the track the headlight shone bright, a most welcome beacon on such a cold stormy night.
The stack now barked briskly, the clean fire burned bright, ‘twould please any brass hat who might chance see the sight.
For each grade crossing the whistle would moan and all aboard thought of their family and home.
The semaphores all dropped from green to red as by each one the fast manifest sped.
The head shack lined the switch for a mid-run meet then headed back to his warm tender top retreat.
After the passage of the Night Owl passenger train it was out of the hole and back onto the main.
Side rods again were a blur, lineside poles fairly flashed by and snow continued to fall from the sky.
By dawn the run would be over and all safely back home. Merry Christmas dear friends ‘tis the end of this poem.