You can always spot a kindred spirit

Posted by Dave Lustig
on Monday, May 4, 2020

Do you recall exactly when you knew trains were going to be part of your life?

I figured it out when my parents and I would go for our Sunday afternoon family rides. I recall one trip in the late 1950’s from our Los Angeles home north to Saugus, Palmdale, Lancaster, and ultimately Mojave. I remember looking out the window with my notebook and pencil – I was maybe nine or ten - and watching the tracks whiz by wondering if I would see a train. And I did; a mixture of Southern Pacific F’s and road-switchers up to Mojave where they were joined by a gaggle of similar Santa Fe’s, all pulling long freight trains. I was in heaven as I wrote them all down.

On these little outings, I never recalled saying “Are we there yet?” Mine was always, “Can we stop and watch a train go by?” When the weather was pleasant and we weren’t actually heading somewhere in particular, my parents would oblige for a few minutes. Standing near, but not too close to the tracks, I remember waving, and the engineer would wave back. I looked up at my father and said with a big grin, “Engineers are always friendly.” My dad looked at me and, not being a train fan, replied that anyone you waved at would wave back. I didn’t say anything but I knew better. I was having the time of my life.

Which brings me to the present. I was revisiting one of my favorite spots in the Hawaiian Islands; the Hawaiian Railway Society on Oahu. While speaking with operations manager Steve Vendt, I wandered around the yard looking for photo possibilities when seemingly out of nowhere, a Society member boarded one of the handcars with two family members for a routine spin to check the right-of-way. I watched as they boarded and safety checked the little vehicle.

As the trio started out, the little girl saw me and gave me a huge smile. I can guarantee she won’t remember me, but she will remember her ride on the handcar. In that brief moment of her childhood, with that unabashed ear-to-ear smile, she was having the time of her life. Train fans, I learned long ago, can always spot a kindred spirit.

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