Train Wreck / Train Wreck

 

I was as My Parents use to like to say, A Lucky Little Boy.

Early in 1965 My Father purchased a Baltimore & Ohio Private Railroad Car.

Made aware of it being up for sale after reading of it in The Chicago American Newspaper one morning.

Maggie Daly had an item that day in her column “Daly Diary.”

It read,

“For Sale…We have learned that the elegant 1917 private railroad car that the new Wind disc jockey, Kassidy, used for a press luncheon yesterday, is for sale. It belongs to Ralph Atlass Jr. and is equipped with two bedrooms and adjoining baths, observation lounge, wood paneled dining room, office, kitchen, and chef’s quarters. For the ultimate in transportation, write to Mr. A c/o WIND.”

March 8th 1965….My Father sent a letter to Mr Atlass expressing his interest in purchasing the private car.

March 13th an offer of certified check in the amount $12,000.00 was made to Mr Atlass. following a conversation they had on the telephone. Requested was the bill of sale Mr. Atlass received from The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad for their office car No. 98.

March 18th The bill was received by My Father. Atlass had purchased the Car on November 8th, 1962 for the amount of $10,000.00 As Is.

The sale of the car was completed.

The Office on board was converted to a bedroom. now giving the car three bedrooms.

Shortly thereafter,

In The Daly Diary newspaper Column the following appeared.

“On The Track…Insurance executive Robert T. Hogan tells us as the result of our column item on Ralph Atlass Jr.’s private railroad car being for sale, Hogan bought the car. But the kicker is that because he found out about it thru this column, he is going to name the car “Maggie.”

In a letter penned to Ms. Maggie Daly of The Chicago American. My Father did indeed notify Maggie Daly of his purchase and added that…

“He has had the car adequately insured so that if it strikes some farmers cow whilst en route, you will be protected from claim conscious people in the claim conscious land of ours, which due to this trend, enables me to make a living.”

The Specifications of The Railroad Car were.

Length 81′ 11/12″

Height 14′ 10 1/4″ ATR

Width 10′ 6″ over permanent markers

Weight 189,000 lbs

The first trip the car made with My Father as it’s owner took place on Saturday March 20th. Destination Saint Louis Missouri. Returning to Chicago on March 21st.

This was the first of many trips across the country.

In 1965 alone, The following trips were made by our family. Easter brought us to Los Angeles California on The Sante Fe “Super Chief.” along the way, we made stops in Las Vegas and San Diego. The Kentucky Derby in late April, The Indianapolis 500 in May. The Northern Woods of Wisconsin for The Fourth of July, Glacier National Park in August, Sun Valley Idaho, Seattle down thru Oregon to San Fransisco then homeward through The Rocky Mountains. In The Fall Notre Dame Football games in South Bend on Saturdays. Late December we travelled South first to New Orleans Louisiana then to Miami Beach Florida for Christmas and To Ring in the New Year.

Little did we know what awaited us on our return trip.

Early Morning January 3rd 1966, Franklin Kentucky.

Two Cars of The Miami-to Chicago South Wind Derailed.

One of those cars was ours. Seven of the nine people traveling with us were injured. Those people included My Father, Mother, Sister Jane, Our Aunt Louise Patton, Close Family Friend Cicely Clarke, our Cook Samuel Toole, and Waiter Mel Hartsfield.

My Brother Tom and I were fortunate to escape injury.

I was awake in the rear of the car’s observation lounge that morning reading a comic book. Immediately I knew something was very wrong. Through the windows I could see gravel being kicked up. The train began to shake and rock from side to side, throwing me back and forth across the car from chair to chair, I was bouncing from floor to ceiling finally landing upright in a chair with not a scratch. My father and brother were asleep next to me in a couch that opened into an upper and lower berth. I watched as my father bounced off the top berth onto the floor followed by my brother from the lower berth.

From the front of the car I heard screaming of My Mother, Aunt and Sister. hurtling forward completely off the tracks at this point, the car fell on it left side throwing furniture and bodies throughout. The dining room table landed on my sister’s head, My Mother and Aunt were both trapped in their bedrooms pinned underneath furniture.

After the derailment My Father would tell Newspaper Reporters the tale of what occurred.

The story making Front Page News in both The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Suntimes dated January 4th 1965.

“I had the most peculiar feeling that I was going to die-the first time I’d ever had it. As the car slid on its side in a ditch. The sensation continued to get worse until we stopped with one final jolt. Thanks to the car’s 180,00 pounds of steel, our lives were preserved.”

Dad also told the press. “He doubted that it would be worthwhile to repair the car, which lost some wheels. it’s interior trim, of vermilion wood lined with mahogany, would probably be too costly to replace.”

 

 

Injury settlements were reached with The Louisville and Nashville Railroad who would agree to pay for repair of the car.

In April of 1966, The Hogan Party would roll on. Completely repaired the car’s exterior was now Kelly Green.

Many stories were written over the years about our private car. Newspapers included,  The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago SunTimes. My Father treasured them all. 

My personal favorite might be this one.

From The Wausau Wisconsin Record Herald July 3rd 1965

By Dewey Pfister.

Robert T Hogan an Oak Park Insurance claims investigator, his wife, their two sons and daughter were the envy of Milwaukee Road passengers and residents in the Depot area Friday night as they prepared to sleep aboard the car before journeying to Manitowish this morning by auto to spend the weekend with friends.

“He has a horn and sits on the observation platform at the rear of the train and toots at everyone as we go by,” Mrs Hogan related, explaining her husband’s pleasure with open air rail travel.

The trip to Wausau Friday brought back memories for Hogan.

“It was 43 years ago that I came to Merrill to visit relatives who lived there. It was my first train ride.”

He expressed a sadness that passenger service no longer goes into northern Wisconsin on the Milwaukee Road, a feeling probably shared by many and to be missed by many more who will never experience the thrill of going to the depot to see the train come in.

Then in 1971 Amtrak was created.

President Richard Nixon signed the Rail Passengers Act in October of 1970. Amtrak began operation May 1st 1971.

My father had enjoyed dealing with the various private railroads during the years 1965-1971. no longer would he be able to deal directly with railroads, The Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe. Union Pacific. Great Northern Railway. Louisville and Nashville (L&N) just to name a few.

We road The Super Chief, El Capitan, The Chief, The San Diegan, The Great Northern Railroad, The South Wind, The Rio Grande Royal Gorge Route, The Hiawatha. and many, many other routes.

He made the decision to sell the H&H 98.

Looking back, I realize I saw parts of the United States that are no longer accessible by rail.

Saw many of the Grand Old Train Stations before they were torn down. 

Many of the routes we covered are still there. Though many are gone, too costly to maintain.

We travelled on tracks over and through Mountains. Across Deserts. Through Forests and Farmland. Over Bridges and Around Lakes. Up and Down the Coastlines. Into and Across Canada.

Privileged to see this country in a way many never will.

I survived a train wreck.

I lived the life with my family.

Thanks to My Father and his love of Trains.

I was indeed, A Lucky Little Boy.