Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Railroad Man

Even though much of my time was spent on my grandparents farms, my actual home was in the suburbs. My parents had built their own home on an acre of land on a dirt road which was a quarter of a mile from the railroad tracks.

Many times my friends and I would put a penny on the tracks, and wait for a train to go by to see what happened to the penny afterwards. Sometimes we would wave to the engineer, or guess how many cars there were before the train passed and even put our ears up to the tracks to see if we could hear one coming.

I even had a friend who was an engineer and cringed when he saw someone on the tracks knowing full well that he could not stop in took its toll on him and he had nightmares about those folks. 

Well last night we were honored to have a railroad collector speak at our antique club meeting. His name is TJ Gaffney. If anyone saw the Tom Hanks movie The Polar Express, the train in that movie was from Owosso, Michigan and TJ was the real engineer of that train. He has since moved back to his home town of Port Huron Michigan where he is a  professor at the local college there.

TJ was an avid Railroadiana as they call themselves from a very young age...with his dad taking him to estate sales, garage sales and even auctions. Although TJ only likes to collect railroad items from the Pere Marquette RR, he showed us other railroad pieces that he also had. 

TJ in the back wearing green

Here are some of the items TJ had brought.  

Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad mascot.
Chessie the cat.
They created this advertising in the 1930's
Her mate was named Peake
They also had two kittens named Nip and Tuck.
There are avid Chessie Collectors who collect everything they can find.

Railroad lanterns.
The one in the front is called a bell bottom lantern.

This silver oil can was used to oil the wheels.
The red one is also an oil can used for smaller jobs.

The larger lock was used to lock up the coal car..coal was a necessity back then.
It was as important as gold is today.
The lock in the middle was a switch lock to protect someone from changing the tracks.

This tool was used to repair the track.
The china is railroad memorabilia that TJ also collects.

This can was used for water.

That's it for now.
Take care everyone


  1. What a fascinating story!!!! I loved that movie and it does look like him. Picture him with rail clothes on. i grew up next to railroad tracks too and I remember as a child I would here the train coming but never remember it leaving cause it would always put me to sleep.
    I love taking the train to Chicago..not quite the same as the old ones.
    thanks for sharing this post. love to here stories like this. And the pictures.
    Have a good night!

  2. My son loved trains, we got to ride on an engine, when they were switching cars, at the Carnation Milk plant, where we lived in Michigan....He was only three, but he still remembers it! He has an old RR lantern, that we bought him....I grew up near the tracks, out in the country and I used to love to run the crossing when I heard the whistle a mile or two away....Thanks for the memories.

    Bear Hugs & Blessings~Karen

  3. Great memories - and awesome post Janice. When our farm was sold, we kept a chunk of land near the highway and built a house there - it was right across from the railroad track - and I have memories of that train shaking our house as it went by. Great collectibles! Love TJ - that's a great book and movie!! Smiles & Hugs ~ Robin

  4. Another great post Janice - the old boxcar trains used to run through our town - not the fast ones they have today. I remember laying in bed at night and hearing the cilckity-clack...clickity-clack. Kind of like a lullaby. They tore the rails up years ago. My dad said if he never got married and had a family he would have been a train conductor. One of my favorite old train songs is "The Ghost of Virginia" by Justin Townes Earle-beautiful and haunting. Have a great weekend Janice - thanks for the memories ~*~Lisa


Thank you friends for reading my blog! I especially enjoy reading your comments.