That coastline train

Before I begin my column, I’d like to state something I’ve often said. We need to say thank you to all of our local and state police and fire personnel who valiantly serve us everyday. We may not think about this except when watching somebody get a speeding ticket.

These wonderful people put their lives in jeopardy every day. We should never forget that indisputable fact, and now to the column.

There I was snoozing in bed supposedly watching television, when my son Doug came rushing into my room to tell me that there had been a terrible train accident in our hometown of Philadelphia. I switched channels. It didn’t take me long to realize that some of the commentators were incorrect.

They were saying it happened outside of Philly. It had indeed happened in a section of town just past the 30th Street station. This old girl has used that train a dozen times. My heart began to beat too fast just thinking about how terrible this accident was just looking at that mangled mess. Nobody seemed to know what had happened, and nobody was talking about whether or not it had hit another train.

Perhaps, they thought, it hit a vehicle or just jumped the tracks? Looking at the scene it was difficult to tell. Of course, I got to thinking about the frequent times I’d been on that very same track. The first time I took that train was south from Philly heading to Athens, W. Va., where my husband Don Sr. was attending Concord College while still a cadet in the Army Air Corp.

I remember our train passing young barefoot children waving from trackside along those beautiful West Virginia and Virginia hills with log cabins in the background.

One of the most memorable times I remember vividly, was later in 1945 when my husband, Don, and our first born, Don Jr., boarded it at 30th Street as our family said goodbye to us as we were heading for Fort Myers, Fla., where Don was in his final flight training.

Our parents worried that being such a young couple, and never having been that far away before, we didn’t know what we were doing. Of course we didn’t. Our train passed through a blacked-out nighttime Washington, D.C. because of the war. It was pitch black outside then,

I’ve written before about our train passing one bearing President FDR’s body home after his death in Warm Springs, Ga. a few days before on this same trip.

That was one remarkable trip I’ll never forget. Then, much later in my life, when my second husband Van had passed away, I was heading back to New York from my home in Idaho to be with his family. We were also going to say goodbye to another member of Van’s family. Van’s earlier death from a stroke was unexpected, but we knew his severely ill brother-in-law Tom had only a few weeks left.

It was important for my being in Van’s hometown in New Jersey. His entire family was reeling with all that was happening. My oldest son was with me. At that time he lived and worked in New York City. My plane ride east was terrible, with turbulence I’ll never forget. This old lady loves to fly, but that trip the plane was flung all over the sky.

We landed in Philly instead of New York, since their airports had been closed. They had to let us off on the tarmac. The winds were 75 miles an hour on the ground. They had to bus me to New York where I stayed to visit Don and his wife, Earlene. I then boarded that train — the same one that runs all along the East Coast — and got off at 30th Street station and was met by Van’s family.

Van’s brother-in-law Tom passed away a week later. Two days after Tom’s funeral I flew from Philly back to pick up the pieces of my life in Idaho. There were a lot of other times I took that same train from Philly to New York for one reason or another.

I’ve also taken the train from Reno to the San Francisco area, it’s a great ride over Donner Pass and I recommend it highly to everyone.

Please say a prayer for those lost in the recent train wreck outside the 30th Street station in Philly. From reports, this tragedy caused by a speeding train shouldn’t have occurred.

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at


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