Once you reach retirement age, those tracks you were riding along in your train called life suddenly change. For some, leaving the station of work and career is a difficult transition. For others, they embrace the track switch and enjoy the ride.
So far, Papa and I like the retirement age ride as it gives us more time to travel and do what we want to do without the restraints of work obligations. Yesterday, I posted about a train ride Papa and I took at the beginning of a week-long excursion in June. If you missed that, you may want to read it first here.
We had embarked on a three-hour train ride in Maryland because we enjoy railroad journeys. So we began our jaunt by boarding the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.
That day Papa decided to wear his burgundy T-shirt with the Pennsylvania Railroad emblem on it, which he had acquired on a repeat visit to Strasburg, Pennsylvania last August.
Papa’s interest in the Pennsylvania Railroad stems from the fact that his father spent his entire working life at that railroad company and retired from it. So it has always been a special part of my husband’s life. He has fond memories of riding the train and we continue feeding his fascination by taking those kind of outings when we can.
As we were waiting in line to board the train, a gentleman initiated a conversation with Papa because the man had noticed Papa’s PRR T-shirt. They chatted briefly about that and the man seemed pretty knowledgeable about the railroad itself. The conversation ended as we moved forward to board and he stepped out of the crowd.
We gave no more thought to it, just chalked it up to a talkative fellow who enjoyed chatting about trains with someone.
The first leg of the ride was not quite what we expected due to some “noisy neighbors” in the same car as us. But as the old saying goes, the tide turned on the return trip.
At our destination station where we had a one-hour ‘layover’ until we boarded the train once more, most of the passengers walked up the hill to visit the town. Papa and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of our lunch outside the depot.
Then we just lingered while perched on a park bench absorbing sunshine and tranquil surroundings. I took a few photos here and there while we waited to board the train again. Because of Papa’s connection to the PRR, I particularly focused a few shots on a shiny Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman car that was at the end of the train.
But then something happened that we never expected…that once in a lifetime kind of experience.
The man who had earlier conversed with Papa jumped down off that very Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman Car, approached us, and again engaged in conversation. He shared that his father, also a railroad man, had purchased an old Pullman train car back in 1972.
In recent years, he decided to attempt to restore it back to its 1949 state of glory with the help of a silent partner and the shiny, burgundy private rail car we were now looking at was the result. He shared some history of that sleeper car and more about the renovations that had been done. He then invited us to climb up onto the back end of the car and he would take our pictures with my camera.
Who could turn that down? So we climbed up onto the tail end of the car and posed. Once we jumped back off, (it was a long way down without a platform for this short gal), we thanked the man and were totally surprised when he asked if we would like a tour of the rail car.
We nodded and said that would be amazing. So he informed us that once we boarded back in our original passenger car and the train pulled out for the return trip, he would send his daughter to retrieve us and lead us back to their private car.
Shortly after pulling out of the depot, we were treated to a private tour of the restored Pullman sleeping car in which this man’s family was riding in a trial run to see if there were aspects that needed attention or repairing. We not only met the man’s family but also his father who owned the car.
Top photo: Catalpa Falls private Pennsylvania Railroad car. Bottom left: posing on the car’s back platform. Bottom right: riding in the lounge area of the refurbished car.
I can’t begin to tell you what a fun experience it was—so vastly different from the first hour of the train ride. This family welcomed us into their midst, told us more about the restoration of the car, and then offered us the opportunity to remain in the car with them for the rest of the ride.
Papa got to talk trains. We toured the entire rail car from the sleeping berths to the completely stocked kitchen. We heard how the colors of the paint and even the carpet were as near to the original as they could achieve.
We stood outside on the platform as the train lumbered along and Papa laughingly said he felt like he should give a Presidential speech. Since the car was the last one on the train, viewing train tracks behind us while we moved forward was a neat experience. (See photo at the beginning of this post.)
We also learned that this particular car, named the Catalpa Falls, would be one of three original rail cars in a recreated Pennsylvania Railroad run in July from New York City to Pittsburgh called the Broadway Limited. To learn more about that event click here.
Ticket prices for the three-day trip were out of our league with the cheapest being lounge seats in the Catalpa Falls car, which accommodated 10 people, at $999 apiece without a hotel room to $1300 per person including a hotel stay. To stay in a double occupancy berth on that rail car cost $2,800 per person. Even more expensive tickets, $4000 and $4200, were needed for another option on two of the other cars.
So even though we could not afford THAT train ride, we still felt privileged to be the only folks on that train to have a private sneak preview and an almost one-hour ride in this reconditioned and refurbished Pennsylvania Railroad Pullman sleeper car and to hear the history of it first-hand from the owner himself.
We never could have imagined a last-minute travel plan would land us at the right place at the right time;
Or that Papa just happened to wear his Pennsylvania Railroad T-shirt that day not even knowing there would be a PRR car attached to that train;
Or that the son of a man who bought and restored a PRR car would notice Papa’s T-shirt and strike up a conversation with us;
And that the son of a man who worked for the PRR back in 1949 (when this particular car rode the rails) would encounter a once-in-a-lifetime experience of riding in a restored Pullman car from that time period.
Coincidence? I think not. Just another blessing from God above.
“We are the train and the tracks are the path our lives follow. In control at dispatch is God, and He is overseeing each of our movements and coordinating what happens.” ~Joshua Robinson