This Train is Leaving. . . But Not in my Memory

tracks      Passenger trains have all but left America as a frequently chosen form of travel. I know there’s Amtrak, and I’m so glad about that! Now that I’m retired, riding an Amtrak train is definitely on my want-to-d0-soon list!

But the passenger trains I am thinking of are the ones I rode as a child. They left from Atlanta, from the depot there. The building seemed grand to me and much busier than any place I was used to, with its crowds of hurrying people. I remember holding my mother’s hand as we stood in line to buy our tickets. Our voices echoed. The ceilings were high like a cathedral’s, and the grownups’ heels clicked loudly on the floor.

Then in would swoop my Granddaddy Dendy, or just “Dendy” as we called him – (my fault; I couldn’t say the whole name when I was little) – and he would  kneel down to hug us and to greet us in his confident, happy-sounding voice. (He was a minister, and honestly, personal biases aside, he had a great voice!) Dendy would meet me, or my sister and me, and take us back to Richmond with him for a visit.

I remember being half-scared of the giant wheels, the immense power and sound of the engines as they pulled the train beside the platform and sometimes backed it up. And soon would come the moment to climb the steep steps up to the train, just after the conductor cried, “All aboard!”


Walking through the cars once the train had started was an adventure. You could see the tracks flying by below as you stepped from one car to another. The sound was a loud clacking and a roar, and you could feel every curve and sway at that juncture. I was both terrified and thrilled.

cars blue rideg

The dining car held tables covered in white linen tablecloths and set with heavy silverware. Waiters balanced perfectly while hurrying to an invisible kitchen. I don’t remember what we ate, or what we drank. ( I’d like to think it was hot chocolate, but I think that is from reading The Polar Express too many times!) I do remember the lunches on the return trip from Richmond, a day trip; they were packed by my grandmother in a shoe box: fried chicken, tangerines, hard-boiled eggs, and cake! (No wonder I remember!)

Usually we didn’t have a space in a sleeper car, and I struggled uncomfortably to sleep in an upright seat with a pillow. But once we rented a compartment in a Pullman car. In my eyes the transformation of the space into a room with bunk beds was nothing short of magical. I got to climb to the top bed and lie up against the window.

All night long the train rode on, its rhythm and rumble comforting, like a lullaby. The towns we passed through were a sleepy blur of light and people getting on and off in the middle of the night.

I don’t think I have ever slept such a deep and wonderful sleep before or since. Carried along on this train that seemed like something out of a storybook.

I haven’t ridden a train overnight in a long time; the last time was just after college, when I rode the train from London to Edinburgh. (We won’t discuss how long ago that was!) But, like most people, I love to hear the train whistles as the freight trains still pass through Marietta, where I live. And I especially love to hear them at bedtime, as I imagine riding on that train into the night.

About Dixie Minor

A wife, mother, former Teacher, and the author of Winter Wish
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22 Responses to This Train is Leaving. . . But Not in my Memory

  1. Wonderful vignette, Dixie! Even though only one short paragraph is dedicated to Dendy, I have a very strong sense of his character. Nicely done.
    I had the exact experience of riding in a Pullman car when I was a teen travelling through the Rocky Mountains – that is, the best sleep ever!

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Thank you so much, Maggie! I am so glad you felt like you had a sense of Dendy. Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m glad you had that same experience, riding a Pullman car through the Rockies. That must have really been wonderful! I have never ridden a train in the mountains, well, except a day excursion.

  2. Barbara Hood says:

    Dixie, I love this post! Passenger trains are real icons of the past. A track is just not the same! There is something haunting about the sound of a train – especially in the middle of the night. I have many wonderful memories of train rides in years past. Thanks for stirring up those memories for me!

    Sent from my iPad


    • Dixie Minor says:

      Barbara, it sounds like we feel the same about our train memories and the sound of them at night. Thank you so much for your sweet comment. I love trains so much, but when I started writing this, I realized I was going to have to limit myself!

  3. Mrs. Fly says:

    Dixie, I really love this essay. I would also like to think you drank hot chocolate with that amazing boxed lunch. What a wonderful memory of an experience when you felt both nurtured and bit out of your comfort zone!

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Dear sweet Mrs. Fly, thank you so much! It looks like we published our blogs at almost the same tome today! I wish I could have seen your children all dressed up yesterday-I know they were beautiful! Thank you so much for this sweet comment! I’m so glad you had a Happy Easter! 💕

  4. M-R says:

    A really delightful memory, Dixie ! – I greatly look forward to your book’s arrival from The Book Depository …

  5. Dixie Minor says:

    Thank you, M-R! I will be starting your book either tonight or tomorrow night, and I am definitely greatly looking forward to reading it! Maybe we will end up reading each other’s books at the same time! ☺️ But I seem to be a slow reader these days; either that, or I am busier then usual, or maybe a little bit of both! Feeling pulled a lot of directions. . . but in a good way at least!

  6. Randy Simpson says:

    We hear trains rumbling by on their way north and south, to and from Chatsworth, west of our place in the hills towards Ellijay; the sounds travel through the valley and up the mountainside. Reminds me of growing up in Marietta as well. Good old memories. Thanks!

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Thanks, Randy! I’m glad you can hear the trains in the mountains. . . that’s the best of both worlds! I guess I will get to hear them too, this weekend! 😊

  7. Hi Dixie, I love trains, too. Thanks for the descriptive writing — it brought back some good memories. Also, I’m from Atlanta but I recently did a post about the Chattanooga train station if you are interested. Thanks!

  8. Wonderful post, you really have such a gift in making me “see” the details, down to the silverware! I tagged you in the Writing Process Blog Hop, come on over and check out my last post if you’re interested!! -Kate

  9. Dixie Minor says:

    Kate, thank you sooo much for the kind words!! And thank you for the tag!! I really enjoyed reading about your process and about Britt’s as well! I don’t think I can participate in the blog hop this time, darn it!! I am mentally thinking of my answers. . . wishing I could write it up. . . but I am getting ready to go out of town and our refrigerator broke and we are in the middle of a major project on the house and my dad’s caregiver found a full-time job and. . . I can’t do it this time! 😔 I wish could!!! I was so excited to be tagged. . . I hope there will be another one! Thank you again for reading my blog; I really enjoy yours and can’t wait to read your book! 😊

  10. Oh, I love that memory! How wonderful.

  11. Dixie Minor says:

    Thank you so much, Susan! I am so glad you liked it! Thank you for your sweet comment! 😘

  12. simon682 says:

    I’ve long thought that if I ever get round to my promised tour of the USA I’d like to do it by train. You evoke the memories so well.

  13. Dixie Minor says:

    Thank you so much! Thank you for reading this post and for your kind comment. That sounds like a pretty intriguing idea: seeing America via train! 😊

  14. Emilio Pasquale says:

    The sounds of a train at night are what stay with me so many years later. You did a great job describing it so succinctly. I hated flying and would take a train between New York, where I lived, and Las Vegas, where my parents retired. Three days on a train was heaven. I keep telling my wife that we have to take a train trip one day. But the cost is worse than a cruise. The only downside for me was not being able to see and visit the small towns we passed through! Thank you for this memory trip.

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! I did not know they were so expensive now. 😔 I hope to ride an overnight train again. Guess I’ll have to save up! 😊 I still love so much to hear them at night; if you are in the downtown area of our hometown, you can really hear the freight trains! (My dad -who is 86-told me the other day,there are 60 a day!) I love it when he thinks of things like that!

  15. pattywryle says:

    I don’t know how I missed this blog but again, written so beautifully. Very evocative of my memories too! So proud of you and glad we got to ride trains together!!!

  16. Dixie Minor says:

    Me too! I wish we could do it again! Thank you, Patty! ❤

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