Posts Tagged ‘railroads’

The Texas Zephyr, left, and the Sam Houston Zephyr in Dallas in 1955. Photo from Portal to Texas History

 “Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows, while proudly rising o’er the azure realm in gallant trim the gilded vessel goes. Youth on the prow, and pleasure at the helm.” Thomas Gray


Zephyr is a wind from the west. It was also a train that blew past my grandmother’s home every day around noon.

I recalled it yesterday when I wrote about picking blackberries in an empty field on the outskirts of Dallas. Seems my journey into the past, much as my journey on the road today, is full of interesting detours.

While I never did get to ride a Zephyr, I did eventually ride on a train from Ogden, Utah, to Las Vegas through the Virgin River Gorge. Shown above is the Virgin River in Zion National Park before it enters the gorge. -- Photo by David Scarbrough

I always wanted to know where that silver bullet, as my grandmother called it, was going. Over half a century later, I finally know the answer – thanks to the ease of internet research.

There were more than one streamlined silver zephyrs operating out of Dallas. One, the Texas Zephyr, went between Dallas and Denver, stopping in Ogden, Utah, where I ended up living for 25 years. Ogden was a big railroad town, still is although today it’s mostly freight trains that pull through its Union Station terminal.

But it was here, some 30 years ago, that I boarded my first train – an Amtrak traveling from Ogden to Las Vegas through the awesome Virgin River Gorge between St. George, Utah, and Littlefield, Arizona. I’ve ridden a number of trains since, but I couldn’t have asked for a better initiation to riding the rails.

The second silver train operating out of Dallas, from 1936 to 1966, was the Sam Houston Zephyr that traveled back and forth daily between Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston. It was probably this train I watched for with my young impressionable eyes.

I suspect that speeding zephyr, as it roared past my grandmother’s home, might have nurtured my wanderlust as much as the travel adventure books I was addicted to reading as a child.

I was never cured of my travel-book reading addiction – and I also still get a little chill in my soul at the sound of a train whistle.

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Utah's new Tie Fork Rest Stop near Soldier Summit on Highway 6. --Photo by Pat Bean

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” — Charles Dickens

Travels With Maggie

My first day back on the road after leaving Ogden took me to Moab on Utah roads I had traveled many times before. Traffic, as usual, was horrid until I turned off Interstate 15 and began winding my way up Spanish Fork Canyon on Highway 6.

Winter sunset on Mount Timpanogas. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I had passed this same way in April, Then the mountains had been dressed in snow. Now, in late September, they look naked, especially the 11,749-foot Mount Timpanogas. Its profile is said to be that of a sleeping Indian maiden, the legend of which is yet another version of the Romeo and Juliet story.

A cave sits within the mountain that contains a geological feature, enhanced by red lights, that is said to be the maiden’s heart.

Recollections of that powerful image, along with the effort of the steep mile and a half hike up the mountain to see it, tickled my brain as I drove past Provo this day. I prefer driving to the sound of silence instead of music to better focus on such memories and the current passing landscape.

Near Soldier Summit, which marks the end or beginning of Spanish Fork Canyon depending on which way you’re headed, a new sight greeted me, one that hadn’t been there when I had passed this way earlier. Now sitting at Milepost 202 on Highway 6 was the new Tie Fork Rest Stop.

Shiny and bright but going nowhere. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Dedicated just a month earlier, it was not just any old rest stop.Its place to do business looked more like a cathedral than an outhouse.

A high two-story building enclosed the restrooms and the pit stop was designed like a railroad roundhouse, complete with a shiny red and black engine with No. 435 emblazoned on its sides. The site was well landscaped with plenty of picnic tables scattered around for the outdoor dining pleasure of visitors, of which this day there were quite a few. I suspected it was the actual destination for some curious locals as well as a rest stop for us travelers.

Maggie got to enjoy the stop, too, as there was an area marked off just for pets.

The project is supposed to be in remembrance of the old railroad town of Tucker located just two miles away. I think I would have enjoyed it more if my thoughts hadn’t strayed to its cost.

Tie Fork's cathedral ceiling restroom

It seemed a bit too extravagant for me when our country is going through such economic woes. I suspected the money spent here could have been more thoughtfully spent reducing the country’s debt or better educating its children.

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