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Railroaders' Nostalgia > A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history

Date: 03/12/21 06:27
A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: santafe199

There’s a RR crew inside this building attending to their duties. As a person who has been looking at this building for over 60 years I have to wonder about all the human occupants who have ever been in and around this building. Agents, operators, clerks, trainmasters, train crews, switch crews, mechanical & m.o.w men. US Mail & REA express agents, passengers, drover cowboys, cattle & business shippers, customers, consignees and all other assorted visitors. Not to mention wayward railfans and neighborhood train-nut kids. Including a certain stampeding herd of cousins who would hang around watching trains & engines rolling by, getting the occasional cab ride.

One of my earliest memories of this building is through the eyes of a pre-grade schooler. As a family we always took weekend trips over to Abilene “go see Grandma & Grandpa”. And this Santa Fe depot was always directly visible from their house just a ½ a block away. Indeed, this building not only made me become a railfan, its prominent circle-cross emblem made sure I would be a Santa Fe fan. Watching the trains and all the other events around this depot was a great source of excitement for this young, budding railfan.

Then on one occasion we spent the night. And from an upstairs window at Grandma’s house I got a rare night time look at the depot. As always, the occasional train and other doings around the building would catch my attention. But it also held my attention when nothing was happening. Because in the dark of the night, with the lights on inside it was much more mysterious. What could be going on inside there? Once in a while a figure’s shadow would pass over the windows. And a 5 year old’s imagination would run wild.

Nowadays I’ve come full circle with this depot. I’ve gone from a 5 year old child with 5 year old awe, grown into a teenager with a sure-fire railfan ‘career’ ahead of me. I also had a 3+ decade long RR career dead ahead, 9 years of which would be spent occasionally working in & out of this depot. And now I’ve reached retirement, and am back home. Once again looking at this depot from the outside. Wondering what’s going on inside. Shooting a picture of the glow of history

1. Ex-Santa Fe depot in Abilene, KS @ 6:42 PM on March 1, 2021.

Thanks for listening!
Lance Garrels

Date: 03/12/21 07:01
Re: A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: moose

Lance, I'll listen, and look, anytime. Every time. Always inspirational and informative. Thanks again for sharing with us.
C.L. Dillon,
Green River, WY

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/12/21 07:06 by moose.

Date: 03/12/21 07:41
Re: A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: NewYorker448

I'm sure everyone here could name a place in their lives like your Abilene; however, you have a rare and unique perspective, coming full circle having been on both sides of those walls.

As observers, so many railfans see little of what really goes on behind the scenes, or walls, as it were.

I am heartened to see someone, decades down the line, still appreciate these moments of introspection and wonderment.

Date: 03/12/21 08:24
Re: A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: spider1319

Really a cool story that many of us can identify.Thank you for sharing.Bill Webb

Date: 03/14/21 16:59
Re: A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: Ritzville

Very enjoyble narrative, brings back good memories!


Date: 03/23/21 11:42
Re: A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: ironmtn

A beautiful and evocative image and a fine story to go with it, Lance -- thanks much. I envy your time in Abilene!

For me, it was not so much depots as towers. Before they started disappearing, I can remember a number of occasions I would stumble onto one while on the way back home after dark, and often enough on a trip which had no railfan orientation at all. Late at night, sometimes in fog and rain or snow, I'd pass one that I'd either forgotten about, or didn't know of on a route I hadn't traveled before. I might pull over and pause to wait for a train if I had some time, which could bring the operator to the window late on a lonely, quiet evening, drawn to check out the crunch of gravel outside where I had pulled off the adjacent road. But more often, I had miles to make, and simply passed by. It was both melancholy and a little lonesome, but also reassuring. In that tower, someone was working through the night, keeping things moving smoothly and safely while the rest of the world slept, and while I still had weary miles to go (fueled by some more coffee) to get home, or back to my hotel if traveling.

Outside of yards and terminals, there aren't many windows on the railroad glowing through the nighttime hours anymore. And with that, a bit of the human touch that was a big part of railroading has been lost to history.

Glad to know that the depot windows still glow during the night in Abilene.

Thanks for the reminder of the way it was.


Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 03/23/21 11:48 by ironmtn.

Date: 03/27/21 02:09
Re: A Santa Fe depot & the glow of history
Author: sfbrkmn

Went o/d there only once. When I tied up @ 0210, for the drive back to Newton, the overnight scene of that building was just about the same as this image being shared.

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