Summer evenings on the porch are quiet, except for the occasional sound of a train whistle in the distance. I love that sound. When I was a little girl, a train whistle meant excitement and memories. I was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. It’s “the big city”, and the central downtown area was the train station. There is something majestic about a grand, old train station with polished brass and wood. It was history, kept alive.
Trains were prevalent throughout the state. With a countryside of enormous rolling hills and dramatic landscape, it was the trains that people depended on to transport people and goods from the cities like Huntington out to the country. Roads? The interstate didn’t exist, and most roads were more of a roller coaster than a highway. But the trains had been there ‘forever’, it seemed. They could go everywhere. Dependable, and oh so exciting!
My first childhood memory is the sound of a train. I was sleeping in the family log house in Lowell, West Virginia. This was way out in the country.
The house today is known as the Graham House and is on the National Historic Register. But, back then in the 50’s, my family still owned the house. The history is thrilling; it is the oldest two-story log house west of the Appalachian mountains, built in the early 1770’s. My grandmother, Nan, lived in the house until she was married. She told me many times the story of Indian raids. On one occasion the children were in the summer kitchen and ran to the house. The boy did not survive and the girl was kidnapped. It took the father eight years to get his daughter back, trading horses with the Indians. Family stories; so important.
The sound of the old steam engine train whistling by as I slept at the old log house is one of my fondest memories. That was what I heard every evening as I fell asleep. I loved it, and I loved that old house. Hearing a train again today in the evening on the porch takes me back to those childhood days. I stop to listen, not wanting to miss one whistle. Wonderful memories.
In 1964, I boarded the train in Huntington with Nan and my cousin Laura to return for a long summer visit in Lowell with family, and of course the Log House. We always called it “The Log House.” I remember the excitement of the train ride, and the feeling of going past places and vistas that people never get to see from a car. The first thing I did when we arrived at the Log House was to run upstairs and find my bed; the one I slept in as a child. I remembered. By then, 1964, the house was no longer in the family, so we slept at our cousin’s house next door. And, I still heard that train whistle, even though many years since my childhood had passed.
When I recently visited the house with my husband, my first visit since 1964, I immediately recognized everything. I ran up the stairs and felt along the wall beside my bed, as there had been holes for rifles to go through when fending off an Indian raid. The holes were still there, just as I remembered, and just as Nan had told me.
Is it the sound of the train that makes my memories crystal clear? I think so. On the playground at school the far away sound of a train goes by in the morning. Often I have the children listen carefully, and then I tell them about sleeping in a log house and listening to a train. Stories are the keepers of words and memories.
This is beautiful. I love the last sentence “Stories are the keepers of words and memories.”
Thank you, Charles. I really like that last sentence, too.
I love the sound of train whistles too, and that’s a great line there; Stories are the keepers of words and memories.”
Thank you. And, I love that last line, too. 🙂
Family stories are priceless. Thank you for sharing yours as well as the lovely log house. Wonderful post, Jennie! 🙂
Lovely, just lovely.
It brings back memories of my youth in W. PA.
Thank you, John.
Priceless memories when shared touch our hearts, today world is in our head, matters of heart are been forgotten, Good to read about your memories and nice pics.
Priceless Memories when shared touch the hearts, todays world we Live in our heads, Matters of heart are been forgotten, Good to read about your memories, Nice Pics.
Priceless memories touch the hearts when shared, todays world is living in heads, matters of heart are been forgotten, good to read about your memories. Nice Pics.
They certainly are. I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I said goodbye to my 97 year old grandfather this week. I spent all evening annotating my old photographs because I’m afraid my stories may not be remembered one day.
I know exactly what you mean. Writing down all that you remember is a good thing to do. Even something small or what may seem insignificant could mean a lot to someone. I’m so sorry your grandfather has passed. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.
Great personal history that goes back to the earliest days of your country. I grew up near congested train tracks close to a railway goods depot in central London. Steam trains, shunters, whistles, much the same.
Trains here no longer have whistles, and I live 20 miles from the nearest station.
Best wishes, Pete.
I’m glad you enjoyed the story, Pete. No train whistles where you are? The old steam trains are my favorite. Best to you.
The trains here have horns now. They make a ‘Dah-Dah’ sound! There is a local ‘heritage’ railway that sometimes runs the old steam trains though.
Oh, I see. Thank you, Pete.
A wonderful post Jennie and how stunning to have been able to actually sleep in The Log House and so pleased it has been preserved now for others to visit.. I have put in the blogger daily this evening.. thanks Sally
Thanks, Sally. So glad you enjoyed it!
We didn’t have a car when I was young so all our journeys were by bus ( or trolleybus) or train. I lived near the railway, the gas works and the allotments and went on holiday by steam train. I was outraged when Beeching cut all the little railway lines and am happy that some are coming back into use in the UK.
The old steam trains are my favorite, Julie. How wonderful to have traveled by train or trolley, and not by car. Good to hear that some trains are coming back where you live in the U.K. Best to you.
A train whistle – bliss! I was greatly influenced by reading Nesbit’s The Railway Children. The thought of your growing up in a Log House sparks my imagination as well. Beautiful post.
Thank you, Sarah. It’s a wonderful sound. I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Ooo, I’ll have to read the book again.
I love the sounds of train whistles and of trains rumbling by. The Log House sounds like a wonderful place, filled with family history and rich stories.
I knew you would like a train post, Dan, especially when it includes history. Many thanks!
And, I went to college in West Virginia
Yes!! I nearly forgot, Dan.
What a wonderful childhood you had. Growing up on a farm on the Canadian prairies, I too remember fondly the sound of the train whistle as the train went right by our house on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. We would sit on the veranda and count the grain cars as dad wanted to know how many the train was delivering. Many grain cars meant there would be a market for his wheat, not many meant he wouldn´t be able to sell it at the time. Us kids considered it an important job to count and deliver the information. To this day I still love train travel, which is still quite popular in Europe.
Darlene, that is such a wonderful story! Thank you. I never counted train cars or considered how important they were to industry. Seems like you had a wonderful childhood with trains. And yours had more purpose and meaning. I love your story! ❤️
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This is a great article, Jennie – your words transported me through time and space to The Log House, the train rides and… the train whistles. I’m sure your students loved these stories!
I’m so glad you enjoyed this story, John. When we are transported back to good childhood memories- that can happen with a sound or a smell- well, it’s just terrific.
I agree, Jennie – good memories are golden.
Trains are magic! And stories about them even more 😄
Jennie, I’ve nominated you for a Mash-Up Award! To accept and/or see the guidelines, go here: https://mitchteemley.com/2017/07/27/my-mash-up-award/
Thank you, Mitch! I am honored.
Lovely post Jennie…
Sounds, like scents and songs, really do make memories don’t they?
(I hope this message arrives, as I’ve had trouble again with Spam…)
Thank you, Di. You lovely message arrived. Sights and sounds really do make memories. Best to you. 🙂
I’m so glad, Jennie. I think you’ll find some in Spam on older posts, sadly.
But this current one arrived and that’s good.
Thank you for your lovely reply. Wishing you a lovely summer break 💐
You too, Di. I will check my spam this week!
Thank you Jennie… don’t worry. It’s something else to seek in a busy time. Really, I just wanted you to know I hadn’t abandoned you all together!
Take care and I must let you know that I’m going to be horribly behind from now on due to our relocation. There is such a lot to do…
I’ll pop by when I can …
Best to you, and I hope the move goes smoothly.
Thank you so much Jennie. I appreciate your kind words 💐🙋🏻
Reblogged this on The Writers Desk and commented:
An excellent post of a memory not to be forgotten. “Stories are the keepers of words and memories.”
Thank you, Patricia!
A wonderful story Jennie. Certain sounds and smells, a song or a poem, even a beautifully told story have the ability to transport us back to our childhood and revisit those wonderful days. Your story has done this for me this morning. Thank you. You are a marvelous writer.
Thank you so much, Patricia! Your words mean a lot. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. And YOU are a wonderful writer!! 😀
I love this story! What a wonderful home you lived in and how special that you got to revisit many years later. I’m also a fan of train whistles, especially in the dark of night. They, as well as lighthouse foghorns, always remind me of the folks out there travelling to distant places while the rest of us sleep. Nice to see a picture of Nan; I think those long ago stories of raids at the Log House would have spooked me a bit.
Thank you, Marcia. I know exactly what you mean, even though yours are a lighthouse foghorns and mine are train whistles. They both do exactly the same thing! Interestingly, the story of the raid didn’t scare me-I think it was how Nan told the story, full of adventure.
I grew up near train tracks in Michigan. I hear the whistle blowing…..
Absolutely loved this!
So glad you did. Thank you! 🙂
Would love for you to check out my latest post if you get time http://wp.me/p93E9G-6f :)))
Thank you, Ted.
Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
BOTH IN BINGHAMTON, NY AND HERE IN DOUGLAS, MA, YOU COULD HEAR TRAINS IF THE WIND WAS JUST RIGHT, FROM THE NEXT TOWN OVER!
Thank you, Jonathan.