Tales of Open Road

The Berry Express

... walking eastward along the tracks ...

Tales of the Open Road, by Bill Jodrey

There were many days during my adventures  that I'll remember at least through this life span.  Some days were bright and beautiful and it was simply wonderful to be alive and able to move about the U.S.A., in search of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with little or no concern for personal safety.

One such day I was walking  eastward along the tracks approaching a water tower at which trains stopped to refill their water tanks in order to make steam which, of course, moved the train.  Two railroad workers were sitting in the shade of the tower eating their lunch and, as I stopped to chat, I was offered a sandwich and I, too, sat in the shade to eat it.

They explained the workings of the tower and said that a train known as the Berry Express was due in an hour but no one was allowed to ride on it because of the speed at which it traveled in order to go from coast to coast to bring fresh fruit and berries to Atlantic markets.

I idled my time until I saw the train approaching and then I hid in the cattails until the train started to move, at which time I sprinted to catch a ladder and climbed aboard.  When I reached the top of the car, I was astonished to find seventy-two men stretched out along the tops of seven cars, which was forbidden by all the rules of the railroad.

No room was available so I moved forward and rode the Tender that carries water and coal to run the train.

For one scary period, as we were going down the slopes of the Rocky Mountains, the engineer said we were traveling at 78 miles an hour.  We had to hold on with all our strength to keep from being tossed or worse.

As we were on the water tank, of course, the soft coal fuel was in front of us and at high speed the wind of our passage simply caused a stream of coaldust to flow upon us.  Our clothes and bodies were not fit to look upon and once again, when we found a roundhouse, we absolutely had to strip and wash and wait out a drying period before we could let the world see us sans soot from the Berry Express.

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