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Mystery Train

August 12, 2008 | 5 Comments

Post to the Host:
As a big railroad fan, I wish you'd add a train engineer character in one of your wonderful stories.

Thanks and cheers from Switzerland!

Terence R.

I've never ridden in the cab of a locomotive, Terence, so I lack the background for that story. I'd love to do that, of course, but in America these days we are so paranoid that nobody is allowed to do anything interesting whatsoever. I doubt that the railroads would allow a four-star general to ride in a locomotive. My dad worked on the railroad in the mail car, but I never got to ride on that either. I have sung songs about train engineers who died in terrible collisions and that is about it. I did tell a story years ago about a train called the Prairie Queen which had an engineer and it jumped the tracks and landed in the Mississippi but he escaped somehow. How about I do a story about an airline pilot instead?


"How about I do a story about an airline pilot instead?"

No, sorry Garrison, that won't do. There is romance for us all in the cab of a locomotive, especially if it is steam-driven. There is a sense of connectedness to the land and to the machine and to history as a train glides through a landscape, the clickity-clack ticking off the miles.

There may be romance in an airliner cockpit too, but it is limited to pilots and cabin crew. There is no sense of connectedness to anything in an airliner; travelers are trapped in a humming aluminum tube looking down on clouds that all secretly hope won't become their harp stations after some horrible mid-air disaster.

There are many small railroads that keep the old equipment and the mystery of the rails alive. Ride one, Garrison, and I'm sure we'll all be pleasantly surprised to learn that tracks actually run quite close to Lake Wobegon.

Mr Keillor,

My wife and I will be attending the show Aug 16 at the Bowl in SB and are looking foward to seeing your show live.

I'm the manager that is in charge of the trains that operate thru SB area. How much do you want to ride the head end of a locomotive? I may be able to get you that chance, depending on your schedule. I'll provide my personal cell phone if your interested.


There are terrific railroading resources available in Minnesota that would give you some further insight into the railroads and the people who made them work.

The Lake Superior Railroad Museum and the North Shore Scenic Railroad in Duluth have wonderful collections of locomotives and other equipment from the steam and diesel eras, some on display and some still operated for excursions and special events. They even have a locomotive simulator (the real deal) that lets visitors experience the feel of driving a train.

And, for the icing on the cake, there's a mail car on display! (It was open to visitors the times I've been there.)

Try the beautiful Texas State Railroad, it runs a thirty mile track thru the beautiful, lazy East Texas Piney Woods, from Rusk to Palestine TX. We would love to have you visit and ride our old steam trains, enjoy the Pullman cars, a real visit to our past.

If you go to Steamtown in Scranton They have a program whereby with a day's worth of training you are allowed to operate the steam locomotive under supervision of the professional.

I do think it would be a good theme for a program.

best wishes

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