Having been 3 years old from a refugee family from Lithuania after the Soviet occupation in WWII, we wound up in Boston Harbor on the ship fom Europe, and my Dad's cousin from a previously long-immigrated branch of the family greeted is to take the train to New York's Penn Station in 1949. At my age I don't remember whether the cars were either "American Flyer" types or "PS Corrugated stainless steel", but in both cases as I recall, my first impressons on a train (other than the boxcar my parents birthed me while sneaking through Iron Curtain borders on a freight train, whicj I would not have consciously remembered!) were of looking up from sitting on a carpeted floor to see rows of floursescent lights, lights I had not seen before in Germany. Ot must have been at night as I recall. Between mt birth and my first ride on the New Haven at arrival, Mom used to bring me in my baby carriage to the grade crossing in Stuttgart to greet dad from gis work. For some reason he'd arrive not at a "proper" staton but at a multi-track (6?) road crossing, probably a flag stop, with dense stram loco taffic every few minutes.
As I grew up and went to school, I guess from my birth therefore, it was logical for me to simply start to like trains, first the Pitkin Ave/Euclid Ave/Liberty Ave "El" in Brooklyn where we first lived with Dad's cousin, and eventually elsewhere in the New York area. At school I quickly found myself a friend who liked trains too, we just knew each other by the fact that we were the only two kids who didn't "hang around" in the candy store doing "no good"! After school instead of just going home, we'd put up a map of the New York area onto a dart board and that's how we'd determine where our next trip would be, and by the time we were in 8th grade we had already BEEN to places around New York our classmates never even heard of, or cared. That was THEIR loss!
We wound up in the same high school and continued a lifelong friendship beyond just railfanning. We travelled the "Queen of the Valley", "Crusader" (post Budd version, later RDC version), an around the far New York suburbs as well. My heritage community youth activities gave me more opportunities than most "non-ethnic" students for longer distance travel, to Lithuanian youth conferences, in both high school and college days, and wound up on the 20th Century Limited, Broadway Limited, Wolverine, The Chief, San Francisco Chief, California Zephyr, Coast Daylight, Denver Zephyr, Nebraska Zephyr, Morning/Afternoon Hiawathas, several of the bi-level "400"'s, James Whitcomb Reilly, Pocahontas, City of San Francisco, Abraham Lincoln, Land'o'Corn, Capitol Limited, Erie Limited, George Washington, (PRR) Buffalo Day Express, Empire State Express, Congressional, Keystone, Colonial, Merchants Limited, Day Cape Codder, (CN) Rapido, TH&B Buffalo-Toronto RDC, New London-Worceter RDC, Montreal-Ste.Agathe RDC, Laurentian, all places served one way or another that had Lithuanian communities in thye USA and Canada. But my favorite train of all, and my "usual" NY-Chicago way to go was always the "Phoebe Snow", both pre- and post- NKP combination. Others I sampled at times on trips, but Miss Phoebe was always my "staple".
Why, I guess it's very personal. It was a luxurious train but not ostentatious. Friendly and comfortable. Pride of the communities it served. And few trains by then still actuallly had observationl-full lounge cars! There was a trainman in the obs car throuh the Southern Tier who'd give impromptou sightseeing descriptions along the train, including where one farmer had a buffalo trackside, with lots of stories about this by the trainman. The diner was tasty and elegant, but not snotty, always friendly staff, and I loved those "Krusty Korn Kob" rolls! The jourbey gave you great Pocono Mountain and Delawate Water Gap scenery in daytime and fairly even sleep at night through Ohio and Indiana. We had a group of about 15 from Europe I sent to Chicago from New York for one of the conferences I was involved in organizing and they loved the trip, even though it took 24 hours and the "Limiteds" were only overnight, and by that time most young people used to fly in a coule of hours. Waking up in the morning in Indiana, a bunch of us opened to tops of the dutch doors and sang along with the "Kellogs" jingle: "New Country Corn Flakes...! The trainmen would tell us tall tales of the railroad to our group. Yet there was always the sense of the gentility of "Miss Phoebe's Train", with all the fun we had, the train maintained a dignity appropriaste for a luxury train that still stopped for smaller towns along the way. And of course returning to New York, what better and moe pleasant way to enter the Big Apple on the ferry, to actually see the skyscrapers approaching right up close. All railroads from the west had to go through the Jersey Meadows, but it was the Phoebe Snow who gave you what you wanted to see in arriving in New York!
Yes, those were the days!
PS, my wife is from Australia and she got homesick for hr home town after being ith me 12 years in New York, so I wund up living in Perth Western Australia from 1982, but we continued travelling by train in Australia (she too was nvolved with Lithuanian community activities and opportunbities fgor travel) We were on the Indian Pacific, Prospector, Australind, the XPT, Explorer, and on trips to South Africa, on the Trans-Natal (Johannesburg-Durban), The (ex?-) Star of Egypt (Cairo-Aswan) - the last worlwide operation at the time being oprated by the CIWL Wagons-Lits Company, and a number of trains in Europe as well, but I must finish this lettter now!
Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Australia