My pap Ashcraft instilled what became a lifetime appreciation of trains and railroads of all sizes. Ironically, he could have hated them as he lost one of his legs in an occupational accident working as a brakeman on the Penn Central Railroad. He continued to love trains his whole life.
We would visit the switching yards at Mingo Junction, OH, Weirton, WV and Conway, PA many times as I was growing up. He had many reasons to go, first to visit former coworkers, but also as a salesman of Knapp Shoes. He sold thousands of pairs of high quality shoes and work boots to railroaders. “If your feet hurt your shoes, call me,” was prominently featured on his business card.
Pap’s love of trains wasn’t limited to full size ones. He had a very cool “O” and “HO” gauge model train setup that he could set up in his basement by hinging it down from a wall. We also took trips to see train displays at Buhl Planatarium, Oglebay Good Zoo and other model train shows around the region. Most of these are now, sadly, gone. I recently read that, after decades, Oglebay finally dismantled their fascinating train room.
Another part of every visit to oglebay was the joy of riding their narrow-gsuge train around the zoo.
I still enjoy trains, though not with the deep passion my grandfather had. But you’ll rarely hear me complain about the train whistles living 300 yards from a major rail line, or waiting for the train to pass. Trains, at different points in my life have entertained me, provided income for me and provided me with a way to work via light rail. Maybe someday I will build a model railroad. It’s in my blood.