Friday, August 9, 2013

RIP Denver and Rio Grande Western RR

An open letter to Sage:  re: railroads in Provo Canyon

Dear Sage:

Thank you for your comment to my recent post.  It sent me on a hunt for information.  You obviously know your railroads and trains!   I've taken a new interest in the various trains, freight and passenger, that I see chug past my home here in Fernley!    When I was a girl, that sound meant the potential of freedom, of seeing places beyond the rugged mountains of Utah.  I didn't know then how much I would miss those high places, rattle snakes, bears, deer, mountain lions and all.

I am 65 and when I was a very little girl the train that is now the historic line you called the Heber Creeper was the Denver and Rio Grand Western RR.  It ran some kind of service from 1899 to 1967.  I was in the canyon off and on from 1950 to 1960. Anyway the Denver and Rio ran a service that connected Heber to Provo. Springdell is probably 6 miles up the canyon and well south of Bridal Falls.  When I was young six miles might have been a million for all I knew.  My cousins, friends and I were little Mountain Rats. My grandparents owned a home in Springdell and my younger sister and I would summer and even winter with them.  Lady Blue sometimes lived there with us when she was between marriages (six that we know of).   Any free moment found us outside roaming mountains, exploring the river, sneaking into Canyon Glen, finding horses to ride bare-back and of course, walking the railroad tracks.  We use to feel for the vibration of an on-coming train with our bare feet on the rails.  We placed pennies on the track and waited for the train to flatten them.  The flat penny was each kid's badge of honor and courage.  It was in this canyon that the older guys taught me how to track every manner of four legged animal.  My Dad appreciated the skill as he took his daughter deer hunting with him...I was the ringer.  I mentioned rattle snakes earlier.  We (the boys and I) collected the rattles as another badge of honor/courage and a kind of currency (a story for another time).  Now I respect rattle snakes and to this day can hear that rattle from a great distance - I no longer follow snake tracings in the sand, to shoot them :).   As an adult I leave them be and hope they will do the same.  Obviously I was a complete dyed in the wool tom-boy by the time I could run faster than Lady I would say by 5 years of age.   By the way,  I have a deep and abiding fear of water moccasins.  The Dell has a huge pond in it (to this day).  Kids for several generations have spent hot summer days swinging on a tree rope and dropping into the freezing spring water that filled the pond.  The down side...we used to see water moccasins swim there too.  Nothing could clear out the water faster than one of that snake!

So that Sage is part of the story.  The vibration of train weight on tracks and the wail of the engine whistle, and yes, Brian the squeal of wheels and brakes...all (as with you) call me.  As trains roll by this little house, I can almost smell the Aspens mixed with the mint garden of a neighbor's in the Dell  and hear the night wind blow through Provo Canyon.  And yes Walking Man, it was a blessing to have that calm, safe, yet wild  place in my life.


Brian Miller said...

ah it is the same sounds that used to lull me to sleep as a child....even the squeel of the wheel tonguing the track...interesting...wonder which one it was that ran by my place....

the walking man said...

You had a fortunate childhood even if you did not live in the high country full time. Most of the trains passing close to us were carrying toxic chemicals and stunk like hell on wheels. Our sense of adventure was built in hanging round the alleys and empty (closed for the week end) small job shops that were all grouped in the same area so they could use the same shipping dock.

But there was the Drewery's Brewery down the street which unfortunately closed before we could get a tour. But you could smell the brewing days all over the neighborhood. No slithering snakles though only the two legged kind.

cyclopseven said...

interesting piece of letter.