Driving and Biking in the Big City

Railroad tracks to anywhere

with 4 comments

Railroad in Kingwood, photo by Big Johnny


I have an adventurer’s love of railroad tracks and trains and have had for my entire life. Some of that DNA comes from my deep roots in Beaumont where Railroad Avenue dominated the traffic for my entire lifetime there — lasting until I left for Dallas at age 25.   I was on time or late to the Beaumont Enterprise, highly dependent on the train coming through and whether or not I had to stop while it went forward, backed up and then went forward again but never quite going far enough to let me pass.

I was just as likely to bike to work as to drive because of my car’s constant state of disrepair. There were such a slew of tracks that it was hard for a car to get across and much, much worse for a bike. Not to mention that once I got on the other side, I had one of the roughest parts of town to bike through.  That included a pretty famous honky-tonk called Effie’s Go-Go for its 250-pound, 6-foot female impersonator Effie Dropbottom who would sometimes be on the streets in the afternoon hours when  I rode past. And, although I saw many hungover night people barely awake at 2 p.m., we were all kindred spirits to a degree, just taking care of our own business and no one else’s.

I remember a terrible  train wreck one night in deep East Texas as Big Johnny and I tried to make it from Beaumont to his hometown of Lufkin. We’d left after my shift — obit writing in my earliest days — and then a short stay at one of the many, many parties to celebrate the successful completion of another press run. Those parties happened daily because, well, the Enterprise was a daily and actually a morning and afternoon paper, counting the Journal when I first started work there.  Like all newsroom parties, it would go on all night. But, on this night, we were expected for Easter at John’s mom’s.

Before we could get going good — I think at Colmesneil, near Woodville — we were diverted even deeper into the piney woods by the train wreck.  The fog was the thickest I’ve ever seen — then and now. Some from the usual deep humidity in the swamps and woods and some from the smoke of the crash and burning it caused. We would have been lucky to have a white lane line to steer by, but we didn’t. We could not have seen anything in front of us if there was something and were lucky to find the road itself for most of the drive. Out of the deep and dense fog would come a huge, swimming monster of an 18-wheeler, barely there before we had to dodge it. The usually two-hour drive was so long that night that I can’t even remember breaking out of the haze until the sun started peeking through the trees.

This beautiful and romantic photo, taken by Big Johnny of the tracks at the edge of Kingwood,  reminds me of many girlhood memories of walking with friends on railroad tracks and talking of the adventures we would have and the places we would go.  For me, the memory stuck and keeps calling.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

April 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I don’t see the photo, but tell ya what, until recently I’ve always lived within a few miles of a railroad track. I have many fond memories. Midnight trains hooting as they pass intersections where nobody waits… my friends and I anxiously laying pennies on the track just before trains come barreling through and excitedly looking for the flattened copper after the caboose follows.. the low rumble of a train passing through… trying to figure out what’s in the cars and where they came from… We used to play the alphabet on the numbers on the train cars during especially long waits.

    The train tracks in Orange where they cross Highway 87 (now rebuilt into an overpass) used to be a rite of passage for drivers in Orange. In order to get your driver’s license, the DPS officer took the test route through that intersection from South street. The incline was so steep that, in a standard, you had to really know how to drive it in order to stop on the hill without rolling back, and then get up the hill without stalling again. It was legendary in my circles, and when i took my driver’s license exam in a standard shift, I had practiced the corner enough times that I knew what I was doing and aced it.


    April 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm

  2. I haven’t loaded the photo yet because I was hanging out outside on this beautiful day. I will soon. I love your railroad stories. The sound of adventure.


    April 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    • Finally added Big Johnny’s neverending photo of the railroad tracks to adventure.


      April 8, 2012 at 9:12 am

      • Absolutely love this photo. Tell Big Johnny “Thanks” for the trip down memory lane 🙂


        April 9, 2012 at 3:15 am

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