A railroad that connects us all

August 21, 2014 by Samuel Speciale

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I recently wrote about a group of Kanawha County students who rode a special New York Central passenger train to school in the early- to mid-1900s. Riders who are still living are now in their 70s and 80s. While their memories dim with age, they fondly remember their time on the train like it was yesterday.

After days of research, talking to a dozen riders and hiking through the woods surrounding little hillside communities like Quick and Coco searching for the remaining tracks, I realized there was more to this story than what could be contained in one article, which I have linked below for those who have yet to read it.

Former students remember train ride to school.

Once the story printed, I started getting phone calls from people who rode the train, relatives and others who had information or stories to tell.

It pained me to know several wonderful anecdotes had to be left out of the story, but getting a flood of new stories made it clear I had to do a follow-up. These stories are too good not to be told.

Christine Quinn, 71, called me the day the story printed and told me she was one of the hundreds of kids who rode the train. She also had one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever heard.

When she was a young girl, she would board the train in Quick and ride it to Blakeley, where her two friends, Gayle and Deanna Ryans, lived. She said she and her friends had an agreement to take turns riding the train so they could spend one night a week with each other. One week, Quinn would ride to Blakeley, and then her friends would come to her house in Quick the next week.

“That was the only form of communication we had,” she said.

The girls did this until the train was decommissioned in 1959, after which, the trio lost contact.

Without the aid of telephones or social media, Quinn essentially stopped seeing her best friends despite living only 10 miles apart.

But what’s a good story without a reunion?

Quinn, who now lives in St. Albans with her husband John, said she went to introduce herself to a new neighbor recently. Expecting to just welcome her to the neighborhood, Quinn instead was reunited with an old friend.

Quinn didn’t realize it at first, but her new neighbor was the younger sister of her two childhood friends. Through the simple gesture of saying “hello,” Quinn was able to reconnect with her friends through their sister. She said they now see each other regularly.

There are many more stories left to be told, which I will save for another day, but one thing is certain: without that train, many life-long friendships never would have been formed.

It connected people then, and it still connects them today.

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