Frank A. Mills

Fine Art Railroad Photography

'Boxcar Tourist'

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S.P Wood-Sheaved Boxcar
Southern Pacific Wood-Sheaved Boxcar
Galveston Railway Museum

I was thirteen when I became a Boxcar Tourist. Circumstances changed and unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) it only happened once. Nevertheless, I became fascinated with lure of becoming a boxcar tourist, riding the rails wherever and whenever I wanted.

Needing to get to Boy Scouts from where we lived “in the country” I started out walking, with the intent to hitch. I had walked to the Western Maryland underpass, with no offer of a ride, when inspiration hit. I would hop on a boxcar as it slowed for the grade. How I was going to get off; well, that didn’t enter my mind. The train slowed, I hopped on. I officially became a Boxcar Tourist—at least in my mind.

My riding companion was a grizzly old gent who offered to share his bottle with me. I declined. At thirteen there were still a few things about boxcar tourism that I was not quite ready to experience. With the gentle push and helping hand of the old gent, I was able to exit as the train slowed to a crawl near my destination. Would I have thought of jumping a moving a boxcar if I were not enamored with the rail? I don’t know. The fact is I was and had been from an early age. I think the lore of the rails in my genes.

It all started when I was a kid growing up in Baltimore. To get anywhere, my mom and I took the trolley. To go places further afield, we took the train. Not that we didn't have a car, but often that car was occupied elsewhere. Like when my dad needed it to go to work. Although those trolley and trains rides in themselves were enough to create a love affair for any red-blood boy of that time, my dad also love the rail. We toured railroad stations and railroad museums, climbed on rolling stock, and visited model train layouts. I got to sit in a moving steam engine cab, as well as a diesel. I sat on the motorman’s stool and moved the trolley a few yards.

When we moved to the country I would lay in bed and listen for the plaintive wail of the steam engine wail as it climbed the Piedmont Plateau. The chugs and hisses lulled me to sleep.

There was no doubt, I was bitten by the bug.

Christmas season after Christmas season, from year one, there were Christmas Train Gardens—my house, my grandads, firehouses and armories. [Visit The Village of Make Believe over the years.]

The train bug grew to include trains big and small, and all the lore and all the accoutrements that went with it… And it has never died!

I invite you to join me in my world of photographic “Boxcar Tourism.”

Sheffield Lake, Ohio

P.S I also invite you to read my railroad-centric photo-essays that have been published elsewhere.
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