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Winter's Child

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Goin' Railroading (Excerpt from the Preface)

My father, Sam Speas, was born into a pioneer railroading family in the South Park of Colorado, May 25, 1901. His father, Sam Speas, Sr., was an engineer on the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad, one of the most spectacular mountain railroads in the nation. He operated the narrow gauge locomotives across the "High Line" from Como to Breckenridge, Dillon, and Leadville and through Chalk Creek canyon and the Alpine Tunnel to Gunnison.

As boys my father and his brothers, Clarence and Neil, often rode the trains with their father at the throttle. The best trips were those up in the cab, watching their Dad at work. They grew up, as my father said, with locomotive smoke in their blood.

The three brothers became locomotive engineers, like their father. They each spent forty years or more working on the Colorado and Southern Railway. In that time the narrow gauge trains that wound through the mountains with small, steam locomotives on the point gradually gave way to standard gauge trains with steam locomotives powerful enough to haul a hundred cars, and finally, to modern diesel locomotives. My father and his brothers operated all of them.

In this book, first published in 1985, my father recounts his own experiences and those of his father and brothers in taking the trains through the mountains and across the plains of Colorado. He tells of the everyday hazards railroaders faced: long hours and backbreaking labor; winter blizzards and bitter temperatures, faulty brakes and runaways down the mountainside. He tells of the courage and dedication—and often gallantry—the men and their families brought to the task of keeping the trains running. And he tells of the great adventure that was railroading for nearly a century, when trains ran to almost every town in Colorado and everyone rode the trains.
—Margaret Coel

© Margaret Coel

Goin' Railroading is available from your favorite bookstore or directly from the University of Oklahoma Press, 1-800-627-7377. ISBN: 0-87081-497-4. $19.95.