Saturday, 21 April 2012

Blow, Whistle, Steel Rails, Keep on Humming! (Kyle, Texas).

Our British trains are not so big as Texas ones.  On our travels, the nights were punctuated by those evocative whistle sounds, and the distant rumble of freight trains. I managed to ambush a typical one in Kyle, Texas, and film it as it restarted.

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I apologise for the wobbliness, it's pretty much the first time I'd ever used the video mode on the camera, and I'd only just rushed into position, moments before the train started to roll, frantically hitting buttons on the camera menu. The video is actually two videos spliced in the middle, I admit, I got tired and switched filming off for a while, as about half a mile of freight cars rolled by, so the train is actually several magnitudes bigger than my video suggests, though the clue's there in the five locomotives assigned to moving it, four headers, and one on the tail.
Yes, four headers. Count again, if you're muttering "there were only three!"....
 (Three yellow and one blue.)

Iron Lion

Now I've been an engine driver all of my days
That's the only thing I can do
I hold a good head of steam everywhere I'm seen
Wherever my wheels roll through
Wherever my wheels roll through

I was nearly shut down in a Midwest town
Her hair was red, her eyes were blue
But the wheels on the track kept calling me back
So I bid that girl adieu
Yes, I bid that girl adieu

Blow whistle, steel wheels keep on humming
Hold on darling your engine driver's coming
He's coming through

Some day I'll have to give up the iron lion
And then I'll know just what I will find
I'll find me some shack by that old railroad track
So I can hear them motors whine
So I can hear them motors whine

Blow whistle, steel rails keep on humming
Hold on darling your engineer is coming
He's coming through

I've been an engine driver all of my days
That's the only thing I can do
I hold a good head of steam anywhere I'm seen
Anywhere my trains roll through
Anywhere my trains roll through

Blow whistle, steel wheels keep on humming
Hold on girl, your engine driver's coming,
Coming to you.

Kyle has about the largest thrift store I've ever seen, in the old library building down by the tracks. But really, ladies, would you buy "pre-owned" underwear? At any price?

Kyle has some officially (in my books) cool characters. Here's one of them. He was advertising a garage sale. And he's cool.

And what more can an Englishman want of a little town in Texas at lunchtime than a cool little tea-room?  Olga's Tea Room, at The Motley Menagerie, an eclectic little store in a 1905 vintage minty-green and purple house. The home-made soup and fresh-baked bread were wonderful, as was that soothing tea.

It's hard to believe, but this place that looks like a junk-store/Antique Emporium is actually a hair salon in Kyle. Hair Topic Etc.

Fire Engine. Boys love fire-engines, I'm no exception. Clean and gleaming in an equally clean and gleaming new looking fire-house. And my respect to fire crews everywhere. I have friends alive now who would not be, were it not for guys like the ones who crew this truck.
The Old Rail Depot, Kyle.

The Old Caboose, Kyle. Sadly, a little vandalised.

Come on guys, fix the gutter, it's a pretty old building, it deserves a little care.

An old  caboose would just suit  as a bed'n'breakfast by the tracks.

A peppermint-coloured house with an old rusty tractor. Love it.
We had been told Kyle was not worth stopping at, just a place to pass through en-route to the Hill Country. I disagree, Kyle's a pretty little town, and those few people we met were friendly and smiling.


  1. Small railroad towns are hidden treasures -- as you found; and it is odd the findings, such as the Olga's Tea house in Texas.

  2. Now I could really go for that peppermint coloured house..especially with the tractor!

  3. Goatman: You're so right. Kyle came into existence because of the railway. Over the years, I suppose they're symbiotes. I rather like that, I like to imagine the people and goods who came and went, the further settlements and ranches which became viable because they were within reach of Kyle, and the goods that could be carried in and out, towards bigger places, the coast, back east, further west.
    Here in Britain I'm used to puzzling out the origins and reasons for the existence of towns and villages, usually far further back, but the same sorts of reasons still apply in america, river crossings, north-south/east/west route crossings, natural resources, defensible land-forms, and, here in Kyle, the Balcones escarpment meets the prairie, ranching and arable farming meet, and the railway rolls along that juncture. It's not a big town, but in its day it's been mildly prosperous.

    gz: The Red Dirt Girl and I are equally suckers for pretty little houses, with long shady porches and little patches of cultivatable land. I suspect she's less in love with old tractors than I am, but she does see the romance of these little rusty machines that have worked their hearts out, and now sleep where once they toiled.
    You, in particular, I think, might have liked Olga's Tea Room at the Motley Menagerie, because part of what they serve there is grown in the kitchen gardens outside, vegetables, fruits and herbs. Tasty!

  4. In my experience it's a real coup to find a decent cuppa in the southern US. Good for you.

  5. Nice pictures and the video wasn't all that shaky. This postis pretty cool. :)

  6. Nag: So right, but I've found a few sources of english teas reasonably close by. Yes, you pay a premium for it, and then there's the water.... Hot climate means high chlorination. Even the bottled water Oh. And the milk... what do they feed those cows? not sweet grass, that's for sure... tastes strange to me.
    I might need to do some serious retrofitting of in-house filtration/conditioning when I move.
    Here in the U.K., I do that sort of thing, I could make swamp water as clear and sweet as an alpine spring, given the right set of in-line filters. Her current house has only small activated carbon and particulate filters. Not good at removing chlorine and chemical tastes.

    Max: The video wasn't all that shaky? I'll drink some of whatever you're imbibing. I'll aim for a few cool posts, following the last couple or three weeks of silence.
    Lots of cool stuff seen, not all photographed, alas, but I feel like Dr Livingstone, or Henry Morton Stanley, or Professor Challenger, everything, just everything is fascinating to me.
    I'm sure you've read Bill Bryson's book about England and the English, "Notes From a Small Island"?
    I so wish I could find it in me to write an equivalent sort of book as a wide-eyed outsider in Texas.
    As you've discovered in Britishspeak, sometimes the most unexpected things grab your attention. Similarities and differences, the commonplace to one is bizarre to the other.

  7. Kyle indeed was an unexpected pleasure. Love love love the old train depot - have always had romantic notions of turning one into a home and studio. The library thrift store was doing a brisk business. And Olga !! She kept bringing me dishes of warm, freshly baked bread. I was definitely in heaven in her tea room and happy to see my beloved finally eating a meal. The video is great - but you already knew I thought that. Mr. Liberty was MY FIND and quite agreeable to being photo'd. The peppermint house and tractor was yours. I do love old tractors. I grew up on a 'farmlet' and my dad bought an old tractor to putter around the acreage on. I'm actually quite fascinated by your knowledge of their working innards. I can't say that I understand it all, but I do appreciate the beauty of their design and adore your boyish enthusiasm. It is fun to view the 'commonplace' through another's eyes.


    1. I have a circa 1946 John Deere for you but I need to replace a rusted wheel before it is safely driveable. It has a hand start -- pre "self commenser technology".

  8. Trains!!! WoooooooooooooHooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Greta stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. And river towns as well, which preceded the railroads'. Most river towns now are quaint antiquey B and B 's. Most are mostly gone in deference to the railroads' upgrade to the distribution of goods and services.
    Although, to be considerate, a lot of the railroads followed the rivers to mutual gain.

  10. Adullamite!: I knew you'd appreciate this, I thought of you as I took it!

    Goatman!:I trust you'll be available to crank it. I have a hand-crank for my Land-Rover, but believe me, I have to be pretty desperate to try use it.
    The old Land rover, the '56 I had before, that one had a lower compression engine, and started like magic on a quick tug on the crank.

    River towns. Yes, docks disappeared, a few token store names referencing long gone days, but everything comes by road these days.

  11. Oddly enough, it cranks better the colder it gets. Has petcocks on each of the two cylinders to relieve the pressure whilst cranking. I hope to fix er up and present a photo one day.


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