Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Empire Builder stops at Stryker, Montana

Uncle Ray was 20 years older than my Dad. He worked for the railroad and moved west from Virginia in the 30's. In the late 40's he was the Station Master at Naples, Idaho. Up until the mid 60's he was SM in Stryker, Montana, along the route of Great Northern Railroad's Empire Builder between Whitefish and Eureka.

When I was young we'd go visit, riding that train from Sandpoint. On rare occasion I'd even get to sit up in the Vista-Dome car, which felt like it was going to roll going around every corner. Such beautiful country. Too bad you go through it in the dark. AMTRAK still runs that same schedule.

Passengers looked wide eyed wondering where it the heck they were when the train stopped to let us off. Stryker consisted of about six houses at a junction. Uncle Ray and Aunt Mary lived in a small log cabin between the main road and the so-called station. They had a guest log cabin that we'd stay in. First place I ever used a chamber pot. Ray was a hunter and bear rugs were plenty.

The little station was fascinating for me as a little kid and loved the place. I got to sit at the main desk with the front window and make Uncle Ray or Aunt Mary translate the Morse Code from the telegraph. They also had a teletype machine and would relay messages to trains.

They'd tie the paper with a string then tie it to ends of a Y shaped pole sticking up the height of the train's window. A Conductor would reach out and snag the message as the train went past. I used to try and see the guy but it went by with such commotion all I ever saw was one second it was there and the next it wasn't. Standing on the platform maybe 15 feet from where the trains went by full speed was pretty impressive for a little kid.

Years ago we were in California seeing my brother, Ron. One day we went to the California State Railway Museum. One of the best museums I've ever been to. One of the displays is a mail car from the Empire Builder that you can walk through. Fun reading all the drop boxes, each and every little place on the line. Including Stryker, Montana.

1 comment:

  1. Hi David,
    Try Googling Mary Walker Stryker Montana then let me know how you are doing. .