Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hear That Train A-Comin' Locomotive Whistle Aficionado Enjoys a Cheerful Earful

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hear That Train A-Comin' Locomotive Whistle Aficionado Enjoys a Cheerful Earful

Article excerpt

Ask Ken Beck what he thinks about trains, and he's quick to sound off. In fact, you're guaranteed to get an earful.

Beck is a fanatic about them, particularly train whistles and horns. He has more than 50 such gizmos off old steam engines, modern diesels, cabooses and boilers, which he likes to play for the scattering of neighbors in this hamlet of Perry County.

"That's why I could never move to town," Beck said as he hooks up a two-chime air horn from a locomotive to an air compressor and gives it a wail. "They'd throw me right out." While a menagerie of guinea fowl, geese and ducks seems accustomed to the noise and goes about pecking the ground around his red shed, a passerby looks befuddled and slows down his van, scans for a train but sees no crossing. Beck is satisfied with the driver's reaction and laughs. "If they can't take a joke, the hell with them," Beck said, still smirking. "I had a section crewman get mad at me once. He was in his truck on the tracks, and I blew a horn. He thought he had an engine on him. He didn't think it was too funny, but his boss did." Beck, 66, was a bookbinder for 31 years before retiring in 1992. Though he never worked for the railroad, it has always been a special part of his life. The house in which he grew up and still lives is but 60 yards from an active line of the Illinois Central Railroad. As a youngster, he'd jump trains and take them into Pinckneyville six miles east or elsewhere. Even today, he'll board passenger trains, legally now, and ride the rails. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, when Conant was a viable community, his late uncle Fred Beck was a freight agent for the Missouri Pacific. Young Beck would sit on the steps of his uncle's general store and wait to hear the train whistles blow. "It's a beautiful sound. Ever since I was a bitty little kid I'd love to hear the trains," he said, filling the air with a pleasant, cartoon-like sound effect from a caboose whistle. The mischief of a child is still evident as Beck breaks from conver sation to grab the handle of the air compressor and blast another passing vehicle. He said he was hoping for a train to roll past so they could sound at one another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.