Railroad Stories II

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F. N. Lewis’ forty year career with
the Pennsylvania Railroad

By John Lewis


From my early childhood I have always had a fascination with trains. Both the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) and the New York Central Railroad had tracks that ran north/south near Cooke Road and Indianola Avenue in north Columbus very close to where I grew up. I would stand by the road crossing for hours and watch trains pass by.

Several members of my family worked for the railroads so I came by my fascination and hobby naturally. My father, brother, uncle, grandfathers, a paternal great-grandfather and several great-uncles all worked for the railroads in some capacity. I often explain to people that I am the first generation of my family since the 1800’s to not work for the railroad.

I was fortunate to have been exposed to both steam locomotives and early generation diesels in my youth in the 1950’s. I was intrigued at the workings of the steam locomotives, their whistles, the reciprocating valve gear, the side rods and those enormous drive wheels. Something that large poses the question of how it could possibly move at all, let alone attain the 100mph + speeds of the limited passenger trains. The steam locomotive was an awesome piece of machinery to me and knowing that my dad ran them only added to my fascination. This was the catalyst that turned me into a rail fan.


My father, Francis N Lewis, was likewise a rail fan when he was young. He and I did not share the typical father/son activities such as baseball, fishing, hunting, etc. However, he spent as much time with me in these and other activities as his varied work schedule would allow. My time with him riding on steam and diesel locomotives was more than sufficient to offset any other activities we might have shared. They represent memories I will never forget.

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