Several years ago I interviewed two retired railroad employees about the days when passenger rail service was the norm in Columbus.
I spoke with Buck Andrews standing beside the old Columbus Depot on Sixth Avenue. A freight train eased by us during the interview. Andrews told me, “I dream about that stuff sometime. I can hear it in my head I done it so long.”
Andrews said he always wanted to work for the railroad all of his life. He spent 35 years working for the railroad. When he first started passenger trains were still running through Columbus. Ten years later, in the spring of 1971, passenger service came to a halt in the fountain city. The City of Miami train rolled through town around midnight on April 30th. Buck was on board.
If you follow the railroad tracks north of Columbus into Harris County you’ll run into Jaime Williams’ stomping grounds. He started his railroad career in the 1940’s. Williams says, “I was a brakeman and a flagman before I got promoted to conductor.”
Jaime has a miniature train that runs on railroad tracks that wind all around his property. He and some friends spent almost two years constructing it. He enjoys giving kids a ride from time to time.
When Jaime worked for the railroad, he enjoyed meeting people and he made a good impression in his uniform. He admits, “I looked pretty good in my time.”
Jaime has a way with words which was an attraction for folks coming from up North. “Back then they just liked to hear people talk, you know what I mean. I don’t know what it is, but I just talk real southern,” says Jaime.
In reflecting back on half a century in the railroad business, Jaime says he enjoyed all of it. “To stay there 50 years, you had to enjoy it.”