SideLines: History feature sparks forgotten memory
In the “Looking Back” section of last week’s MidWeek, I came across an item from 50 years ago about a Chicago & North Western train derailment outside of Rochelle. It said more than 100 new automobiles were ruined and 37 freight cars were wrecked.
I remember that wreck because my father took me to see it. I was just a little kid at the time. I remember parking along a country road a couple of miles away, in a long line of other parked cars. We weren’t allowed to get any closer. We all got out and stood by our vehicles. I don’t know why we didn’t stay in our cars where it was warm, because we couldn’t see much better outside.
The train seemed to stretch for miles. Maybe it did. Most of the multicolored cars were lying on their sides, off the track. I couldn’t get over how many there were. What I remember the most were the orange flames – they were almost pretty, in a bad sort of way – and the lazy way they hung over the wreckage, burning ever so slowly. I also remember the billowing black smoke that you could see for miles.
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