Caney was located at the crossroads of two railroads. The Santa Fe ran trains north and south while the Missouri and Pacific, the "MOP", brought trains from the East and West. The Santa Fe had all the glamour. It had "The Streamliner." In the `40's most trains were pulled by steam engines. Not the "Streamliner." Its shiny, stainless steel cars were pulled by thundering diesel engines. Instead of the steam engine’s ululating steam whistle the Streamliner announced itself with a trombone-toned air horn. It was a beautiful machine with a two-toned paint scheme, angled windshield, chrome wipers, and distinctive Santa Fe logo on its aerodynamically shaped engine. Inside that beauty, big throbbing diesel engines sent out vibrations you could feel when standing alongside it. When the engineer applied power their rumbling became thrillingly thunderous and the very ground shook. Every morning, at precisely 10:00 a.m., except on Sunday, its deep, bass-trombone tones announced its arrival from Tulsa. Twelve hours later it gave us a bedtime benediction as it honked its sonorous way home from Kansas City. If I happened to be awake and outdoors when it passed through at night I could see the lighted windows of the passenger and club cars. I often wondered who was inside where they were goin and if I might someday be inside, watching little towns pass by. My day came when I rode The Streamliner to Kansas City on my way to the Armed Forces Induction Center.
During school’s summer vacation we might ride our bikes across town to the Santa Fe depot just to watch The Streamliner arrive. It did not stay long and things were fast-paced as it stood there with its big engines mumbling their impatience at being tethered. The Railway Express man would have already placed his steel-wheeled wagon close to the tracks at the exact spot the baggage doors would open. The stationmaster would be standing at his appointed place with a sheaf of papers in hand, ready to greet the Conductor. It was a choreographed display of efficiency.
During the war there were often little clusters of soldiers, sailors, or marines waiting on the platform with their girl friends, or wives and family; prolonging the time they could be together and wondering if this would be their last farewell. More happily; sometimes almost before the Conductor got his little step stool planted on the brick platform a soldier, sailor, or marine would jump from the train into the arms of someone or all those who loved him.
Santa Fe sent another train from Tulsa that arrived every day 4:15 p.m. but it lacked charisma. Its cars, pulled by a steam engine, showed evidence of having traveled hundreds of miles with tarry black coal or fuel oil smoke trailing back over them. People arrived and left on this train and the platform ballet was the same; but there was no elegance. It was a ballet performed by understudies.
For many years I've wondered why the railroads quit making the "beautiful" streamlined diesel locomotives and began making those clunky things you now see pulling RR cars. Has beauty no place in today's world????