Railroad flares

One of my closest friends when we lived in the Pink House was Nathan B. He was really a lucky kid because his mother would make toast for him whenever he wanted it. They lived in a rented house between our house and the park, right along the James River.

Railroad flaresOne warm summer evening we had one of the most exciting times ever. All summer Nathan and I combed the railroad yards for half burned railroad flares. It was finally time to use them. We found a little cove along the river near his house and started lighting flares. We thought we were nicely hidden and private where there was no way that parents could see us.

I really don’t know what’s in a railroad flare, but they had to be bright so the engineer at the front of a fifty car train could see what the brakeman back in the caboose was trying to say. They may have had black powder, and some chemical that caused them to burn blindingly bright for a long time. Probably not something an eight year old should be playing with. After dark. With a bunch of friends. Let’s just say we had a lot of fun.

Even in those days I was one of the first ones to leave the party. My house was only a block or two away, so it was a quick run home. When I got home and looked up the river towards Nathan’s house there was an astounding sight. A warm red glow lit up the entire river, side to side and from water to tree tops. I could clearly see the other boys playing with the still burning flares. Anyone crossing the second street bridge could have easily seen what we were doing.

Little did we know that the way the river twisted around, the entire neighborhood could see us clearly. Since we were night blinded by the flares, we had no idea who could see us. Why nobody saw us having that much fun I do not understand.

The rail yards gave us boys a lot of fun experiences. By comparison, today’s railroad tracks are incredibly sterile and boring. Perhaps they’re a bit safer, too?Grandpa Guy Havelick


 

One thought on “Railroad flares

  1. My dad was an engineer on the railroad. I’m not sure of the logistics, but he always seemed to have a few of those flares. I’m not sure what was in them, but as kids we were told never to look directly at the flame, and to be SURE we avoided the falling materials which were, apparently, nearly as hot as the sulfur in hell! 😉

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