Night Train

IMG_1198 (2)

Reading Kym Gordon Moore’s post about the *Little Red Caboose got my nostalgia going for another train post. The painting above is one I did almost ten years ago. The photo of the painting came out a little blurry, which I thought made the painting have an almost ghostly quality. The night train roaring through the blackness is a sight to behold.

Night Train

Black smoke blends with the foggy night

Night train roars on through mist

Full moon hides from the fury of fire and smoke

Fireman shovels coal into the bottomless pit

as the fire dragon swallows and snorts

Whistle pierces the darkness at each crossing

Midnight hour draws near as the engine roars on

through coal patches,

past coke ovens

lighting up hillsides like Jack-o-lanterns

Windows rattle as the old man snores

Kids hide beneath their cozy blankets

Birds huddle close in the branches

Ground shakes as cars rumble by

River gleams just over the bank as it races

the Pennsylvania Dragon to Pittsburgh

Night Train heads into the darkness

pulling a hundred coke cars behind

Warning light twinkles like the evening star

a Red Dwarf

on the back of the little red caboose


Painting of the Night Train: Dwight L. Roth

*Read Kym’s poem here:

Pennsylvania Dragon

IMG_8792 (3)

Feeling a bit nostalgic this evening, I decided to repost this poem I wrote as a song in 2007 that describes the coal train as I remember it from childhood. You can see in the painting, it was an awesome site in the early evening as it rolled along the Monongahela River on its way to the steel mills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When it roared through the coal mining patches you could feel the ground shaking and rattled the windows in the houses. I called it the “*Pufferbilly Dragon” because of its great power and the visual effects of the smoke and steam coming out of it. 

Refrain: Steel wheels keep on turning

Keeping rhythm perfect time.

Hauling coke from the ovens

Hauling coal from the mines.


Down along the winding river, Monongahela was its name

Comes the “Pennsylvania Dragon,” Belching smoke, shooting flames.

Engine 29’s a coming, see the light and hear the steam.

As she passes Martin crossing, you can hear her whistle scream.


Whistle blowing at the crossing, black smoke pouring from her stack.

On to Pittsburgh she’ll be rolling, tomorrow she’ll be coming back.

Counting coal cars as she passes, waving to the engineer.

100 cars hauling heavy, red caboose at the rear.


Now the trains of my childhood are all silent, lost in time.

And those “Pufferbilly Dragons” are just memories on my mind.

Down along the winding river no more smoke or shooting flames.

Just the rumble of the diesel, but it’s just not quite the same.


Painting: Dwight L. Roth

The term Pufferbilly originated in the UK as you can read here:



Dreamer chapter 7

Chapter 7

Crossing the top of the mountain, the train started down the three mile run. Henry felt the loaded coal cars pushing against the heavy engine. Applying the air-brakes did not seem to slow things down and the train picked up speed as the last car crossed the summit.

“Purrlin, the brakes don’t seem to be holding!” shouted Henry. “What’ll we do?”

The train was now moving faster and faster. Henry looked out the window and could only see the tops of the trees in the ravine below.

“Don’t worry Henry, this Big Boy is made for heavy loads in the mountains! Just throttle it down and let the engine do its work.”

Henry cut the throttle back, as the steam hissed all around him. Simmi hid under the tool box. The engine roared even louder as the weight of the cars pushed forward.

Paintings: Dwight L. Roth

Spin-off story from Monday’s d’Verse Poet’s Pub prosery prompt.

Dreamer – chapter 6

Chapter 6

The train climbed through the mountain. Rounding a sweeping curve, Henry looked out the window and saw his engine was pulling a long line of coal cars. Purrlin told Henry they would stop at the water tower along the track ahead.

Henry was living out his dream to be the engineer of a steam train. Simmi put his paws up on the edge of the window and watched the trees as they rolled along. Pulling the rope for the whistle, he listened happily as the sound echoed from ridge to ridge and back again.

“What happens when we get to the top of the mountain?” asked Henry. He recalled an old song he had heard about the wreck of the Old 97.

“As long as we keep a good head of steam, our air breaks should hold fine.” said Purrlin.

Henry wasn’t so sure.

Paintings: Dwight L. Roth

Spin-off from the prompt Dreamer on d’Verse Poets Pub…

Dreamer – chapter 5

Chapter 5

Suddenly everything turned dark. Night surrounded them as the train kept rolling down the track. It made Henry uneasy, but as he looked around young Purrlin was still shoveling coal into the firebox and Simmi had now crawled up on his lap for comfort!

Purrlin’s voice seemed clear above the noise of the train. Don’t let the dark night bother you. It only lasts for a short time and soon you will see the light again.”

Henry looked out the window at the full moon peaking above the clouds. He knew as long as the train stayed on the tracks he would be fine. The train’s black smoke billowed back across the engine, and blended into the night sky!

The dark got even darker as the train charged into the mountain tunnel.

At the far end, Henry saw the morning light welcoming him.

;Photos: Dwight L. Roth

Spin-off from Monday’s d’Verse prompt dreamer:

Dreamer – chapter 4

Chapter 4

Henry took and deep breath and looked into the green aura behind the burning red flame of the candle. Simmi rubbed around his ankles purring. His mind was a little fuzzy now, and seemed to be floating in another dimension. In the background he could hear Purrlin’s calm voice.

“Let your self go boy. Your dream is waiting to be fulfilled!”

Everything faded in a blanket of fog. The green aura of the candle became the green fields on both sides of him as he found himself in the engineer’s seat of a puffing locomotive. Across from him was a young man who looked very much like Purrlin. And there was Simmi the cat curled up at his feet.

Amazing, thought Henry to himself, as he reached up and pulled the rope that brought a shrill whistle piercing the clear mountain air.

Paintings: Dwight L. Roth

CN Train

When our boys were young, my wife’s parents took us to the mountains on our visits to Edmonton. We camped in the Canadian Rockies and watched the long freight trains wind their way through Hell’s Gate Canyon. I was always impressed with the way railroads were built along the winding rivers providing connections with Vancouver and Calgary. One that we watched coming through the mountains was the Canadian National or the CN train. A few years ago, I decided to paint a CN train coming though the mountains. I did it in color, but I really liked the effects of the black and white! Which one do you like best?

Freight train winds its way

Through Canadian Rockies

Summer and Winter

Paintings – Dwight L. Roth


IMG_8669 (4)

This beautiful stone railroad bridge at Mount Union, Pennsylvania has probably lasted a hundred years. Pennsylvania Railroad trains run along the Juniata River carrying coal and freight.  As I look back on this photo, taken on Rt. 521, I was struck by the beauty of the bridge, and then by the convergence of curved intersecting lines.  The guardrails, white and yellow lines,  and the road all pass through the stone arch of the bridge. Poetic beauty in the everyday infrastructure of our life.
Sweeping lines converge
Modes of travel intersect
Summer trains rumble
Wild bushes // green trees surround
hundred-year-old bridge of stone
Daily life goes on
Beauty taken for granted
River flows nearby
Photo: Dwight L. Roth


Poetry in Song

Some of my very favorite poetry is found in the songs people write. Songs tell stories of love and rejection. Some write about objects like trains or jet planes. Simon and Garfunkle wrote about the city of New York in Sound of Silence. On of my favorites is a song by Steve Goodman about a train they called the City of New Orleans.  The mix of  images and metaphors is wonderful, down to earth, and unforgettable. The music is just the icing on the cake!
Poems, and Prayers, and Promises blend with melodies and harmonies transporting us to other places and times with unforgettable lyrics. They share life as it really is as they connect to more than one part of the brain. Some of the greatest poets of our time are singer songwriters. Their songs can take us to locations and situations we have not visited in fifty years. Although many over the years considered country music repetitive and uncouth,  Merle Haggard was considered the Poet of the Common Man.  Perhaps the critics should take a second look… or listen and enjoy this train ride with Steve Goodman on the City of New Orleans. This is Americana and poetry at its best!

Poems and melody

Connecting words with the heart

Spring poetry sings


Song clip from You Tube

Posted on d’Verse poets open link night….