This article was published in the September 2005 issue of the Bull Sheet
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Some 'Enchanted Places'
[By Allen Brougham]
Growing up in Monkton in my earlier years, I became well acquainted with 'Winnie the Pooh.' Mr. Milne's stories of Christopher Robin and his forest friends were a mainstay of my evening, family time activities. The final chapter of the final book closed with the description of an 'Enchanted Place,' where Christopher Robin and his beloved bear Pooh parted company. (Yet they would always remain there in spirit!)
Indeed, we all have our Enchanted Places. Within the past several weeks, I revisited some of mine. Here they are:
The family moved to Monkton following the second World War. I was five years old at the time. My parents wanted to move to the country; my father needed a home near the train in order to commute to work (we had no car). The property was known as Meadowhill. This is where I got my own taste of living in the country, of playing in the stream, of having my very own dog, of our flock of chickens, of watching the Kentucky bluegrass in the meadow as it waved in the breeze, of hearing and seeing trains from a distance, and Winnie the Pooh...
When I was 18, I left Meadowhill and joined the Navy. My father died a year and a half later, and my mother sold the place. But with the roots well established in those Glory Years, I always thought of Meadowhill as an Enchanted Place. Indeed, Monkton is my 'true' home.
I would drive past Meadowhill on occasion. In recent years I thought of stopping in - just to let whoever was living there know that I had lived there many years before - but I did not want to impose upon somebody I had never met. That is - until one day - while I was en route to Monkton for a biking engagement, while passing Meadowhill, I saw somebody outside...
That was July 21. I stopped. I told the fellow that I had grown up there. Such excitement. He and his wife were delighted to see me. They listened intently to my tales of life back in the 1940's and 1950's. They were very interested in the history of the house, too (it was built c-1886 in the mansard style); I in turn returned several weeks later with some old photos. They even took me on a tour of the house (or perhaps it was I taking them). Such memories!
And, of course, the property's proximity to the Northern Central line of the Pennsylvania Railroad while I was growing up had quite an impression on me. Who knows what might have happened if there had been no trains in my immediate turf back then. Er, I guess I might have eventually had to actually go to 'work' for a living, rather than to enjoy so much fun in the career as a railroader that developed.
The property is no longer known as Meadowhill. In fact, the current owners knew nothing of the name until I told them. The meadow I so much remember is now a forest; the top of the hill is now subdivided. But the old house - with its rooms (with steam radiators) and so many memories - is still its majestic self. It's truly an Enchanted Place!
With so much written about Monkton station in 19 years of Bull Sheets, I need not dwell on its significance in my early life as another Enchanted Place. Its story has already been told. That it is still around, and in use by the public as a visitor center, makes each visit I make to it a singular experience.
Such as it was August 16 when I went to the station to attend a meeting. The NCR/Hereford Volunteers uses the building for its monthly meetings. How appropriate! You will recall from the August issue that the NCR/Hereford Volunteers are the ones who bought and installed the eight interpretive signs that now adorn the Northern Central Railroad Trail. So impressed was I of this project that I decided to join the group. Now I, too, can participate in some of their activities.
There were 11 of us in attendance. Instinctively, I took a seat on 'my' railroad bench - the bench I donated back to the station in 1989 from the collection of all the benches from the station my father had bought from the railroad following the last trip of the Parkton Local in 1959.
When it was my turn to speak, I gave a brief narrative of my love for the station, moments I had experienced, and how my father and I had been the last people to actually use the station on its final day of railroad service. They seemed interested.
I then took a train order stick that was hanging on the wall, complete with string and a message, and demonstrated its function. Such a thrill! Such memories!
Yes, this is an Enchanted Place!
About a mile north of Glatfelter's Station and about half a mile south of Howard Tunnel in Pennsylvania, the Northern Central line hugged the bank of Codorus Creek in a long, sweeping curve that, in the railroad days, gave the passengers near the rear of the train an unobstructed view of the train as it graced its way forward. The curve is still there, but trees now obscure some of the view. It is not a true 'horseshoe' curve, but it is as close to that description as any other curve along the present-day trail.
Nobody is certain how Dipper's Curve got its name; some sources even offer a different spelling. But it is a majestic place.
I have participated in numerous bicycling events around that curve in recent years. Most recently it was August 17 (the day following my meeting at Monkton station) as part of a Moonlight Bike Ride. We had begun at Seven Valleys (where I had put on a demonstration for the kiddies using toy train whistles) and proceeded northward through Glatfelter's, around Dipper's Curve and Howard Tunnel to Twin Arch Bridge, where we stopped and then reversed direction.
On the return trip I biked near the rear of the procession. The moon shone brightly in the sky, but otherwise it was pitch dark as the lights from each of our bikes lighted our way back in the direction to where we had begun.
Just as we entered Dipper's Curve, I noticed a remarkable sight. With the lights from all those bicycles snaking out ahead of me, the thought immediately struck me... This was... a 'Train.'
Indeed, back in the 1960's, when PRR trains still plied the line, there were occasions that I had peered out from the rear of the train to see the phenomenon of lights from the train, along that same section of the line, in a darkened landscape. And now, with bikes, I was seeing it once again!
Dipper's Curve is a majestic place. But now, seeing this, and knowing that I can see it over and over again on future moonlight rides, I know of this as a truly Enchanted Place! Long may it be!