Ministry, Pastoral Life, Preaching, Preaching, Prayers, and Devotions, Sermons & Sermon Notes, Writing

A Train Lover’s Prayer: Written After the Passing of a Family Friend and a Visit to the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum

Introduction:

Yesterday, Jeff and I attended a Memorial Service to honor the memory of a dear family friend, David Seidel. He was an amazing person and I know he will be deeply missed. He was always very kind to me. My husband, Jeff, and I will both miss him very much. They both shared a love of local history and a passion for trains. Dave was very active in preserving local history and was especially passionate about the Pennsylvania Railroad.

After the memorial service and luncheon, Jeff, helped to lead a free tour through the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in our dearly departed friend’s honor. I am also a train lover and after the tour was over I was inspired to write the following prayer. Please feel free to use this prayer in your own personal devotions or in a worship setting.

A Train Lover’s Prayer:

Written after the passing of a dear friend and a visit to the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum

Dear God:

You are the Great Creator, the Holy One who made all things. You created time and set the world spinning on its axis. You give us the gift of the dawning of each new day and cause the sun to set in the evening. If you stopped caring about this world for even a moment, even time itself would cease to exist.

Please Oh Lord, we confess that sometimes we feel small and insignificant. Sometimes we feel like tiny pieces on an H0 scale layout. In fact, there are times we feel even smaller than that. There are times when we feel tinier smaller than Z scale. We confess that we look up at the sky and wonder if the one who has modeled all of this with their hands is a benevolent creator, or if we are left to face this broken world alone.

Yet, despite our doubts and fears, we take comfort because we know that we are not alone. You love us and you care for us. You put on human flesh and stepped down into the world to be with us. You are Emmanuel, God with us.  Help us, O God, to put our faith in You. May we remember our past and look with hope toward the future. Give us comfort and strength.

O God, have mercy on us. Our time is not Your time. On the railroad, time was money. We set our watches and expect our lives to run like clockwork—but the world moves more quickly than we can reckon.

 Time rushes onward like a speeding train. There was once a time when this city was full of the hustle and bustle of the railroad. We hear stories of how 75 trains a day passed through our town at all hours and how the railroad brought work to so many of us. We mourn because the whistles of trains have grown few and far between. Things continue to change—and no one can tell what the future holds.

Our time is not your time, O God. No one knows the day when You will return.

But—like the railroader of the past, constantly at the ready as they wait for the summons that the freight has arrived—may we be ever ready to board Your train to paradise when you come to conduct us home.

Amen.  

the logo for the museum shows a red keystone with the interlocking letters P R R
This image shows the logo for the Pennsylvania Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona, Pennsylvania. 

Jeff and his friend stand together inside the railroad museum
Jeff and his friend, Richard, lead a tour group through museum after the Memorial Dinner. The above photo was taken in a reproduction of Kelly’s Restaurant, which once existed in Altoona. When the display is turned on, visitors can sit down and hear recordings from people who once worked on the Pennsylvania Railroad.

 

a life sized reproduction locomotive with a mannequin standing next to it
The above photo shows a fiber glass production of a PRR Locomotive. Standing next to the locomotive is a mannequin of a PRR employee. All of the mannequins were made from casts of real Altoona residents who donated their time to become part of the museum.

a female mannequin works on the railroad
Many women worked on he railroad during WWII. This mannequin shows a woman signaling with a flag.
a photograph of an advertisement with a woman in Pennsylvania railroad uniform
This photo shows a reproduction on advertisement encouraging women to join the railroad during the war.
a model train layout with buildings
The Railroaders Memorial Museum has many high quality models of trains and railroad scenes on display. This picture shows an image of a street car and trains in a busy city that is inspired by Altoona.
photos and signs in a case
An image of the Old Hospital and signs for the Medical Officer. The old hospital has been entirely replaced.
A large bell in a glass box
A locomotive bell.. Currently on loan from Baker Mansion.
Tiny trains and buildings in a glass box
A diorama depicting a smoky train scene in Altoona during the winter.
A large bell underneath a sign
A bell from the South Altoona Shops
a stuffed lion is posed as it exits a wrecked train car
A scene depicting the wreckage after a circus train crashed
a mannequin signals with a flag
A mannequin signals with a flag
a mannequin holds onto her hat while the wind pulls at her skirt
The Railroaders Museum includes a bridge, similar to the real one in Altoona. Historically, women had to be mindful of their hats and skirts when crossing the bridge because of strong gusts of wind from passing trains.
a replica kitchen with antique stove
A typical kitchen of a railroader, c. 1940
A reproduction of a living room with old furniture, antique sewing machine, and flowered wall paper
A reproduction of the typical living room of a railroader.
a tall man in a suit beside a glass display case
Jeff leads a tour group through the display of items from Railroader Fraternal Organizations. The Altoona railroad had their own marching band and baseball team.
an image of a mannequin at a cash register behind a bar
After work, railroaders would frequently go to Kelly’s and share stories

About the Author: Rev. Rebecca L. Holland is an ordained elder serving in the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church. She is the author of Hope for the Broken: Using Writing to Find God’s Grace and The United Methodist Church and Disability. She writes about faith, books, and disability awareness. She currently serves two churches in Altoona, PA.

3 thoughts on “A Train Lover’s Prayer: Written After the Passing of a Family Friend and a Visit to the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum”

  1. Pastor Rebecca, you did a wonderful job on this story about the Railroader’s Museum. Railroad is in my blood, my Grandfather worked in the Juniata shops, my father was a train engineer, he worked freight, & then passenger trains. He was ask to run a train when one of the Presidents of the United States came through Altoona. He stopped here because this is where he lived. He was one of the best engineers the PRR(Pennsylvania Railroad & the only railroad he ever admitted to working for. Of corse he continued to work on the other railroads that bought the PRR, until de died a month before he was going to retire. He worked on the railroad for over 49 years. My brothers & I bought a place with his name in it. It is in the Railroader’s Museum, & we bought it for him for Fathers Day, & he got to see it before he past away, which we all were grateful for. Some railroaders were put on these in the museum after they passed away. He was so pleased with the Father’s Day tribute to him, he was an excellent Engineer. People who worked with him on the train said he was the best. We were filled with bride as I talked to fellow employees after his passing. Thank you Pastor Rebecca and Pastor Jeff for taking an interest I our community, you both contribute so much to our city. You are loved ,and appreciated. We are blessed to have you here and at our church. Gid bless you both.🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Sharon: It is so lovely to hear from you. Thank you for sharing about your father’s story. He sounds like he was a wonderful man and that sounds like the perfect father’s day gift. Thank you also for your kind words. Jeff and I are so happy to be serving here in Altoona. God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

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