MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND

RANTIN: Riding the rails with vets

brantin@thestate.com (803) 771-8306May 25, 2013 

Robert Kuhn still has vivid memories, if not all fond ones, of his first train ride.

It was in 1942 when he made the daylong journey from Missouri to South Carolina to complete his B-52 training for the United States Air Force.

“It was not very pleasant because they did not have air conditioning,” Kuhn recalls of the trip. “We had to ride with the windows open, and the smoke came in when you went through a tunnel. We had to use a pad on the seat and a pad on the back” for comfort.

Even so, he still muses over the old train depots where passengers could get a bag of boiled peanuts or sit back for an old-fashioned shoeshine.

“Things have changed,” the Blythewood resident said Saturday afternoon as he prepared to create some more memories with family members in Winnsboro.

The 93-year-old World War II veteran was among the guests of honor Saturday as the S.C. Railroad Museum honored active and retired military personnel and their families with free train rides. The rides were made possible by the Nexsen/Pruet law firm.

Kuhn and his family took their places on the open car as the train made the 10.2-mile roundtrip to the Anderson Granite Quarry and back. And while the nearly hourlong trip offered a few more bounces than today’s average passenger train, the Air Force veteran and the others appeared to enjoy their travels.

“That’s a big field,” Kuhn said as he looked over the countryside along the route.

Kuhn’s wife of 69 years, Frances Kuhn, said her family had long talked about making the journey to the railroad museum, and the special military offer provided the perfect opportunity.

“This made us come out here,” she said. “I think it’s great that they do this for the veterans and their families. I’d recommend it to everybody.”

This is the second year Nexsen/Pruet has sponsored the train ride for the military families.

Gene Allen, a member of the railroad museum and a Nexsen/Pruet attorney, said it was just one of the ways the firm could show its gratitude for the veterans’ military service.

“We have a lot of veterans in the firm,” Allen said. “We wanted to find a way to reach out to the veterans, so this is just one small thing that we can do.”

Allen said Saturday’s ride attracted about 50 percent more passengers than last year and said he hopes to see those numbers grow.

Kuhn’s daughter, Joyce Elliott, was glad her father was among those passengers.

“I just thought it would be nice getting him out here on Memorial Day weekend,” Elliott said, adding the rides were a fitting tribute to the vets, many who had traveled by train during their years of military service.

“They are on fixed incomes, so every little bit helps,” she said. “For them to honor our veterans this way is nice.”

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