Churchville NY—

Tonight, I’m treating the kids to a little train watching, at a favorite spot of ours for this purpose, which is just west of Rochester, out along I-490. (Sanford Road, if you have a map and are curious) It’s cold, around 28 F or so, and there’s a light reflected from the sky over the the foot or so of the white stuff we picked up over Christmas day around here. After having no snow at Christmas for a few years, this is a wonderful change, other than having a devil of a time finding a spot to park; my usual being covered by around two foot of snow drift.

As luck would have it, this is, then as now, one of the busiest rail corridors in the country… the old New York Central Water Route. Today, this line is run by CSX transportation, and still moves around 70 trains per day, and Amtrak moves 5 to 10, depending on what day it is. Power sets of 6,000 to 10,000 horsepower are common, these days. It’s a big and colorful parade, a display of power unmatched anywhere. It’s free, except for the small amount of fuel needed to get here. Often during the summer we’ll take some camp chairs to this spot, and a cooler, both of which are always in the truck, anyway due to our other family vice… RV camping.

There’s history trackside, as well… and a springboard for educational discussions with the boys. For example, in 1865, this very roadbed, was the route of funeral train of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln.

The train is pictured here as it is leaving Chicago the day before. This place wasn’t even a town, yet. But the track was here.

A few years later, just west of here, about 20 miles or so, the fastest machine on earth in May of 1893, the old NYC 999, and it’s engineer Charlie Hogan set it’s record speed of 112.5 mph, while pulling the Empire State Express. Hogan averaged over 100MPH for around 5 miles, on a slight downgrade. Apparently, Hogan just “wanted
to see what it would do”, so once he got west out of Batavia station, he let the valve all the way out, and hung on, across the flats to Buffalo. Listening closely, I can almost hear its whistle.

Old 999 is still around today. It’s currently at the Museum of Science and Industry. The drive wheels you see mounted on 999 here, are 78inch wheels. The record run was done with larger 86in wheels. This would be like adding an overdrive to your car, more or less. One imagines the larger ones were removed so as to remove the high speed temptations from this already long- legged power.

Later, the 20th Century Limited blasted through here, at an only slightly more sedate 80mph as a matter of routine behind sleek, streamlined silver and black Hudson types, like this one, a J3a designed by Henry Dreyfus:

Those same engines pulled troop trains during both world wars. Out the windows of those trains was all too often the last glimpse of home many that fought in those wars, had. One cannot be anywhere along this main line without feeling at least some small sense of history…. A history I am taking pains to ensure my sons know about.

Here’s a link to some more about the area.

As usual, my trusty Palm Pilot is along on this trip, both for logging train spottings and for writing. Turns out the Word Processor I got for this Palm last spring is some of the better technology money I have spent recently. It’s getting a workout today for this column, because it’s future history I’m concerned about…. Which is to say, I’m concerned over what historians will say about us, looking back.

After all, it’s the day after Christmas, 2002 and strange events cloud our horizons. It is a time is for such thoughts, I guess. Not that we plan it that way, it just happens, more or less. It was just last year that I wrote about how our lives get sadder every year, more care-worn. Our scars this year have not altogether healed from last year, and more have developed since then, and if I read the signs aright,
yet more will follow. And there are those who want those scars not to heal, apparently for reasons of their own… reasons of power and of politics. And as I sit in this historic spot, watching trains rolling by, and looking at 2003 rolling in, I can’t help but wonder what the people of the past would think of us, and what people of the future will think, as they look back on our times.

A few days ago, a black friend of mine and I were discussing the problems surrounding Trent Lott, from the point of view of blacks. He knows about this column and is a frequent reader… occasionally he is a harsh critic, usually, however, he’s a passive bystander.

I asked him in passing if he’d seen, and what he thought of, the Lott article that I’d posted last week. I did so as someone would as they were stepping into a minefield. It did cause an explosion from him… but the explosion went a completely different way from what I envisioned. I had fully expected to hear about how racist Lott was and how he and his ilk… well, you get the idea. What I actually got was
both totally unexpected, and encouraging.

My friend started in loudly, on what he called the ‘purveyors of white guilt in America’ I must confess, I was both taken aback and interested. He asserted… (rather stoutly, I thought, as if he’d been thinking about this very subject before I’d asked) …that this was another example of the Democrats playing the race card, more or less agreeing with what I’d written in the first article on Lott. But from there, he took an unexpected turn, as our conversations often do.

He noted that for example, “the press leans on the usual leftists and race salesmen for quotes to fill their papers… Jackson, Sharpton, Kweisi Mfume, as well as a whole mess of WHITE leftists, who supposedly better represent modern black thought than actual blacks.

Nobody asked Ward Connerly, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, or Shelby Steele, or Condi Rice, for that matter, what THEIR thoughts were. It’s almost as if they can’t allow themselves to think that blacks might NOT agree with whatever the Democrats are saying.” And that, he concluded, would only hurt blacks in the end, and in so doing, all Americans, by eliminating open debate on such matters.

Encouraged by his thoughtful and unexpected response, I prodded him further, asking him directly if he didn’t think Lott’s comments racist. “Depends how you take it”, said he. “Sure, it can be twisted into that but I don’t think he had that in mind. And it wasn’t what he said directly, anyway..” He went on in somewhat more subdued tones: ” Ya know, this… all this…this business from Lott, is a power grab, trying to get Congress back, like you said in your column.”

“But what is also is,”, he continued “is a diversion from what the Democrats have been doing to blacks as INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE. Ya’ever notice that when blacks and their rights are brought up by the Democrats it’s always in the plural, never the person, the individual?

When they claim to be working for the group, they always seem to forget the individual!”

I was intreuged and wanted more of this point, but he was on a roll. I’ve learned to let him go when he gets into these moods. He wanders some, but somehow he always seems to tie his thoughts together in the end, if you give him long enough without interruption. So, the discussion wandered into his frustrations with our local school
system. He then drew a less than obvious comparison:

“Democrats like throwing cash at inner city schools that are falling apart and not really teaching the kids. Why? Because they have a ‘white guilt’ complex, and they need to make themselves feel better about that guilt. Never mind that you’re flushing money down the crapper hoping some of it floats back up. Never mind that using tax money that way is a sheer waste … that doesn’t matter… What matters to
them is that after tossing that tax money around, they can send their kid to the private schools in the ‘burbs…. And with their big government paycheck, they can afford it, too. And guess what? Those schools they send THEIR kids to, are all WHITE, too…”

“Imagine what would happen if we were given the chance to take our kids out of the city school system, and instead use that money they’re tossing around, to send our kids to the schools of OUR choice! “

At this, I understood the larger point he was driving at, and he’s right, sadly. Blacks and other minorities being guaranteed a good education is supposedly why the left steadfastly refuses to allow the money to be diverted from the government school systems, toward schools of the parent’s choice. Yes, that dreaded “v” word. Yet, this attempt to supposedly help ‘the black community’ by removing their choices is actually hurting it, by hurting the black individuals within that system.

I have several articles by Doctor Thomas Sowell stuffed into the word processor in my Palm, here. Among them, I find:

… “According to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a black think tank, over 60 percent of black parents support school vouchers so that their children can attend better and safer schools. Civil rights organizations and 69 percent of black elected officials oppose vouchers. In the “service to their masters,” namely the National Education Association, civil rights groups and black
politicians fight tooth and nail against vouchers. Their payment for helping to protect the monopolistic stranglehold on education is political and charitable contributions.”

Unfortunate, though, that what gets sacrificed here is the individuals who would be better served outside the government education monopoly so pushed by leftists.

It interests me that anyone raising such issues, tend to get labeled as ‘racist’… unless the speaker happens to be black, as Doctor Sowell is, at which point, the cries of ‘racist’ get muddled between silence and mutters of ‘Unc Tom’. Williams happens, by happy chance to have put up an excellent article on these points, just this week, at

I guess what I’m concerned about here at that so many problems that the leftists and race baiters like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Kweisi Mfume, Maxine Waters, etc, and the entire Democrat leadership these days, want to call racism, are actually nothing of the kind. Doctor Williams in another article I have stuffed into the Palm here, speaks to this point:

“At one time, black Americans didn’t enjoy constitutional protections. Today, we do. As such, the civil-rights struggle is over and won. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other problems, but they are not civil-rights problems. If we diagnose them incorrectly as civil-rights problems, however, their solutions will remain illusive.”

If those problems never get solved, these folks can keep blaming the right for the problems, and doing nothing to actually solve the problems. It’s a vicious cycle, that I’m afraid consumes those at the center of the storm as well as those on the outside…. The minority as well as the majority.

And, I wonder; what will historians say of the bald-faced lie that the Democrats pass off on us as regards Trent Lott, in an attempt to regain power?


Historically, “White Guilt” has proven an effective tool against the opponents of the left. Has our ‘guilt’ been so engrained in us by these flimflammers that we roll over and beg for mercy every time the subject of race comes up? Do we give in every time the left starts hollering ‘racist’? Are we so far gone in what the race baiters have been selling us that there can be no honest disagreement in how to maintain the desired racial equality?

Yes, I’m afraid we are… to both the detriments of both the racial minority and the racial majority. The reaction of the right, to the charges against Lott is a prime example. In most cases, Lott’s included, race isn’t the real issue at hand. Its’ merely a prop, a cover, for a deeper power struggle. And the biggest victims of this
ruse, I think, are the people it’s purveyors are supposed to be helping…. The minorities, that is, and the majority, in the bargain.

What would Lincoln have said if he could see us dealing with this issue today, aside from the comments about ,not being able to make the weak strong by making the strong weak, of course… a comment Liberals seem to ignore as a matter of routine.

And 110 years from now, historians will look back at the doings of these race baiters and report this was our failing. What will the state of racial equality be then, I wonder? Will we have worked our way out of this cycle by then, or will we still be stuck in these well- worn ruts, which were designed for the maintenance of Democrat-party power, like the one that railroaded Trent Lott?

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