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All-aboard memories

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by MATTHEW NASH

Sequim Gazette

Sisters Dee Rene Chivers and Connie Rene Smith rode the rails once again.

Friends Scott and Nancy Raaum of Walnut Creek, Calif., treated the 79- and 69-year-old siblings from Sequim to an overnight stay at Red Caboose Getaway Co., 24 Old Coyote Way.

Connie and Dee come from a family of railroaders with 88 years of experience between their father, Russell Rene, and grandfather, Alex Rene, who were Pullman conductors for the Great Northern and the Southern Pacific Railroads.

Going to the resort’s caboose on Feb. 9 was the first time the sisters had been aboard any railroad car — moving or not — since their father’s death in 1973.

Emotions were cheery and grateful.

Adventures with Dad
Although the sisters weren’t railroaders by trade, the industry and adventures with their dad left lasting impressions on them.

“He always had a lot of stories to tell,” Connie said.

“Those were the days when movie stars all traveled.”

Russell Rene traveled from King Street Station in Seattle to Oakland once a week and often took his daughters.

They got opportunities to explore San Francisco and the California sun. but life on the train was something they’ll never forget.

Even though they were 10 years apart, the sisters shared similar experiences with food and fun.

Meals on the rails
Eating in the dining car is one of their fondest memories, Connie said.

She most fondly remembers playing dice games with pen-marked sugar cubes and the dining car waiters.

Dee once tried going to the Rose Bowl with her dad and husband, but a train wreck prevented them.

The time spent with their father and sharing in his railroading life is what they appreciate most.
“He was extremely kind, and (conducting) was a good job for him,” Connie said.

Friends of the sisters greeted them on the caboose with flowers, chocolates and champagne.

Connie and Dee said they don’t intend to ride on a moving train again, but they hope to repeat the local experience.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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