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'No Wheres Yard' drew children of '30s

Mary Phillips Published: September 27, 2013

Thousands of cars pass them every day … the trains sitting on tracks between NW 23 and NW 36 streets.

And motorists probably don’t know those tracks on the east side of Interstate 235 have a name.

It’s Nowers Yard, the oldest of the Santa Fe Railway (now BNSF Railway) rail yards in Oklahoma City.

Place the emphasis on the first syllable and you have “No Wheres Yard.”

Are children still as captivated by trains as these long ago children were in 1938?

“The children call it No-Wheres and to them it is as fascinating as an extravagant dream.

“But unless you see things through youthful eyes, it is just a prosaic railroad yard beside the Santa Fe tracks at North Thirty-Sixth street.

“And if you read the fading sign on the red-painted shed it says ‘Nowers.’

“It is the barracks for Santa Fe engines which put up in Oklahoma City for the night and for the switch engines which make it their permanent home.

“Late every afternoon the snorting monsters come in down the track and are put to bed by their crews. One by one they come in, until five, or six or seven are standing in a row — with their fires banked, steam sizzling from the innumerable jets, occasionally emitting rumbles and sighs like tired mechanical giants.

“And as the engines come in, the children — excited and a little fearful — arrive to watch wide-eyed and dream about someday when they grow up and get to be engineers.

“Each engine snorts onto the turntable in reverse and slowly is wheeled around to face into its stall. Then with a mighty “chu-chu-chu” and a roar of steam it pulls into place and nuzzles the beam which blocks the tracks as the end.

“Up in the cab, the engineer is busy turning knobs and pulling levers. Then he swings down the steep steps — a knight in greasy overalls in the land of No-Where.

“The engineers are more accommodating than most knights. They seem to understand what is going on in the minds of their little visitors. They will answer your questions. They’ll show you the steam cylinders and driving rods. And if you are good, they’ll lift you up in the cab. … “You can even look in the fire box and see he devils dancing in the shimmering heat.

“The is no end to the joys of No-Wheres for little boys and girls. Surely it is more than a prosaic railroad yard.

Nowers Yard was relegated to a storage yard when the Flynn Yard in southeast Oklahoma City was opened in 1981.



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