Best Friend Poems and Children’s Book


The  “Best  Friend”  Comes  A-Flying  In  !

 Listen  my  children  and  you  shall  hear . . .

 of  the  Christmas ride  from  far  to  near . . .

With  steam  a-flowing  and  children  a-glowing . . .

the  train  was  going  without  us  knowing . . .

It  would  blow  to  bits . . . all  in  its  wake . . .

with  a  shudder,  a  sputter,  a  final  quake . . .

It  lay  on  its  side,  hiccupping  and  give-upping . . .

but  our  “Best  Friend”  rose,   a  “Phoenix”  upping  !
© m. lehr 2005


 BF illustration for coloring 
          . . . dedicated to the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry


The precious poem, featured below,

was penciled and  stenciled and then made to flow!
To six-year old Krista, Uncle Jack was a poet,
but she, it seemed, was the only one to know it !


The Best Friend


The year was eighteen thirty.  It was on a Christmas day.
A crowd of folks had gathered by the railroad right of way.
Soon everybody shouted for coming round the bend
was a train of little coaches and the engine called, “Best Friend.”
Darrell was at the throttle and the fireman threw in wood.
The boiler like a bottle was steaming like it should.
Up from the tall black chimney flew smoke and steam and spark.
All the babies started squalling and the dogs began to bark.In a car was Ezra Miller, a man of many skills.
It was he who planned the engine and his money paid the bills.By his side sat Mr. Allen who marked where to lay the rails
through the swamps and woodlands and along old Indian trails.Also there was William Aiken, the railroad President.
He worked to bring in lots of money and took care how it was spent.With them was Herr Detmold, who enjoyed the speedy ride.
He had also built a rail car, but it had a horse inside.Up north were other engines.  They could not pull their share.
Our train ran by a schedule and you had to pay your fare.

While others started railroads and tried both horse and sail,
the “Best Friend” was entrusted to haul the U. S. mail.   
©Captain J. Le Cato 1993


The illustration below…while so appropo…
was drawn for a book…so why don’t ya look?
It’ll take but a minute…you’ll like what’s in it .

reproduced by permission of John Kollock and G. Walton Williams  from their book, The Best Friend

*  book available for a $10 donation to the Charleston Chapter – NRHS

          The book, The Best Friend, 



tells of the adventures of the little train, from its first trip on Christmas Day 1830 to its loud demise 6 months later.  Though short lived, the train lives on forever as a beautiful replica built in 1928 by Southern RR, and its beautiful red and green coat of paint shines brightly in the lobby of Norfolk Southern’s Atlanta Headquarters where it is on temporary loan.  When it is finally placed in its permanent home beside the Charleston Visitor Center,  it will greet visitors from behind its glass enclosure to let everyone know that because of the progressive thinking of our forefathers, Charleston had:


  •  the first train in America with regularly scheduled passenger service
  • the first train built “for sale” in America
  • the first steam railroad to haul freight
  • the first train to carry the U. S. mail
  • the first steam railroad to have banked curves
  • the first long distance steam railroad in the World
  • the first steam railroad to have a branch (Branchville, SC)


Ridin’ the Rails
By Johnny Cash

She’s the Best Friend of Charleston.
Neither horse nor breathin’ man.
She’s a rock of rollin’ engine.
Can she run, sir?
Yes, she can.

She’s a horseless hunk of screamin’, steamin’,
People-haulin’ wheels.
If you’ve nerve to get aboard her
there’s a thrill you’re gonna feel.

Tip your hat and bow down to her,
Christen her upon the way.
She’s the Best Friend of Charleston.
It’s her maiden run today.


I’m not allowed to run the train,
or make the whistle blow,
I’m not the gal who can decide
how far the train will go.
I’m not allowed to blow off steam.
or even ring the bell.
But let the darned thing jump the track,
and guess who catches …WELL??                                                  *  author unknown


The Sublime
(A Train Trip Where Not A Thing Was Wrong)

“I’ve written many letters to railroads in my time
To find fault with their schedules, the tasteless food and grime;
But since I’ve traveled ‘Southern’ I sing a different song.
I finally had a train trip where not a thing was wrong!

Our comfortable compartment had ash trays clean as new
Our window pane, like crystal. gave us a pleasant view.
The seats were all upholstered in my favorite shade of green.
The porter was most helpful, and his uniform was clean!

Efficiently the waiter served our delicious meal
On spotless table linen set with flowers for appeal.
We engaged in conversation with a pleasant man indeed,
Who was one of your employees.  The evening passed with speed.
And to top off this saga in my amateurish rhyme,
The train raced in toward Newark, and it arrived on time!”


* Written by a passenger from Glen Rock, NY
while aboard the Southern Crescent



Emily  Dickinson’s
Poetic Tribute


                  I like to see it lap the miles,
                    And lick the valleys up.
               And stop to feed itself a tanks;
                 And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the side of roads;
And then a quarry pare

To fit its sides, and crawl between.

Complaining all the while

In horrid, hooting stanza;

Then chase itself downhill

     And neigh like Boanerges;

Then punctual as a star,
Stop – docile and omnipotent –
At its own stable door.