Hearing the train in the fog wasn’t my only railroad incident with the ’54 Willys.
At some point, a problem developed with second gear. The linkage from the steering column would get stuck between gears, not all the time, but on the odd occasion, especially when down-shifting. At that point, the only thing to do was to stop the car, bonk the lever on the linkage back into its proper place, and then start again in first gear.
Why I down-shifted that day going over the railroad track, I don’t remember, unless it was to slow down. But sure enough, the linkage stuck, and there I was, getting out to dink with it sitting in the middle of a railroad crossing. For some reason, I could not push the car, probably because it was between gears. I certainly couldn’t push the clutch and the car at the same time by myself.
Only this time, a train was coming.
Now this was in the low country, where it’s so flat that you can see for five miles along the road, until it literally disappears into a point. I used to gauge when to dim my lights on the highway when I could see two separate lights from an oncoming car, instead of just one.
But I could see the one light of this train maybe a mile and a half away, not moving fast, thank goodness. With my heart pounding, I hammered on the lever until it slipped back into alignment, hopped back in the car and made it off the track with several minutes to spare. I was long gone by the time the train came to the crossing. But looking at an on-coming train is a little like looking down the barrel of a gun. I don’t recommend it.
This incident does not have much of a lesson, except that it’s best not to take an action that might lead you into danger, even if most of the time it’s just an inconvenience. The next time might not be lucky. Maybe that’s how I ended up having an affair.