Monday, September 8, 2008

Clackety Clack

The railroad tracks slice right through the middle of this city, so no matter where you live you are never more than 3-1/2 miles from them and therefore nobody "lives on the wrong side of the tracks". Or everybody "lives on the wrong side" depending on how you look at it. I look at it as the former. I love trains.

Sitting outside on a quiet morning you can hear the train whistle as it nears every crossing, warning cars that it's on it's way and since it's sooooo much bigger than you are, don't try to sneak around the gates to get to the other side, taking a risky chance that it won't catch you and squish you into scrap metal.

The whistle cadence is always the same. Whoooooooooo Whoooooooooo Whoo Whoooooooooo. Granted it sounds a lot better than it looks but you know what I mean. And when the breeze is blowing just the right way, you can also hear the clackety clack, clackety clack, as each wheel travels over each joint that connect the rails together. It sounds a lot better....etc. etc. etc. (At least my attempt at trying to convert words into sounds is better than some bird books I've read. Call is a low, harsh "cruck", a raspy "wreent", a dry, buzzy, staccato "ti-keer" ????)

The reason I love trains is because of my dad. He was a railroad man, waaaay back when, and passenger trains were in abundance, unlike now. Not the "glamorous" job of engineer, not the conductor who came down the aisle and punched your ticket (do they still do that?), but the behind the scenes electrician who helped keep them running. And best of all, he, and we, got to ride for free. A good thing because railroads were not known for their generous pay practices and I'm sure we never could have afforded to take the train as much as we did. At least once a year, sometimes more, we would go the Terminal Tower to catch a train to visit our relatives in Indiana.

I haven't been to that building for years and years, and have no idea what it's like now, but back then, to a childs' mind at least, it was amazing!! All shiny, clean, vast open spaces, with wide marble steps leading down to the boarding platforms. And then the train!!! The HUGE train with engines roaring and steam belching, coming through the tunnel, very scary and exciting at the same time, and causing a little girl to put a death grip on the hand that was holding hers.

Once safely inside, getting underway and sitting in a window seat, I was hypnotized by the scenery speeding by (probably lasted for a whopping 5 minutes before my attention turned to other things). I remember somebody walking down the aisle with a tray of sandwiches wrapped in wax paper for anyone who was hungry, and of course all of us kids were suddenly starving and had to have one. I remember the little restrooms which we also all had to use, and when you pushed the flush handle the bottom opened up and you could see the ground and railroad ties rushing past. I know I pushed that handle quite a few more times than was necessary because that was just fascinating to me, until we were finally taken back to our seats. I'm pretty sure that's one of the things that has been changed over the years.

The rest of the trip was spent jockeying around so someone else could sit by the window, being scolded for arguing, running back and forth to that restroom, and whatever else a bunch of young kids could get into. And then we were there and after a few days of visiting over here, over there, over here again, (ALL our relatives lived there) we got to do it all over again.

Over the years many memories fade and feelings change but my love of trains has stayed the same. Even now if I can get really close to one, I still get that sense of awe and excitement as I did when I was a child. I hope that never changes.

This, of course, is my favorite wind chime


Anonymous said...

Leave for a train ride to DC this Wednesday:-) I love the trains, too, probably for the same reasons. BUT I'm really, I mean really, scared when I walk by them. I've never been able to figure out why, but it's all I can do not to run (which isn't an easy task these days) away. Seems that is not the way you feel.

By the way, the toilets still function the same way!!! And you forgot the little paper triangle cups at the water 'fountain' and all the trips we made up the aisle for that! The water is the same (or at least I think it's the same:-) but cups are now 'medicine' style:-)


flydragon said...

Actually they do scare me too, but in an exciting, dangerous feeling kind of way. I think it's just because they're so darn big and you think they're going to run you over somehow, or fall over on you if you get too close, lol. I can't believe they haven't changed the way the toilets work. Remind me to never take a walk down the tracks, which I don't plan on doing anyway.
And how could I forget those little paper water cups. Thanks for reminding me of that!!

Muddy Boot Dreams said...

Flydragon, that was a wonderful post. And it brought back so many good memories for me too. Oh those toilets, something wonderful about being able to see through to the tracks.I am sure that we flushed them way too many times also. LOL. Trains were a big deal to us when we were kids. To this day, I still love them. Jen

flydragon said...

Thanks and I glad it brought back memories for you too. I wonder if those people who never had the adventure of riding on a train when they were a kid, feel any kind of awe or wonder if they happen to get "up close and personal" to a train now.

Roses and Lilacs said...

Hi Flydragon. My mother's people were railroad men. They were Irish immigrants and RR jobs were plentiful when they arrived at the time of the potato famine. My great-great grandfather worked in the round house until he was well into his 70's. Then they made him a flagman until he the day he died. It was a hard life.

flydragon said...

Hi Marnie,
There used to be a lot of railroad jobs until they started to do away with passenger trains, because of low ridership, and then the mergers started so half of the companies didn't exist anymore. But it was always a hard job with low pay and hard to raise a family on it.

Susie said...

First of all I love that wind chime. I've never seen one like that.

Secondly, thanks for sharing such a wonderful story. You know, my popa(grandfather) retired from the Missouri Pacific railroad. Your story brought back lots of memories for me. I haven't rode on a train in I don't know when.

beckie said...

Wonderful post! As others have said, it brought back memories of a looong time ago when I was a child. I got to ride with my grandma a few times when she would bring us back from staying the summer with her.I was very young and don't remember much, but I know I was fascinated with the scenery flying by. In our little town, you are never more than a couple of blocks from the train tracks. They run right through the middle here too.

Anonymous said...

Hey I remember them well. I loved those old steam engines, all that smoke when they came into the station. I haven't been down there in years but I believe it's used for the rapid transit now. Have been to the terminal tower just not under it. Remember when all the soldiers were on the train on one our trips to Indiana? Here the trains from here also. They have to sound the whisle so many times when they come to a crossing. Middle sis

flydragon said...

When I saw that wind chime at the garden center I just had to have it. Love wind chimes and love trains, couldn't resist it.

My dad worked for the long gone New York Central railroad. I remember always looking for the names on the side when I saw a train flying by. Wanted to see if it was my dads.

I'm surprised that any of the bloggers I visit and that visit me would have memories of riding on trains. I figured that this post would only stir up memories for my family. I'm so pleased that I was wrong about that!!

I don't recall the train being full of soldiers. You'd think I would remember that. Remember when walking to the Vine theater and crossing all those tracks, and almost always when only half way across, the bells would start ringing for the gates to come down, and we ran the rest of the way?

Anonymous said...

Well, I should be at the station by now instead of reading your Blog!!! But typical these days, the train is over two hours late. Did you know that CSX owns the tracks and has first right away, so you just have to go with whatever THEY have planned!! But I still like riding the rails:-)

I don't remember any soldiers, either, even after B. reminded us!

flydragon said...

Sorry your train was late again. I didn't know about CSX owning the tracks but I guess since freight is the money maker and not passengers they would rule the timetables. Since you "ride the rails" so often do you get "frequent rider miles"?