Friday, April 8, 2011


Trains, they've always been there, on the periphery of my life, whistling in the night, chugging through my past and present, fueling my imagination. I've watched them, and counted the cars as they lumbered past, some over a mile long! I've never minded waiting for a freight train to pass. It's an opportunity to let my imagination go.

Ever since I was a kid, I've walked the tracks, flattened coins on the rails, collected spikes, felt the rush of the air as the train passed within inches of me, rattling the earth beneath my feet as they did. My reaction has always been the same, I stand silently, wrapped in the fading sound, lost in the vibrations emanating from the rails, and up through my body, like some surreal electrical charge.

What is this fascination with trains? I'm not the only one. There are museums, train rides, songs about great train wrecks, and the stories of the hobo's who rode the rails during the Great Depression. These two photos are of some trains a few miles from our house. The Caboose is my favorite.

This is a typical caboose, an icon of American railroads. It's a home on wheels, wheels that are bound to the tracks, making them seem permanent, a fixture in our collective minds. This is home to the signalman as he travels at the rear of the train, the last person to see where the train has been. It's a backwards journey, you can't see anything in front of you. Just a fading landscape, growing smaller and smaller as the wheels go clickity clack, clickity clack, on their journey across America.

And sometimes, when I'm waiting for the train to pass, I find myself wishing I were a bit younger. I just might hop on board...

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