Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow
December 20, 2011
The lovely and talented MissMeliss hosts a site called CafeWriting, which has monthly, themed writing prompts. This month's is right up my alley: Trains!
Option 5 in this month's prompt asks for seven things about trains, so all aboard!
1. My grandfather was a stationmaster for the B&O railroad. The station was at the end of the street, so all he had to do to get to work was walk a block. Because of his job, he and his family got to ride the train for free. My gramma took full advantage of this perk to take summer vacations to Illinois to see her relatives. My mother remembers riding for hours and hours, overnight, sitting up in the seats (a sleeper cost extra), and eating cold fried chicken. Gramma was not going to pay for meals in the dining car either!
2. I've taken a few long-distance train trips. My first was to Atlanta -- it was cheaper than flying, even with the least-expensive sleeper option. In 1992, we took a grand family vacation aboard the train. We flew to Seattle, then took the Empire Builder back to Chicago. We switched to the Cardinal in Chicago for the ride back to D.C. We chose the Cardinal over the Chicago Limited because it goes through the New River Gorge in West Virginia -- gorgeous!
3. That previous item reminds me of another thing I love about trains -- their names. The Empire Builder, The Sunset Limited, The Crescent... beautiful names that evoke the romance of travel. Airplanes are numbered; trains are named.
4. I also love eating in the dining car. On Amtrak, space in the dining car is at a premium, so you're seated with other folks in the four-person booths. I've eaten with lovely little old ladies, a gaggle of Aussie backpackers, and pleasant families. I even had a celebrity sighting in a dining car: Art Monk, Hall-of-Fame wide receiver for the Washington Redskins. I wished I could have been seated at his table, but I probably just would have gawped at him all through dinner.
5. Train whistles are the lonesome-est sounds you could ever hear. I love them. I grew up in the house next door to my gramma and grandfather, so I heard train whistles my whole life. They always make me want to go... somewhere, anywhere; just climb aboard the train and follow the rails.
6. Alas! I never got a chance to live in a circus train, but I did visit some of my circus pals on the Ringling train. One night I was spending some time with a good friend when the train started rolling! I had to grab my stuff and literally jump out. Luckily, it was moving pretty slowly.
7. Whenever I ride the train, whether it's a quick hop to Philly or a journey across the nation, I just sit and watch the world roll by. I don't feel the need to do anything other than relax, letting the images of the country flash across my eyes. It's the best meditation I know.