Monday, December 24, 2007
Living with trains
I awoke in the pitch black to the drawn out wail of a train whistle in the distance. The whistle grew louder as the train made its way toward town; then faded away and sounded again. If the weather is good you can hear the engineer blow the whistle 3 times for each crossing as the train moves through the 5 crossings in town. I lay in bed counting them off--Industrial, Main, Maple, Cherry, Raymond. The train faded into the distance as the clock on the courthouse bonged three times. I turned over and went back to sleep.
I grew up in a farming community. There is a grain elevator in the middle of town next to the train tracks. All of the farmers would come from miles around to drop off their grain in the fall. (Farmers get paid more for their grain if they take it to an elevator that has an adjacent track rather than a local elevator that has to truck it out.) Their tractors, trucks, and wagons would line the streets as they waited to be weighed. The elevator is still being used and the farmers still come. But now, more than grain leaves the community since manufacturing has come to town. Moving things by rail across the flatland is growing again with the price of gas being what it is.
As a result, waiting for a train to pass is part of daily life here. Trains come and go regularly throughout the day not just at night so if you need to be somewhere in a hurry on the other side of town, it is key to plan ahead or allow extra time or you will have to wait. The train tracks circle the town; you may even have to wait more than once on the same train. Sigh. Most annoying.
Trains in the day are different than trains at night. There is something lonesome about the whistle of a train in the darkness. I don’t know if it’s the tone or the sound of the whistle as it moves off. The romance of riding the rail is long gone but the feeling the whistle evokes is still there in this day of air travel.