If you have kids, had kids or have been a kid at any point since 1960, you probably recognize the title and the first sentence as being from “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. We read that story so many times to our daughter that we still repeat the title almost every time we see a train. I think it’s an appropriate response because seeing a train remains exciting for me. There’s just something about an oncoming train or a passing train, even hearing a train whistle in the distance makes me happy. So, it’s no surprise that I’m choosing to focus on National Train Day instead of Mother’s Day this weekend.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against mothers. I like mothers fine. I love my mother. I love my wife, she’s been a great mom and we’ll do something to celebrate on Sunday, but let’s get back to those trains.
Unlike last weekend’s post, where I subtly tried to get you to do something, this time I’m going to ignore that goal. They (the people who tell bloggers how to blog) say “you should always include a call to action!” Well, act if you want to, I just like trains. On Foursquare, I’m the mayor of “Stuck waiting for train” at a grade-level crossing in Windsor, CT. I’m also the mayor of the Texas and Pacific Room in Union Station in Dallas, TX – the best place ever to have a business meeting. I’m also the mayor of my dentist’s office, the Salvation Army collection bin and the local Spirit Shop, so…
When I was a kid, grade-level railroad crossings were way more common than they are today. For one thing, there were more trains and for another, there were fewer highways. When we would travel on vacation, I used to quietly wish that we would get stuck at a railroad crossing – preferably the first car at the gate. I
loved love watching freight trains go past. I like reading the information on the cars, imagining what might be inside, where it’s been, where it’s going and how they keep everything running. Unfortunately, as I grew older, trains began losing the battle to trucks and cars and planes. The first time I had to make a long trip by myself (Pittsburgh to Atlanta) the only real option was to fly.
My first chance to ride a train was when I started working. I lived in Queens, NY (long story) and I tried just about every way imaginable to commute to Piscataway, NJ without going crazy. The drive was 51 miles. It was a smooth one-hour trip in the morning, but it could easily extend to 2-3 hours at night. I would drive to work on Monday, leave my car at the train station in Edison, NJ Monday night and take the train back and forth until Friday night. Well, I took the train to Penn Station in New York and then took the E train (subway) home. It took longer than driving on a good day but way less than driving on a bad day. The real benefit was that the length of time was consistent. I did that for several months until I needed my car one night and realized that there was no way to get it. Short-lived as it was, commuting by train(s) was the best way I’ve ever gone back and forth to work.
AMTRAK, several New England states and the Federal Government are currently working to build a high-speed light rail line along the CT River between Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT. Unfortunately, I work on the other side of the CT River from Hartford. Even more unfortunate is the fact that by the time that line is running, I will be retired. CSX advertises that it can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a gallon of fuel. Doesn’t it just make sense to move thousands of people 10-15 miles? (By the way, watch that ad and tell me that it isn’t exciting).
Later this year, I have to attend a meeting in Washington, D.C. You can count on the fact that I will go by train. It will take 6 hours and 45 minutes to get there, but I can get on a train 2 miles from my house, sit down, plug my laptop in stay there until we stop in Washington. The whole time, I will be in a nice comfy seat watching the world go by outside my window. I might even do some work. It doesn’t get any better than traveling by train. It certainly doesn’t get any better by slogging to the airport, checking a bag, crawling through TSA and hoping that my bag and I meet up in Washington. Air travel might be efficient, but efficiency is really only good for cargo.
The pictures below are my two favorite trains. I’ve never been on a train pulled by a New Haven RR loco, but I still have hopes. I just think it’s a beautiful engine. The picture at the right is the train at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, PA. Every year that we went there, I had to ride that train with my grandmother. I would have rather been riding something fast, but it made her so very happy that I always enjoyed the ride. Happy Mother’s Day!