When I was young I remember going to sleep with my bedroom window open during the summer months and listening to the sound of trains in the train yard of my town. The yard was only a few blocks from my house and it was easy to hear the whistles, the big diesel engines roaring and the cars moving and banging into one another. I was fascinated by trains. While I was supposed to be going to sleep I would think about them. I would wonder where they came from as they thundered into town and where they might go from there. Who was on those trains? The conductor, the engineer. Did they like trains as much as I did? Were they away from home a lot, seeing the wonders of the country? What did those trains carry? Who were they taking it to?
All these thoughts meandered through my head as I drifted off to sleep. I thought if I was thinking about trains when I fell asleep, maybe I would dream about them. Maybe I could be an engineer one day, putting the power to the wheels and having that train carry me away to some exotic place. I could learn about the places I went and tell folks about where I came from. I would give kids a ride on my train because after all, kids love trains.
What was really cool about the town I grew up in was that we had our own railroad. The Minneapolis, Northfield and Southern Railway. The cars and engines were bright blue with a red diamond insignia emblazoned with the name. Northfield was a small town in those days, compared with Minneapolis and to have your own railroad was pretty special. At least I thought so. One of the really unique things about our railroad was some of the engines were called “center cab” engines. Most big train engines had a cab at one end and a big diesel engine. Ours had two diesels with a cab in the middle. These were made by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, (my mother’s maiden name) and they were somewhat rare. And they were massive, and powerful. The loudest thing you ever heard.
So what brought on this bit of nostalgia? I was at my mom’s house last week shoveling out her driveway and I heard a train whistle. I stopped with a shovel full of snow and listened. That sound! A flood of memories came back all at once. I love trains! Now I know they throw millions of tons of crap into the air burning diesel fuel but I love them anyway. Whenever I went somewhere in the car with my folks I always hoped we had to wait for a train so I could watch it go by. I would try to read everything on the cars so I could figure out what was inside. Everything in the world would just stop while the train went by. Those big blue engines were the greatest thing man ever made.
In the near future my wife and I are going to buy my mom’s house. The house I grew up in. The house near the train yard. I can’t wait.