One of the things that I always associate with when I return to Florida is the sound of trains, calling across our city, letting us know that they are working their way to a distant destination. In Michigan I live out in the country, and it is very rare for me to see or to hear a train anywhere. Highways full of semi trucks are the main mode of transportation that we notice as we travel about. The picture that you see here is an old fashioned narrow gauge train, parked in Silverton, Colorado, waiting for delighted tourists to climb aboard on their way to Durango. I took that train quite a few times. Whenever we had company from the East they always wanted to see the train. It was an all day trip and always a great pleasure to its passengers.
But as a child I lived only a block from the railroad tracks that brought 100 boxcar length trains in and out of our city of Muskegon, Michigan. It was during and after the second World War and every afternoon the long trains would come slowly down the tracks. There was a very deep ditch on each side, with a bank covered with shrubs of oak and sassafrass. My friends and I dug a deep hole into the side of the bank, deep enough for a fort, and then we covered the roof with branches and leaves. We knew when the train was due so we would climb into the fort, and wait for the huge train, which passed us by about eight feet away. The sounds of the squealing brakes, the grinding of the wheels on the track, the sheer terror of the monster as it lumbered on past us, these sounds reverberate in my mind, even to this day. Once you were in the fort, and the train started to pass by, you just hunkered down and waited. The trains were so long because they were filled with supplies for the war. I don’t think that my mother ever realized just what we were doing because we sure didn’t tell her. We would play out doors for hours at a time, mostly unsupervised, so we would get away with it.
I remember other trains coming into the city with all of the rides, animals, and equipment for the circus. My dad would take us to the train station where they were unloaded and we walked a mile or so to the open grounds where they were to be set up. This was a big deal for my brother and I. It was always on a Saturday morning, that I recall.
Along about that time there was a terrible accident where a pedestrian was killed by a train close to our street. The roads were blocked off and the whole city mourned. At this time it became more obvious to me just what a train could do to a body. We didn’t go to our fort so much after that.
Other trains that I remember were in Alaska, thru mountains that were filled with deep drop offs, on a narrow gauge track. Spectacular scenery, and a memory to be treasured always. Another trip was in centered in Canada, leaving Ste Saulte Marie, MI, for a day.
The sound of a train in the distance brings back memories of a long ago childhood, and a freer and more simple life. It is good for me to look back, but here I am, still dreaming and knowing there is more future to come. We can’t remain in the past when we have love right here with us now to enjoy and pleasures to surround us.