Recently my family and I took an enjoyable trip on one of America's many tourist railroads. We boarded the train and immediately felt as if we'd stepped back in time to the days when the railroad was king. The passenger cars were vintage and had such a nostalgic feel to them. Although we didn't walk into it, we enjoyed a peek into the caboose which trailed behind us on our daylong trip. Our conductor was a gentleman who loved to tell stories. He shared many of them as he spoke about the flora, fauna and history of the areas that we were passing by on our rail journey. He also told us about the history of the railroad, and the very train that we were riding that day.
Along the iron veins that traverse the frame of our country, beat and flow the fiery pulses of its exertion, hotter and faster every hour. All vitality is concentrated through those throbbing arteries into the central cities; the country is passed over like a green sea by narrow bridges, and we are thrown back in continually closer crowds on the city gates.
~ John Ruskin, 1819-1900
It was a special treat for me when the engineer took the time to stop and speak with us. With many years of experience as both fireman and engineer on a steam engine, he was able to tell me firsthand about the type of work that many of my ancestors had done for a living on the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad.
What a comfortable feeling to be carried along as a passenger on a train and watch the world go by out your window. It may be because of the fond memories that I have of childhood rail trips, or because of the knowledge that I have about my family's history with the railroads, but trains have always had a special place in my heart.
You are not the same people who left that station
Or who will arrive at any terminus,
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you.
~ T.S. Eliot, 1888-1965