I’ve never ridden on a train, but they hold a certain fascination for me. Or maybe it’s less to do with the train than it is with the tracks.
Every time I cross these tracks my mind wanders – a bad thing to have happen on railroad tracks – as I can’t help but wonder where these tracks lead and what stories could be told of what they see along their journey.
I think it’s probably the gentle curve they take after the crossing that captivates me.
Maybe the fascination with tracks goes back to my childhood. The back field of my parent’s 10 acres of land butted up against a railroad track. There was a creek (we called it a crick – I’m a native A-hi-an, remember) that ran through their property and eventually the creek became wider and deeper as it reached the trestle that carried the tracks over the water. My dog, Charlie, and I would frequently walk back there to throw rocks in the water from atop the trestle. I would walk the rails as a gymnast balances on a beam and Charlie would stick with bouncing over the ties, sniffing the ground to see what recent critters had been there.
Occasionally, I could hear a train coming so Charlie and I would go down the bank, out of the way, to wait for the chugga-chugga-choo-choo type train to go by. The engineers always waved as did the guy riding with his arm out the caboose.
There was a certain charm to trains then. They carried car after car of coal, on its way to keep our homes warm. There was no graffiti painted on the box cars, instead I would often see a car with open doors with several hobos dangling their legs outside as they sat on the floor of the car. Is the term ‘hobo’ politically incorrect now? If so, forgive me, as that’s what I knew them as, 50 years ago. I didn’t view them as homeless people. Instead they were men seeking a special kind of adventure.
If you like trains and their tracks, you’ll love the central Ohio area. Columbus has a unique distinction of being within an 8-hour drive of 60-70% of the nation’s population. So it has become an important transportation hub. The state is bisected horizontally with I-70. Vertically, there is I-75 and I-71. The city is convenient to the Great Lakes shipping lanes and the Ohio River barges that lead to the Mississippi River. On the ground, a semi-truck can drive to Detroit, Chicago, St Louis, Atlanta, and the East Coast within 8 hours.
Naturally, with all this transporting of goods, the railroads are a key component, so there are several major tracks running through the city. Therefore, you should expect to have to deal with rush hour delays at crossings or to hear the train’s whistle at your home unless you live quite a distance away from the track.
Depending on the atmosphere, I can sometimes hear a train at my current home. It has a shrill whistle not the WHOO-WHOO of the old B&O trains. It goes so fast that its wheels don’t have the same clatter-clatter of the old trains that used to rock me to sleep at night. But I admit, I still find it rather soothing – probably because it recalls days gone by from my youth.
I wonder if The Murph would enjoy walking along the tracks as much as Charlie did.