Though he has many (many, many) interests, my dad has always been interested in trains. He’s never really avidly collected model trains, nor has he ever (to my knowledge) conducted a train personally, but I can recall on quite a few occasions his mentioning with longing certain train trips he has taken out West.
The city I grew up in and near has a restored historic train depot (for fascinating information about the depot I forgot long ago, if I ever knew it – click here, also here) – it was the depot for a passenger train on the Memphis and Charleston line. I remember, when I was probably 7 or 8, going down to the depot in February or March (it was cold) to see an old steam train leave. There were lots of people there and everyone was putting pennies on the tracks for the train to smush as it rolled away. Dad was probably fascinated by the technology of the train – he is a retired machinist and to say that he is “mechanically inclined” does no justice to his real talent for understanding these kinds of things. Full of imagination, I remember wondering what it would be like to take a long train trip on train like that. A year or two prior, my elementary school had gone on a field trip to the depot, and we took a train ride that lasted maybe an hour or two. I wonder if they still do that?
Trains are fascinating – and I’m sorry they aren’t used today like they once were.
Oh, there’s Amtrak, for sure, though my parents’ experience going on the Crescent from Atlanta to Boston (I think) was not a good a good one- definitely nothing to wax nostalgic over. Amtrak is about as much like the trains of the past as a Smart car is to a Model T. (Each is fine in their own right, and it’s two completely, barely comparable experiences). They’ve had much better experiences on train rides out in Colorado and other places in the West, like the train from Durango to Silverton, Colorado:
Who wouldn’t want to go on a train trip through a place as beautiful as that?! It would feel like you’d stepped back in time.
In 2008, prior to our moving to North Carolina, *A* and I stayed in a cabin in Bryson City, NC, home of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. It was a 44-mile trip from Bryson City along the Nantahala River to the Nantahala Gorge and the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where we got out and watched kayakers running a particularly fierce section of the river. This is a picture of the engine a few minutes before we left. The depot is smack in the middle of the little town of Bryson City. It’s most unfortunate that there’s a Dollar General parking lot right next door.We went back the way we came (there were engines on both ends of the train) and rode in an open car the whole trip, even though it was sort of cold and rainy. It was a lot of fun. We’ll definitely go back with our kids.
Here’s the two of us in our open car, upon our return to Bryson City. What you can’t see is the blanket we were huddled under. But we couldn’t make ourselves ride inside – it was too fun to be outside in an open car (and we had it to ourselves).
*A* and I have an ever-growing bucket list of places we want to travel, and several of those places include trains as the actual goal, or for the transportation there. Of course the Harry Potter series, of which we are both big fans, has helped this along, with students arriving to campus every year on the Hogwarts Express.
This is an image of the real train that was used in the film. They are travelling over Glenfinnan Railway viaduct in Scotland (remember the scene where Harry and Ron are in the flying car?) It’s near Ben Nevis, the highest British mountain, in the Western Highlands. Yup, it’s on the list.
For me, as it was when I was 7 or 8 and seeing my first steam engine at the Huntsville Depot, I’ve always imagined what it was like in the mid-to-late 1800s travelling by train, and in the 1930s, when streamliner trains (“streamlined” to make them more aerodynamic) began to be in service. What was it like sleeping in a Pullman car, eating in the dining car, watching the scenery slide by as you rocked along? Trains offer such a connection to the past – the shiny train here, the Duchess of Hamilton, was built in England in 1938 and transported to the U.S. for a 3,000 mile tour and was featured in the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Of course, this design was not practical for maintenance, so it didn’t last long, but how cool was that design?!
Kids, especially boys (though certainly not only boys) seem to love trains. Our nephew Gavin was completely fascinated by them and at age 4 could talk to you about all the different kinds of trains there were and could explain what each was used for. (He could do the same for construction equipment, too, just like our nephew Logan. Apparently I’ve got to do some research if this is a trend among little boys – answering their “What does that do” question with, “Uh, it helps people move stuff” is probably inadequate). One of the little Doodlebug kids I work with loves trains, too. Like Gavin was, he’s into Thomas the Train, and apparently makes weekly visits to the train-themed theme park that’s not far from where I work. Other than their ghost train in the fall, it’s generally pretty kid-oriented, from what I understand, so we haven’t been there yet. It’s a popular place, though. Very popular. I’m sure we’ll go there one day – in the not-so-distant-as-it-once-was future, with Pop in tow, of course, so he can be the one to teach our kid(s) the technicalities of trains. 🙂
Photo credits: Huntsville Depot image courtesy: http://www.bwrocketcity.com/discover_huntsville.php. Durango-Silverton train image courtesy: http://www.durangotrain.com/ride-us. Image of Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct courtesy: http://muz-rub.deviantart.com/art/Hogwarts-Express-174086437. Image of the Duchess of Hamilton Streamliner courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:6229_Duchess_of_Hamilton_at_the_National_Railway_Museum.jpg. All other photos belong to us.