“Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844)
Did you know that 11 May is the National Train Day in the US? Celebrations, big and small, are taking place around the country. Sadly, I can’t go this year, but what a great experience this would be for a child. I was fascinated with trains growing up. Not that I had much exposure, but train trips were always such a grand adventure, and I remember every one vividly.
There is something magical about traveling by train, watching the scenery glide by, your destination arranging itself gradually before your eyes, meeting people you would never otherwise meet, making unexpected connections–fleeting connections, yes, but memorable connections nevertheless, the kind that live on in stories for years to come.
In the US, my train trips have been brief–between DC and New York, usually. Last fall, though, we we were ready for a real train journey: from DC to Chicago, and Arizona after that. Curled up in our sleeper roomette, we watched towns, cities, fields, and hills at our side, county after county, state after state. This was not quite the Orient Express sensation of the Agatha Christie stories, but the old-world romance, the thrill of the road was there. And then there were the people, the railfans, such a colorful, eclectic tribe, a culture worth stumbling upon once or twice a year, I think.
Here are some snapshots of the places we passed, the in-between places. I don’t know what many of them were, or even where, but I remember the feel of them–and that’s what I miss when traveling sometimes, the feel, the texture of the spaces I cross on my way to where I’m going.
Gather around, everyone, here’s what America looks like between DC and Arizona: