February 06, 2007

Somewhere I've Never Travelled

Traintrack

When I was first married, my husband and I lived in an apartment right next to the traintrack that runs through Traintrack Village. When locomotives went by, the dishes in the cupboard rattled and the rush of clacking wheels filled the room. Even in my sleep, I'd hear the trains rumbling past.

I live now on a road that deadends into that same railroad track. We're a bit farther away, so I no longer feel like the trains might come crashing right through the living room. But still, sometimes I'll feel this vibration, this energy, moving through the house, followed by faint clangs and whistles. As the trains rush past, carrying all kinds of stuff, sometimes with passengers, I think about my connections to other parts of the country, and even to the rest of the world. I think about my friends scattered in distant places, and the places I've been.

More often than not, my daydreams lead me to think of those places I haven't been to yet, the areas still left to explore. When I was a kid, I loved playing with traintracks, setting them up and pushing the little trains over them, making pretend villages and cities, building complicated bridges that needed stacks of books to hold them up, extending the tracks as far as they could possibly go. The sound of a train moving along a track I've lived near my whole life still makes me think of all those possibilities, the idea of going somewhere I've never travelled.

28 comments:

Yankee, Transferred said...

Come to Memphis! The guest room awaits.

Camera Obscura said...

Stop by St. Louis on your way down-river...

The house I lived in as a teenager had a train track on the back property line (luckily, the yard was nearly a block deep, and the line was only a manufacturer's siding). We got to the point where we didn't even notice the rumbles, although we did own one dog who like to howl back when they whistled at the street crossing further down the block.

Now I live more than five miles from the main cross-state line, with many hills and a river valley between us. But on days when the clouds are low and the air is still, the morning westbound Missouri Mule's whistle can be heard as it crosses half-a-dozen streets in old-town Eureka. The echos bounce off the clouds, the Meramec River, the clouds again, and down to my house.

Gannet Girl said...

I used to be a lawyer for a railroad company. I love to look at photos of caryards.

Poor Mad Peter said...

We lived for five years about a hundred yards from traintracks. We'd know a train was coming not by the sound, but by the profound rumbling vibration that went through the house. It, too, would rock us in our sleep, startle us a little when we were awake. Frighten us a little because there was only one level crossing in the entire town--two people were killed by trains while we lived there.

One day, we woke up to find that a passenger train had stopped in our little town--30 years after passenger trains service had been gutted in our country. Turns out it was a rerouting because of a derailment.Joyce and I had taken that same train, albeit on its usual way-too-far-north route, east to where she was ordained a United Church of Canada minister a few years before.

After we left, we learned that houses near train tracks eventually develop cracks in their foundations--the vibration. That wasn't what made us leave, but it did give us an idea of the price we paid unknowingly while we lived there.

kathy a said...

you've been invited to take a night train to memphis -- how could you possibly resist??

the tracks for frieght and passenger trains that run alongside san francisco bay are about a mile and a half away -- far enough to forget they are there, except when i hear the whistles in the still of night, or when we take the train someplace.

we've only really ridden within a 90 mile radius of home, east and south, but i really like the trains. one year we considered getting "travel anywhere" passes and touring the country. that didn't pan out, but it sure would be fun sometime.

kathy a said...

oh, great. thinking of a song about trains got me thinking about guthrie's "city of new orleans," so you know what i'll be humming tonight.

jo(e) said...

A night train to Memphis? Is that like a midnight train to Georgia?

Actually, I am going to Georgia at the end of this month, but I'm flying so I can't stop off and see any blogging friends along the way.

But one of these days, I am going to do some kind of blogging trip and map out a route going from blogger home to blogger home.

I've put Memphis and St. Louis on my map ....

BeachMama said...

I have lived close to a train track all my life. When I stay with friends or relatives that aren't near a track I find it so quiet I can't sleep.

Chip said...

ah that shot brings back memories... of getting high and hanging out near the big green plastic bridge over the tracks at Train Track Village east, watching as car after car went clacking by. And the old wooden bridge that used to go over the tracks. And though we lived about a mile from the tracks, at night, especially in the summer, we could hear the trains, the creaking and singing of the rails. We live about 1/2 mile from a track now so we still get to hear those trains going by, though now only once a day or so.

jo(e) said...

Chip: Teenagers still hang out on the green pedestrian bridge. I am going to go over there when the weather is warmer and get a shot of that bridge. This view is from the bridge on RoadThatHighSchoolIsOn.

It's fun to hear everyone chime in with their traintrack memories.

Kyla said...

When you get around to making your blogging trip itinerary, don't forget to stop in Texas!

PPB said...

I was actually on the midnight train to Georgia once. The train staff were not amused by my singing that song over and over.

jo(e) said...

Kyla: Oh, this trip gets longer all the time. I've now added the State That Gave Us the Worst President We've Ever Had to my list.

PPB: When I finally do my blogging cross-country trip, you are going to have to come with me and sing. I would find that hilarious.

Linda said...

Well, I believe there's an Amtrak train overnight from Kansas City to Tulsa. Bring PPB along with you and come see me.

jo(e) said...

The midnight train to Tulsa? I think so long as we keep the tune the same, we could make those lyrics work.

And "Tulsa on my mind" works just as well too ....

Sarah Sometimes said...

When I was waiting for the train in Penn Station to go to Philly last December, I heard a train being announced with lots and lots of stops, South, Southeast, then some stops going further west and inland. Then I heard "Slidell," and I knew the next and last stop would be New Orleans. It gave me the chills hearing that, somehow. The train is called the Crescent. It seemed so much more exciting, romantic, dangerous, thrilling, somehow, to take a train all the way to New Orleans than to travel and hour and a half to Philadelphia. Maybe someday.

jar said...

I took the train to Indiana at this time last year. Every Wednesday evening I hear the whistle at 4:20 and I can picture the various stops, the scenery passed and the lives that I was given a snapshot of. Seeing life from a train window seems much more intimate that it does from a car. Houses are closer to the tracks in some places and one can pay more attention to detail if they don't have to pay attention to driving.

YourFireAnt said...

On trains you get to travel through people's backyards, and from what I've seen people's backyards are waaay more interesting than the fronts.

FA

Rae said...

I haven't had much more beauty or wonder in my life than when I've traveled on trains, up the West Coast and also in India. I don't think there's much in life more magical than an Indian train. I also lived beside a traintrack in Canada and there was always thundering in the background of all our conversations. I really loved it. Thanks for reminding me.

And your title is close to the first line of my favorite e.e. cummings poem. :)

jo(e) said...

Rae: The title of my post is actually the title of an Ambrosia CD that a friend just sent me.

I have a friend who has a great poem about travelling on the train in India.

Aliki2006 said...

When I was in high school my favorite song was by a band called Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians. It was called "I Often Dream of Trains When I'm with You"--your post brought it all back!

diana christine said...

oh, what a wonderful story you could tell after a cross-country trip meeting blog friends all along the way. please be sure to include washington (d.c., that is) and have dinner and spend a night here....

kathy a said...

west coast! west coast! if you are already going as far as texas, you may as well do the full loop.

jo(e) said...

Yeah, the west coast is so beautiful -- and filled with bloggers. I can't leave that out. Heck, I am going to have to take a whole summer for this trip.

Anonymous said...

Somewhere beyond all reason...

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e), who wrote the poem about riding the train in India?

I'd like to see it.

FA

jo(e) said...

FA: George Kalamaras in his book The Theory and Function of Mangoes. I can xerox it for you sometime.

YourFireAnt said...

I'd like that.

FA