Trains – Now and Then

My son Jacob and his lovely wife Becky, with their adorable two-year old Sofie settled into our home to watch Mom for four days.  They had a little help from our beautiful 17 year old grand-daughter Tia as Kip and I boarded the Amtrack from Glenwood Springs to Denver.  We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center, downtown.  Aaron and Lori, the instigators of this excursion, rode with us as far as Winter Park ski resort where Lori had a ski training for two days.  We picked them up on the way back as well (at least the train did).  So we enjoyed time together.

For me, on a train, it’s impossible not to reflect on my childhood.  My Mom had four children in four years, the oldest a boy, then me and then identical twin boys (who made life nothing if not interesting through-out their childhoods).  My dad attended Carnegie Tech and we had no car.  So when Mom wanted to see her parents in Illinois, it was the train that got us there.  Back then there wasn’t the luxury on the rails there is today.  Or maybe you just needed more money to access it than we had.  In any event, my memories are of a large picnic basket Mom juggled along with all the other paraphernalia involved in traveling with four toddlers.  Included in the ever-receding haze of my memory is look-alike towheads causing every sort of mischief that can be achieved on a train.  I was a good little girl who stayed in my seat with my hair in sausage curls, holding and comforting my Tiny Tears baby doll, who was just as appalled at my little brother’s outrageous behavior as I!  My older brother was a covert participant to all the shenanigans, surely always ready with a whispered suggestion like “pull the fire alarm and then run like crazy!”.

The clickety-clack jarring of the ride always served to relax me to the point of sleep when I wasn’t being poked, prodded, hair pulled, baby stolen, pinched, tickled, provoked, teased – driven downright crazy

But if sleep did come, my dreams would float back to the iron horse of the Indian Days.  How those simple, earth-loving people must have been dumbfounded to see this huge smoke blasting, swift giant snaking through their hunting grounds!  The thought of them in pursuit on their little paint ponies shooting arrows at this fear-inspiring intruder leaves me with a hollow stomach.  How the iron horse changed their lives, and the lives of all mankind forever.  Now things, and more things, including weapons, could be swiftly transported to the masses and opposing armies.  People got used to and finally expected services and materials they would have never dreamed of in the years before the railways steamed into their towns, disgorging their treasures. 

I guess thinking about the impact of the railroads made me wonder when they actually got their start.  I was amazed to discover that the earliest known version of such an innovation was in 600 B.C.!  It was called a wagonway and was used to transport boats across the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece.  There were grooves in a limestone path that served as rails for the wheels of the wagons to rest in.  They were pulled by men and animals.  By 1500 horses pulled wagons filled with ore and coal on wooden rails.  The first steam locomotive was patented in 1784 and began being used in 1804.  By 1830 there were 39.8 documented miles of rail in the U.S.  Just ten years later that distance jumped to 2,755 miles.  Twenty years after that, in 1860, there were 28,919.79 miles of rail.  In 1869 the golden spike was driven in near Ogden, Utah, marking the trans-continental reach of the feared iron horse.

Since 2000 there have been about 25 accidents involving freight trains.  Probably a couple of the most notably tragic was the death of Miss Deaf Texas and that of an 18 year old football player.  The young woman was killed by the snowplow on a UP freight train as she was walking and texting her parents.  The engineer repeatedly sounded his horn, but of course she couldn’t hear it.  The young man was crossing double tracks in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts.  He avoided the first train and was hit by the second.  The most lethal accident killed 26 and injured 135 in 2008.  A double-deck train ran a red light and hit a UP freighter head-on.

Today, the only inter-city passenger train in the U.S. is Amtrack.  Of course, there are countless rail systems in cities all around the world, some underground – subways.  Now those I hate.  I don’t like being underground for any reason.  Even the tunnels our romantic train ride whizzed us through left me a little shaken.  Driving in Italy, where getting from point A to point B is a straight line whether you go through mountains or over deep ravines on massive bridges is a nightmare. 

However, tunnels aside, riding the rails is still my favored method of travel, though I haven’t done a cross-country or even over-night trip.  I hope that’s to come in the near future.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2010 at 7:58 pm and is filed under Caring for Mom. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to “Trains – Now and Then”

  1. Randy Eats a Sandwich 4 | Miscellaneous Videos Says:

    […] The Sandwich Generation » Blog Archive » Trains – Now anbd Then […]

  2. dave Says:

    I dont think we were that bad

  3. Jeff Says:

    I agree with Dave!

  4. Jesse P (from OHIO) Says:

    I took after my uncle and my father and was a perfect young man growing up. Never ever causing any trouble with my cousins…

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