As I’m sitting here, mentally sorting through my recent activities to find something at least vaguely interesting to write about, I hear a train whistle as it passes through town. This train whistle has an old-fashioned mournful sound, evocative of summer days and faraway places.
I’m glad the trains that pass by within a few short blocks of where I live use that particular whistle. The last place I lived before I moved here was also close to the tracks. It was actually about a mile away rather than a matter of blocks, but there were no houses between me and the train to absorb some of the sound, so sometimes, the train sounded as if it were racing past my window, a few feet away from where I slept. From what I understand, there is a variety of horn or whistle sounds that can be used when a train goes through a town, and trains in that particular area used a horrendous screeching noise. Sometimes, I’d be awakened by what sounded like banshees shrieking outside my window. At first, it scared me until I realized what it was — no monsters, just a train making a monstrous noise.
I never did understand why those trains shrieked rather than wailed; perhaps the train rushing through a populous area made it imperative. Luckily, that train is a thousand miles away. Even more luckily, at least for now, the trains trundling through this town use the more traditional sound.
It’s too bad the trains just pass through. There is a station here that once was used for passenger traffic, and if it were operational to this day, I could walk a few blocks, get on the train, and head . . . somewhere. As it is, the train stops at a town about twenty-five miles away, which isn’t far but would require a concerted effort and some planning to take a trip rather than the impulse of the moment.
It’s just as well, I suppose. I’m still working, still have a house to take care of, still have a yard to landscape. Besides, there truly isn’t any place I would rather be than where I am at the moment: in my own house, on my own property, listening to the train calling me to adventure.
What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?
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July 29, 2021 at 12:58 pm
We’re so attuned to the long-gone train whistles that we still imagine we hear them years after locomotives (except on steam tourist trains) started using horns.
July 30, 2021 at 8:32 am
As far as I have traveled a lot with the locomotives in my childhood. I miss the train whistles. Except in films and specially western.
Beitai Steelworks in Liaoning Province, one of the few Chinese steam routes still in operation. Photo by David Longman
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