Humble Contributions to the Peoples' History

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“I Have a Thing about Trains”

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Growing up in the 1950s, our family always had a train under the Christmas tree. The train belonged to my father when he was a boy, purchased by my grandparents in the 1920s. Lionel #318 0040, manufactured in the years 1924-32, displayed realistic detail, including brass trim. Two sets of cars could be attached to the engine: a freight and a passenger set. The cars authenticity, including handles, lights, ornate railings and mock stained glass made them especially fun to play with as we would give our stuffed animals and dolls a ride in the cars. The little engine chugged along the tracks, making a kind of grinding sound, and a large-sized transformer provided the electric, occasionally sparking as we adjusted the switch.

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The success of the Lionel Company making model trains for children mimicked the popularity of the railroads in the 1920s when train travel was central to transportation in America. Railroads carrying freight and people crisscrossed the United States. Train-hopping by hobos and migrants became a commonplace method for workers to move to new locations that promised jobs. This was the railroads’ Golden Era, and folks passed on myths and legends associated trains, such as Casey Jones and John Henry.  These folk songs became well-known in American culture, with the Wabash Cannonball one of favorites of country singers.

Now listen to the jingle, and the rumble, and the roar,
As she dashes thro’ the woodland, and speeds along the shore,
See the mighty rushing engine, hear her merry bell ring out,
As they speed along in safety, on  the “Great Rock-Island Route.”

Although rail travel is making somewhat of comeback today, folks think nostalgically about the old steam trains whistling across the landscape. So was our experience visiting the Strasburg Railroad and Museum in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As we boarded the train, I noticed the striking interior of the car, with polished woodwork and decorative stained glass at the top of the windows.  As we rode along, the cadence of the wheels on the tracks produced a soothing rhythm as we watched the scenery glide by.

Maybe I’m a little sentimental cause I know that things have to change
But I’d still like to go for a train ride cause I’ve got a thing about trains.
Johnny Cash

Rediscovering Train Travel

Plane or Train?

For a journey of 270 miles, which is the best way to travel? I decided not to drive so the other options were plane or train. I checked on the airfares and for nonstop flights–a cost over $1,000! Fares ran about $700 for one stop. I thought time to check with Amtrak fares: a one-way ticket with a discount costs $59.50.

Time is a consideration when planning a trip, and the train would take eight hours compared with one hour on a nonstop flight. Depending on the location of the stopovers, the airplane could take anywhere from four to five hours. Also, I would have to get to the airport an hour before the flight takes off. So now I’m down to just a couple hour difference and a savings of $600!

Blogging on the Train!

It’s been awhile since I’ve traveled by train in the US, and as I sit here typing away, I am really enjoying the trip. I did not know that the train had WiFi so wasted no time sending off a couple emails. The connection is a little slow but certainly not unreasonable for a moving vehicle. A receptacle is built into the wall and right by the tray table. The seat is certainly wide enough and room to keep my backpack at my feet to reach travel accessories. The train moves at a good clip . The views along the way make me think that I’m looking at America’s back yard: junk yards, refineries, abandoned factories, back doors of row homes. Expansive views of  waterways also pass by.

What would seem to be the train’s greatest disadvantage has become its greatest asset. The travel time provides the needed relaxation between two destinations: an opportunity to collect thoughts and enjoy the scenery. I’m thinking I don’t miss traffic congestion and cars jockeying for a place on busy highways.

Journey’s End

I’m almost at my destination. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with this trip and can recommend taking the train.

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