Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Sometimes I Miss The Tracks

When I was five years old we moved to a house that had a railroad in its back yard. This railroad was something that permeated my very being and the memories are still with me today.

It was easy walking on the sidewalk, but there was a certain excitement about walking the tracks. I crossed the tracks every morning while walking to my grade school. I walked the tracks into town when I walked to High School every day after that. I'd walk north on the tracks after school to visit friends.

The difference when walking the tracks was I would see the back sides of houses and businesses which was far different than seeing the pretty sided that faced the street. Walking the tracks one can the rutty side of industries where they put things that they don't want people to see.

Another thing about being a kid with tracks in the back yard was we'd spend time digging holes in the bank which wasn't a clean activity. My mother would get so angry when we played in what she called the Railroad Soot. There was certainly soot along the tracks from all the years that railroad was host to coal fired steam locomotives. The coal fire bellowed out an exhaust that was as black as coal and these cinders in the smoke settled everywhere along the tracks. It was probably three feet thick on the bank. It was a really fine material that was fun to play in. After an hour or so we looked like coal miners. It's a wonder we never developed black lung.

Fifty rears later I still look at railroads with a certain love and passion. I hope that all the kids growing up near a railroad are appreciating them as I did. It was a different kind of magic that stays with you forever.


Blogger Donna said...

I love hearing the trains tooting, down behind our place. When my parents moved out here when Daddy had lung cancer, he laid awake at night a lot. I remember him saying he hated the sound of the train.

4:09 AM  
Blogger Trop said...

I grew up in a coal mining town and we were always hanging out on the tracks. Lucky for us, in the PA mountains the trains went slow enough that you could out-run them if one came along.

5:57 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

There's just something magical about trains. Unless you are trying to sleep when one goes by, of course. Those whistles are a real eye opener. I lived in an apartment once that was so close to the tracks that every time a train went by it would rearrange my furniture. Waking up with your bed scooting across the floor in the middle of the night was disconcerting.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And there's a difference between freight and commuter trains. To me, the sound of a freight train is soothing, while a commuter train is annoying. But either one can smash a penny.

11:03 AM  
Anonymous Sara True said...

Definitely tugged my heart strings with this one. I have fond memories of those tracks behind Mom's place. The whole house would shake when the trains flew past. As kids, we would use the tracks as a short cut and put pennies on the track to retrieve flattened later. I bought the condo where I live in now, knowing full well about the trains nearby. When they pass it sounds like a strong wind gust singing from my past.

5:57 PM  
Blogger g said...

I also grew up close to the tracks. Behind my dad's business the train would roll through Astoria. I would leave pennies on the tracks and check it sometime later to retrieve my squished penny.

Two things about the tracks - you can't relax on both sides of the tracks.
Lines converge from where you stand.

That's about all I have to say about that.

7:32 PM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

And you notice I held off mentioning the 'fifty rears later' thing as long as I could.......

4:19 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, to some it is a very lonely sound.

Trop and you could hop them if you needed a ride.

Darev, after the first train on the first night living there I was able to sleep through it.

Anon, this line had both, but the commuter trains started up at about 5:30 am. They didn't bother me.

Sara, so good to hear from you. I hear you may be coming for a visit. I didn't realize you had a fondness for the tracks when you were a kid. Did you ever spend a night at the house? Thanks for checking in.

g, the trains stopped running in Astoria shortly after I moved here. I'm surprised the trolley can get around with all the car and people traffic on the waterfront these days.

Darev, but you couldn't hold off. Time is spinning out from under me.

5:36 AM  
Blogger g said...

I remember one of the last shipments out was our equipment and that of Claterbos headed to Oklahoma. That was 1982.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Sara True said...

Never slept there. Is it true that you boys would sneak out at night via the backyard tree? Yes, I'll be visiting for Memorial Day weekend. Its only been 15 years, probably about time.

4:18 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

g there were freight cars in Astoria after that. I remember seeing them parked behind City Lumber.

Sara, I never did. I don't think there was a strong enough branch that came close enough to the house. I do remember your father falling out of that sugar maple once. I never had to sneak out. There was no where to go at night and had there been I would have used the door. My mother was cool about letting us go where ever, when ever. We did sometimes leave very early in the morning to go fishing. I look forward to seeing you. A lot has changed here in 15 years.

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Sara True said...

Funny, never knew that about Mom's parenting style. My dad was the same way.

Look forward to seeing you as well, along with all the west coast folk, and the new animal additions.

12:39 PM  

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