My love of trains began when I was six years old. That was when we got up in the middle of the night to catch a train to New York City where we boarded the Queen Mary for a sea voyage to England. It was not a pleasant trip in march on the North Atlantic. I was seasick for days, longing once again for that long train trip through the dark night. Because of strong winds, we arrived a day early and missed the tide so we docked in Cherbourg, France. We had four hours off the boat and what do I remember? A small black train with a steam engine, engulfing everything in puffy clouds.
While in England, we road a miniature train. I seem to remember it was painted green and it, too, had a steam engine. What a great day that was. I remember my Grandad rode with us on that mini-scale train, and he smiled and laughed a lot.
When I was 11, we returned to England. This time we were to go from Rochester to New York by plane. We'd land at one airport and take a helicopter to JFK. Just one problem. A blizzard. Our flight to NY was canceled and we again hopped a train. A very crowded train.
I loved it. Our family of five staked out 2 seats facing one another, ate sandwiches that came encased in plastic, and endured nasty looks from students returned from Syracuse to NYC who ended up standing or sitting on their luggage for most of the journey on that overbooked, overcrowded train. When we got to Grand Centrals station, it was dark. The taxi to JFK cost a whopping $40 (a fortune to me) and as we'd missed our flight, got rebooked on a red eye to London. Ugh. My first experience with jet lag. I felt dizzy and weird for days, like I was floating. (I've never enjoyed flying since--and, these days, won't fly at all.)
Days later, we headed south again on the train. It was a sad trip. It was the first time I ever saw my father cry. He was leaving behind a much-loved, elderly uncle who he knew he would never see again. (It broke my heart. Remembering that day still can bring me to tears.) We also passed a ship yard as saw the hulk of a ship that was being dismantled. It was the ship that had brought my parents to the US some twelve years before. It made them both sad to see it.
We arrived at the train station a some ungodly hour (like 5 or 6 a.m.) and made the hour or so trip via train. Once there, we were met by a bus. The driver was an older man, and quite a character, who told wonderful stories to a bus full of giggly girls. He drove us all over the Syracuse area, but I haven't the faintest idea where we went. I sat on the seat directly behind him, and he paid special attention to me and my seatmate (don't remember who that was, either) and kept us entertained the entire say.
We had supper at some not-very-interesting place (a church basement perhaps?) and my Girl Scout leader choose me to invite the bus driver to eat with us. I was very nervous, but swallowed down my fear and asked and his eyes lit up and he said he would love to join us. In fact, he opened the cargo area in the bowels of the charter bus and hauled out an accordion case. Before and after supper, he entertained us all with songs everybody knew and fast ones, bouncy ones (Irish perhaps?) everyone could laugh and dance to.
I seem to remember I cried when our bus pulled back up to the train station and the bus driver gave me and my seatmate a huge. It was dark when we boarded the train, which had sleeping compartments all made up. Of course, we didn't need them, for we would be back in Rochester in just over an hour.
Since then, my train rides have been short hops--not grand adventures. But I still have this not-so-secret desire to travel across the country by train.
During December I watched White Christmas, which is one of my favorite holiday movies. I admit it, I watched the train sequence a couple of extra times because it's my favorite part of the movie.
I love trains and I think I always will.
Do you have any train stories to share?