Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Love Trains

By Lorna/Lorraine
Train engine 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.

Miniature-Railway 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.)

While in England, we took a trip to Scotland to visit relatives and we went by train.  We left at night and my younger brother nestled comfortably in a luggage net over the seats.  The clickity-clack of the rails lulled us to sleep.  (We would go to the bathroom and flush the toilets over and over again because when you did, they emptied right on the tracks and you could see the ground whoosh past.  Bet that doesn't happen any more!)

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.

Somewhere along the line, I made a trip from Rochester to Syracuse with my local Girl Scout trip.  (Honest, I don't remember how hold I was or when it occurred . . . except it was springtime when I was in elementary school.

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.

Accordion 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.

Bing Snow 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?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

My dream is the Orient Express, you can take a day trip in the UK and have a celebratory meal on board it leaves from London and goes to Bath and back again. But I would love to do the Agatha Christie trip across Europe without the dead bodies of course.

The miniture train you spoke of was on Southsea sea front, I don´t know if it is still there, will check next week.

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I rode the train from Dallas to Portland, OR a few years ago. Then later, we rode from Portland back to Austin. The second journey was the best. There is a lovely train that goes down the West Coast that has a special name. Can't think of it now, but the scenery was wonderful.

I'd also love to ride the Orient Express or the train that goes over the Canadian Rockies. Spectacular scenary. I also love the scenes from White Christmas on the train.

Lorna Barrett said...

Yes! Anonymous (and I think I know who you are--going to Portsmouth this weekend???) my grandparents lived in Southsea!

Lorna Barrett said...

Kay, I'm pretty sure my parents did the Canadian Rockies. They also did a train trip in California. Rats. Wish I could've gone with them. I had to work!

Linda said...

I'm completely envious of your trips to England! My goal is to ride the Orient Express. I love trains and have loved them forever it seems. In December we took my six year old granddaughter Alex on a ride to the North Pole on the Polar Express. What a great experience---riding along singing Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate, eating cookies and having Santa Clause get on the train at the North Pole and hand out little bells as gifts! On Halloween we took her for a ride on the Great Pumpkin Express to the Great Pumpkin Patch. When our girls were young we stayed in Lancaster, PA at the Little Red Caboose in a sleeper car and ate in the dining car while enjoying simulated "train ride" movements. Thanks for sharing your story, Lorna. Hey--write a great cozy that takes place on a train! I know it's been done a few times before but that's because we can't get enough of those stories!

Lorna Barrett said...

Great idea, Linda. But I'd have to do a LOT of research. Then I could deduct the cost of the train trip, right? : )

What brought up all this talk of trains? I scoured my bookshelves and rediscovered a cookbook called FROM THE DINING CAR by James D. Porterfield. It's full of recipes, pictures (sadly, all black and white) and wonderful stories about trains. What a fun read!

Linda said...

I'll look for "From the Dining Car." It sounds like a book I have to add to my cookbook collection. Let me know if you need any help with all that research!! What a great job you have!

Heather Webber said...

A few years ago I took my first train trip--from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. I was nervous about getting motion sick, but I really loved every second of it. I want to take a train trip across Canada. One of these days...

Yvonne said...

I'm a fairly recent convert to the joys of rail travel. Last year I made two journeys by train, first from Rochester to Chicago, then from Rochester to Port Huron, MI via Chicago to visit friends and family. The second trip took just over 24 hours one way and I loved it. Yes, the same distance could be covered by car in far less time, but I didn't have to drive or worry about weather, crossing the border or getting tired! I had a layover in Chicago where I met up with a friend and got to see the sights and have a lovely dinner, and back to traveling in comfort.
I chose to travel by coach, but sleeping is not difficult in the comfy seats (much more comfortable than airline seats! You can stretch out!).
I'm planning another train journey in March, to visit a friend in Ann Arbor, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Maggie Sefton said...

I love trains, too, Lorraine, and I think you should definitely take some train trips around the country. One of the best trips would be the California Zephyr which goes from Chicago to San Francisco. We took our entire family on the Zephyr back in 1985 when the youngest two were little. And we didn't get a compartment. We simply bedded everyone done in the seats w/their blankets & bears. It was fun! And mom/dad even got some sleep. We started in Ind & headed for the Grand Tetons in WY. And the trip over the Rockies was stunning. we changed planes in Salt Lake. Train service going East has deteriorated some & the delays are awful but the Zephyr still does pretty well. Last time I rode was 2005 w/my mom. We've got some great train trips in the US.

And the trains in England are wonderful. I love them. Punctual, usually, & they are everywhere. I've ridden them a lot exp in 2004 when I visited daughter Maria, assigned there, and took the train every day while where was working & I visited "sheepy people" & places all over. Perfect day trips. I could walk 30 min down to the the market square in Oundle at 6:30am & take the 7am bus to petersborough station & catch the train anywhere in England! Loved it. And I could still be back in pretty little Oundle by six to meet Maria in the Ship Inn pub for dinner. :) Complete w/black pub cat named Midnight.

ChristineA said...

I adore taking the train! I've got so many good memories of riding the train. This is my favorite though:
When we were growing up my Dad used to work for the Railroad, and was a rider on the Northeast corridor. On the occasional weekends he would have to work one of us would go with him. One of my best memories is sitting with my parents and asking my Dad what the little button next to me did. He told me that would bring the porter over to wait on you. In a wistful voice I asked "I wonder if anyone would wait on me." Well, what I didn't know was the porter, a very sweet elderly gentleman, was standing not too far away and heard me. He came over with a big smile on his face and said "I'll wait on you little girl. What would you like?" My Dad tells me my eyes got about as round as saucers. I was only about four, but I remember it so clearly. What a special moment that was. :D

Prairiedog said...

You all have such great train memories. I don't travel much, but do remember going with my mom to the next town down the line to shop and visit a friend of hers. Just recently ate at the Depot restaurant that is in the depot, of course, where we met the train. Saw my brother leave from there to go into the Navy. Heard the train and got teary eyed every night when it went thru town, when my mom was gone to Key West to see same brother and family. There are two train lines going thru my hometown, one on each end, east and west. We lived a block from the west line, and played on the tracks as a kid. My mom cusses the trains as their black soot landed on her sheets she'd just hung on the line, didn't she ever learn? Dad took me on the track to walk north of town a few blocks to visit a friend who worked as a watchman at the packing plant. They'd have a nip from a bottle he hid behind something there, and I'd get weighed on the big scale. So, my train memories are small, no international travel, but fun to think about. Our son is a commercial pilot, but I've never been on a plane without props. Don't want to. Lor, I love your memories.

Rural View said...

My grandfather and great-grandfather both worked for the railroad; maybe that's why I've always loved trains. When I was a child in Illinois, we used to drive 60 miles beside the RR tracks to visit family a lot. I loved waving to the engineers, the hobo population, and the guys in the caboose playing cards. Later I lived in Conn. and enjoyed taking the train to NYC, then living in NJ and doing the same. We still laugh about a drunk on the train to NJ who would doze, then wake up and yell, "Are we in Mahwah yet?" :-D

Miki Willa said...

When my daughter was three, we took a train from Seattle to Santa Maria, California. We had a small compartment with facing seats that converted to upper and lower beds at night. We left Seattle mid-day, and watched the coast for a long time. My daughter found friends in a nearby family compartment. There were three children all around her age. They played happily until it was dinner time. Lisa and I went to the dining car for our evening meal, which was not really great. By the time it was dark, we were well inland. At bedtime, my daughter wanted to sleep in the upper bunk. We both loved the way we train swayed over the tracks to put us to sleep. By the time we were up and dressed in the morning, we were close to our destination. We both had a wonderful time and became lifelong lovers of trains.

Laineshots said...

My favorite train trip is going to be the one my husband and I take in April, as a result of this blog! Thanks to all of you, I found, to my surprise, that Amtrak still does have dining cars on most long-distance trains. This has always been my dream, and I thought I'd missed my chance, that it was a thing of the past. When I read differently today...I cried. Is that silly? My sweet husband didn't think so, and now we have reservations! Lorna, thank you SO much.

signlady217 said...

I know my mom and her sister made a train trip to Illinois just a couple of years ago to visit their brother and they loved it. Mom wants another train trip now!

Nancy said...

I loved reading about all the train rides. It brought back memories, although I haven't had nearly as much experience on trains. The one real train trip I had was almost 40 years ago with my mother and two young daughters. It was only about 400 miles long from my mom's home in Ontario to ours in Michigan but it was perfect. My experience flying isn't much either, but that didn't hold any fond memories at all.

Lorna, you sent me five bookmarks and I got them yesterday. Thank you so much! They're beautiful!

Rita B said...

I've never been on a train trip but I do want to take that ride. My dealings with trains is from my days of living in the U.P. We owned a resteraunt and the train track ran east/west just across the road north of us. When it would go by the building would do a slow shake and seeing how my room (teenager time) was in the attic, I felt it move more than anyone else. Also the train would pull all the way thru to the caboose and drop the guys off and then pull ahead and the guys from the engine would get off and they would cross the road and come to eat! What fun and what great memories.

ev said...

I love the train.

Hubby and I took the train to Disney from Albany a couple years ago over Xmas. We had a cabin and just sat and relaxed the whole time. It was wonderful. My mom and our daughter had another. I don't think anyone talked except at meals. We either read, slept or watched movies. I think it was the best trip I have taken, with other people. We are thinking about taking it from CA back to NY sometime, although that involves a lot of changes and buses.

I used to take the train from Syr to Albany all the time until I finally married and moved here.

@Lainshots- make sure you get one of the cabins that has a separate toilet and not the smallest ones they have- the potty is actually right next to the lower bunk and there is no privacy in the room from your "bunkmate".

Heather said...

I too love traveling by train. My first trip was across the south of Norway when I was 17, from Oslo down through Kristiansand and up to Egersund, a journey of about 8 or 9 hours, and then the reverse trip a couple months later. I loved it!

I've only had two much shorter train trips since, from Paris to Versailles (and back) when I was 18, and then Milwaukee to Chicago (and back) mid-20s. I really wish this country would take a page from our European and Asian friends and re-establish rail corridors.

We were supposed to get a high-speed train from Madison to Milw. (which would then connect us to other big cities), but our IDIOT of a new governor just squashed the project (losing a good 3,000 jobs in the process).

I read THE CHRISTMAS TRAIN by David Baldacci over the holidays, which has me both longing to take a cross-country train trip and despising the new governor all over again for his short-sightedness (all I can say is, I didn't vote for him!).

Also wondering, have you seen the PBS special aired this past summer, David Suchet On the Orient Express? It was wonderful!

Linda said...

I've watched David Suchet on the Orient Express at least six times! It's wonderful and I feel like I'm there with him.

Liz N. said...

My grandfather loved trains, and lived on a hillside that overlooked a valley with a train track running through it. Big family gatherings were pretty popular as I was growing up, and early childhood memories are punctuated by my grandfather calling "Train! Train!" when he heard the whistle in the distance. All of the cousins would run/walk/toddle to the fence at the edge of the property to watch the train go by. Now that my grandfather has passed away, I still smile whenever I hear a train. I like to think of it as him checking in and assuring us that he and Gram are well. =-)

ferienhäuser costa brava said...

I also love to visit the local destinations in a country by a train...Because it gives a great chance to watch the place from so closely...Recently i was in Thailand,where i pick a train to Bangkok and you can't believe me that,it gives me a great chance to see the natural landscapes on the way....

hatfieldtiffany75 said...

My nephew Brayden, he is 3 years of age and will be turning 4 in May. He absolutely loves trains. It started out with Thomas and Friends and Polar Express. He is obsessed with them. We figured it would be a phase because it started when he was 2 but he adores them. We want to take him to meet the real Thomas Train when it comes to Ky but it really wouldn't matter to him; he would love to ride one.


My walk way that goes down a hill to my house is made up of rairoad ties with gravel in the middle and when he came over one day(he was about 2)he said TT you got railroad tracks. Adorable!!