My Love Affair with Trains

Younger years

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Childhood fantasy just when you need it!

My Love Affair with Trains

I love trains! I have always been fascinated by them; the huge engines, the roar of their strength and the romance of places ‘out there’ that I had little prior knowledge of. Passenger trains, freight trains; to me, they are beautiful and enticing. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled this country on both as well as novelties such as the Skunk Train in N. California, the Wine Train in Napa, California and various other rides including the one at Knotts Berry Farm in Ca., as well as other theme parks across this nation.

Shortly after graduating high school, my two best friends and I decided to explore our West Coast on a dime. We had something of a plan, and very little cash but we were determined to have this experience before continuing our educations. Being young, naive and idealistic, we decided we’d get one way tickets on the local Southern Pacific locomotive which ran the length of the coastal areas of California, Oregon and Washington States feeling that our adventure would be easy; everything would fall into place. This was very exciting and we looked forward with much anticipation, to our trip.

Our destination was Seattle, Washington. Back then it was a 2+ day trip which included sleep overs on the train. We didn’t have enough money to pay for the sleeping quarters so we camped out on our chairs which were huge and comfy. Since the train wasn’t fully booked, we had all the room we needed to stretch out. The views out the big windows as the train traveled through cities and towns and up into the mountains were breathtaking. The sound of the train’s whistle as it echoed through canyons then, as now, stirred feelings of whimsy and mystery.

Rocking along for hundreds of miles with not a worry or care, our train chugged on towards our destination. Waking in the middle of the night to snow covered trees which were illuminated by moon shine was a most etherial, magical sight. I recall enjoying the fantasy of these images which stirred deep feelings of wonderment.

Our 3 day ride was reminiscent of my childhood when my older brother, Bill, and I would venture by train from Turlock, California to Napa, Ca. once a month for 9 months when I was a girl of nine years old.

As a young girl, my parents divorced; twice! The first time, I was six. My father and I had a great father-daughter relationship; the kind portrayed on the Hallmark Channel. I was the apple of his eye and he was my hero. During this first breakup, But, like all children who do not understand such things, I took the divorce personally; feeling that my father had 'left' me. So, when he reached out to me, I was cool, personified. Though my little heart was breaking and I missed my father terribly, I did not let him, or anyone else for that matter, know how deeply I was hurting. When my father called to talk to me, I’d respond with one word or, defiantly, silence. When my father said ‘goodbye, pumpkin, I love you,” and the phone line went dead, I’d cry myself to sleep, even if it was the middle of the day.

My parents remarried within 2 years of the first divorce, and our family stumbled along on shaky legs, destined to disintegrate in less than a year. This time, my mother met another man; a younger jewelry salesman who was on his way to California’s bread basket. They dated for a short while, a whirlwind courtship during which he wined and dined her and she felt loved. (Of course, this part of the story may be fodder for another chapter.)

Mom and Bob married in a small ceremony with just a few friends, my older brother, our grandmother and me. Soon, we were packed up and scuttled off to Turlock, California. In the eyes of a nine year old girl who had known nothing but the small town atmosphere of Napa, California, this strange new place seemed foreign and odd. My young world was limited so everything I encountered seemed so different; unfamiliar and therefore, I kept within myself for most of our stay there.

The relationship lasted nine months. But, those nine months were some of the most difficult I had ever spent. Being apart from my father was excruciatingly painful. I felt abandoned and at the same time, empty and scared. This was only worsened by the monthly weekends my brother and I were shipped back to Napa to spend with our father. Heading home to Napa, I felt jubilent, happy, even joyful. The ride back was just the opposite; terrible ! And repeating this over and over just cemented the remorse and gut wrenching sorrow I felt at my separation from my father.

The passenger train which picked us up in Turlock and deposited us in Rodeo, Ca. was our mode of travel. My mother dropped us off at the station with instructions given to the crew about our presence and ages and to watch over us at all times.

This was very much like cutting kids loose in the candy store. Excited and unrestrained, my brother, Bill, and I had the run of that train. And we were heading in the right direction…back to Napa and my father, which is where I always wanted to be. So the trip north to Napa was always greatly looked forward to, always enjoyed immensely and always a blast!

Thus my romance with trains began. For, even though this was a very difficult time in my life, the fascination of the train; this totally enchanting uniqueness served to take my mind off of my sorrow and, instead, actually filled those hours on the train with joy. Besides, I was going back to where I belonged; to be with my father and my home town.

My favorite car was the dome car, where refreshments were served and passengers could sit high above the rest of the car's seating, seeing things in an entirely new way, high and above it all. The windows curved up from mid wall and met in the middle of the ceiling. It was like riding the clouds; sometimes we were high up in the mountains where low skud clouds rested on ridge tops. We’d lay on our backs and watch high tree tops and low, misty fog enshroud us as we moved along.

Since we were unaccompanied by adults, we explored the length of the train, skipping between cars where we could clearly see the couplings which held one car to the next. Even though we knew that these were strong and sure, it was always a little scary to walk above them in the accordion like passageway between cars. It felt like being outside because the only thing separating us from the exterior was that thin, pleated fabric which allowed the cars movement right and left. The sharp whining of steel wheels on rail and and clang of couplings when they jostled oneanother as the train hurried along, added to the overall enticement of travel by train.

After having complete freedom of movement withing the train for a large part of the day, we arrived in Rodeo where my father awaited our smiling faces. And so began the start of a three day visit with my father. We stayed in my father’s hotel room, #207. These were the ‘glory days,’ the halcyon days of our happy childhood. All kinds of activities were planned for the three of us. When day two neared its end at dusk, my heart sank, my appetite disappeared and I became quiet, sullen, sad. I was leaving my father - again - and, in my child’s imagination, I thought I’d never see him - again.

The saving grace during these tragic moments in a little girl’s life was the train ride back to Turlock. Though my heart was breaking, I could not deny the allure of that train, those huge cars with the big reclining seats, the mysterious “sleeping cars” with private, curtained bunks and rooms with closed, locked doors. And the DOME CAR! For some reason, the kitchen crew and staff seemed to know how despondent I was which resulted in lots of treats and even more room to run free, undisciplined and wild.

The big, rhythmic, soothing hum of this magical vehicle helped to assuage my melancholy mood.

And so, these were the events which formed my fantasies of travel by train. The whimsical memories that color my younger years; years which were, at times, tumultuous and uncertain but, through those tear filled times, the train ride always softened the blow of departure making getting there as important as arriving there.

Next: Hopping Freight Trains in the U.S.A.

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Comments 31 comments

Lisa M Smith profile image

Lisa M Smith 5 years ago from Coupeville, WA

Awesome hub! I love trains as well. I used to take trips with my granny and great aunts to Nashville, TN from Florida during the summer. It was a blast!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 5 years ago from Oakley, CA

WOW! I, too, have had a lifelong fascination with trains, and love the Skunk Train and have once had the pleasure of the Wine train.

I also love Roaring Camp and Big Trees RR in Felton.

I have been in a 25+ year attempt at building an N-scale model railroad, but money always seems to be in the way.

Great hub! You certainly seem to be a kindred spirit.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

..choo choo choo choo choo ...........well I am a runaway train ....in love with your hubs ..... because I have a one track mind on a one way track!!!!!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Hey there, EMan..so sorry I haven't visited your great hub pages lately; I'll do my best to come by more often as I always enjoy your clever, creative ways.


romari profile image

romari 5 years ago from Heaven

I have never ride on a train..:(


Wendy S. Wilmoth profile image

Wendy S. Wilmoth 5 years ago from Kansas

You're in the right part of the country- I have never seen so many trains in my life!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

You are so right, Wendy. More often than not, on my way from the country 'farm' into town, I "get trained!" which means a train is crossing the one and only road into town and so I get to watch the cars go by, see the huge engines at the beginning and end of the long line of box cars, oilers, freight cars, flat cars and more. I love trains!


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

I rode trains in Germany, and used to do shipping with the Union Pacific railrods. Trains to me are like time machines. Time lays still, and your mind begins to wander and frolic. I love it. Can't wait to do it again one day.


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Augustine, your youth was very full of experience and newness, I bet. Living in Germany, traveling by train! Being a "military brat" probably introduced you to worlds most of us will never know. I love your description of trains..yes, this is my favorite mode of transportation. So much room to move w/in the car and between cars..beautiful views, a quiet ride..in areas unreachable by automobile..just magical. Fantasy ride! go grab that train, AA....don't wait too long. You know, many of my favorite movies take place on trains..the movement, the adventurous nature of travel by rail, the mystery of so many others on board who are with you but also, not with you as there is so much room in which to move...just magical. That's it!


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Windows to the soul there called, and other wonderful things for those who know how to read them. I was listening to a song by Journey(how appropriate) while reading this which only increased the ambient feel already beginning. Trains were majestic and a bit mysterious creations- from whence had they come- back then, especially for us children. Thoroughly enjoyed this ride with you, your friends and brother Lucky Cats.


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Alastar; you have commented with colorful prose..and you understand the beauty of the experience. Yes...watching an approaching train; imaginations filled with wonder and 'I wonder...!' Filled with anticipation..Brother Bill and I were little bundles of excitement ready to burst, even during the less happy moments. The train ride was my panacea..my escape and my saving grace. Something bigger than myself and ...just as you say...mysterious. I feel the same about the weather...I think I might write about that. thank you for the inspiration. Kathy


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hello, LuckyCats...I thought I would repay some of your extensive kindness you have shown me in the past seven months that Ive been on hubs, by surprising you with this reading of this fine hub and this visit. I voted up and away on this train hub. Not only do I love cats, but trains as well. Never got to ride one. Yet. Gimme time. And I am thankful to have you follow me. This will never be forgotten. Have a Merry Christmas you and yours and your lovely cats. Your friend for life, Kenneth


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Hi Kenneth. I'm so glad you liked this hub..I used to love hopping freight trains as well as riding the passenger rail along California's coast line. So very cool as a child and young adult. It's been a while since I've been on any type of train..just novelty and excursion rides such as the N. Calif. Skunk Train. So glad to see you here. My sincere apology for not visiting your fabulous pages much recently. I am no longer online at home...as I'm trying to uproot from SE Kansas in my efforts to return to my Calif. home...so I've cut all additional and not absolutely necessary expenses in attempts to lower costs. So, sadly, I haven't had the time to read so much of my favorite writers' work. I always DO enjoy your "take" on life...such a great way to laugh and enjoy.

A very Merry Christmas to You and Yours! Kathy


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dear LuckyCats/Kathy, thank you so much for your sweet reply. I know that feeling--cutting back. The economy has got to be better or this country is in deep trouble, or rather, deepER trouble. And I understand completely for not seeing you around. I know that feeling too....busy and no time to get it all done, but listen, do NOT forget me and PLEASE, stay in touch with ME. I would really love for you to correspond with me. Okay? Thanks and have a Great Christmas!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Ahhhhh, Kenneth. You're such a sweetie. What a wonderful comment. Love it and thank you so very much.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hi, Lucky Cats, on 12/13/2011...you are welcome. And you are the SWEETIE, for the great work of compassion you do for my favorite "friend," the cat. I even love tigers and lions too, but cannot afford or keep them where I live. What a shame. I wish you a safe and wonderful day and please write me anytime you like. YOU are a good girl, Lucky Cats. Sincerely, Kenneth


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Keeneth, what a wonderfully kind and sweet person you are. And, your favorite "friends" are....cats....that's batting 1000 ! I shall do my best to catch up and keep up w/our HP's friendship! Kathy


gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City

I live right next to some railroad tracks and hear the trains all the time. My mother and I took the Amtrack train to Las Vegas years ago. It was kind of fun, though. They had an observation car which was really neat, and we saw a lot of mountains. Your hub was very interesting. Its hard when people get divorced. My mother was divorced in 1956, along time ago, for sure.


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Hi Gail! Traveling by train is so cool! You are right, there are so many areas that trains pass through which are so far off the 'beaten path.' I loved hopping freight trains as well as traveling by passenger train. It was a huge part of my younger years. I hadn't seen this hub in a long time; thank you for recalling these memories. Kathy


gail641 profile image

gail641 4 years ago from Mason City

Hi Kathy, It was fun riding on Amtrak years ago. There sure are a lot of trains around. Your welcome. Gail.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dearest Lucky . . .one more time with great respect, "my love for trains is equalled by your talent for explaning them. Safe Labor Day and do write me often, Lucky. You are a very, very dear friend and so talented that I get envious."

Love you Dearly, Cats.


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Kenneth, my dear. You make me laugh, you make me think, you make me wonder, consider and ponder...I am very very floored by your kind support...and I return the feelings to you. What a great writer you are...and this makes your sweet comment so appreciated. You are so kind and so genuine...Kathy


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dearest Lucky Cats, Sept. 5, 2012, 11:41 a.m., cdst,

No, you are a "dear," Lucky. Your personality shows in your writing as well as your passion. Only a selecte few can see the author and their words at the same time. I humbly confess, I am in that group. And I cannot tell you just how MUCH you have helped me; cheered me up and the days you have made for me just by being Lucky Cats, a most-caring, dear, and wonderful girl. God bless you now and forever.

Your Confidant and Friend as Long as I Live . . .

Kenneth


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

We have a mutual admiration society of two, Kenneth. Thank you so so much....your words have made my day....one in which kind words offer a world of emotional help and support. I return the sentiment. Kathy


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dearest Lucky . . .that may be true, but I am thankful to have YOU in my life although only seen in this venue. But keep writing these great hubs. I LOVE them. And you.

You are a unique girl and a rare commodity of a writer.

KENNETH


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Thank you so much Kenneth.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Dearest Lucky . . .YOU are always welcome. And do not forget me in your writings, comings and goings . . .I get to missing you and your sweet comments so much that I get chronically-depressed. NO JOKE. Just sharing that with you. Be safe and thanks ever so much for being in my life.

KENNETH


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Kenneth, if life were as overwhelmingly supportive as your comment is, this would be heaven on earth....let's pay it forward and spread the love. Thank you so much. I am far behind in my return greetings as I am rarely online these days...much to do in the physical world..which takes time from the virtual one. Thank you so much, my friend. Kathy


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Lucky Cats . . .

I realize that sometimes I do two things: 1. Go overboard by supporting artists such as yourself and 2. Become guilty too of not paying it forward as I should. As for your heaven on earth, it would be with PEOPLE such as yourself, Kathy.

I mean it.

Love ya, KENNETH :)


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 4 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California Author

Awwwww...thank you, Kenneth..I am sorry to be so late in replying; Al and I have been setting up our organization sites for Lucky Cat. So, I've been absent for quite a while. Sincerely appreciate your kind words and heart, Kenneth; and I totally understand your sentiment. Kathy


Kenneth Avery 4 years ago

Lucky, YOU are much-welcome. I am so blessed at having you in my life, although "just" in HubVille. Hey, I could write a hub, "Easy Ways to Hobo a Train in 2012," and jump off the train near your hometown. I could then call you from jail and you could bring me a hot bowl of soup. Veggie, if you have some.

Then I'd smile and say, "Kenneth Avery, sorry for my appearance."

Then you would look stunned and reply,

"it IS you. Say, uh, tell me, uhhh, how did you get here?"

I would then wink and say, "magic."

Wow what an idea.

Talk to you soon, Lucky,

KENNETH

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