Ode To A Train Whistle.

"Pardon Me Boy..."

Greetings again friends and great to be here.

For some reason and at my age (57), many memories are flooding back to me from when I grew up in a small city in Maritime Canada. One of those persistent memories involves trains and how our whole lives revolved around them.

I was raised in a train environment: my father worked for the national railway, as did his father,
my father's brothers, and so on. And lot of my friends fathers worked within the train industry as well. It was just the way it was here with long-term steady employment and where they rolled up the carpets every Friday at 5 PM. Life was pretty simple here.

I was born in 1954 and my father didn't get a car until 1967. I think we were the only ones on the block without a vehicle.*s Thus, we had two modes of transportation: walking, or take the train, the latter of which we did a lot.

I have many fond memories of train travel and to this day, still relish and enjoy the aspects and atmosphere of trains. Everyday at noon and at 4PM, the horn from the local train repair facility would sound like clockwork, signalling lunch or end of day. I've traveled all across Canada and back again by train, took the train for local visits, rode the train to get to university later on, slept (or NOT slept) many an overnight on them, and later was able to visit the 'bar-car' to 'smooth' out the sometimes-rough rides. And, we used to put pennies on the track just before the train arrived to see what effect a mega-ton monster would have on them as it rolled over them. You guessed it -- very 'flattening' experience indeed and the pennies ended up as thin as tin foil.

For me, trains were next to life itself as I was growing up. I was always in awe about their size, power, length, noise and you never knew who you'd meet upon boarding. They had the red caboose at the end but later abandoned that portion as really non-essential. I've been able to sit right beside the engineer and watch how he drove it, with the foot on the pedal and manipulating the other operational controls. Try to do THAT in these days of enhanced security and such...probably not going to happen.

Then, something happened to train travel and to this day, I'm not quite sure what it was. However, I think it was the advent of cheaper cars (enabling more to purchase one), better and more roads, and the increased and faster pace of society. For all all the beauty and romance surrounding trains and train travel, they were still tediously slow to arrive, relatively expensive for the times, and thin on services. If you wanted a sandwich or drink or something, it was quite a chore to dig those things up on a train at 10PM at night, in the middle of nowhere. Today, we have lots of four-lane highways, cheap and fast little cars, and you can stop virtually anywhere for coffee, snacks at the fast-food, big-name places, and use the washroom. If you've never traveled on a train, there was nothing like squeezing into a closet-sized bathroom for use. For a man, it sometimes was quite a chore where the car was rocking in all directions -- they had handles in there for 'stability'...*s

And the whistle - two longs, a short, and a long signalling the approach to a crossing. That sequence was industry standard for train whistles as far as I know. However, there was something about the whistle that generated certain feelings inside; when you heard it, you could judge about how far away the train was by the volume, and it also gave me that Maritime sense of home. Even if the track was close to your home, and they would blow the whistle at crossings at 2AM, you could sleep through it. Just that comfy feel, I guess.

I don't hear the trains and whistles too much anymore. They dismantled the CNR factory in my home town and train travel has taken a backseat to other things over the decades. People got more impatient to get where they were going and made other arrangements. Life just got quicker.

I miss train travel and I think my oldest daughter and son are the only ones of our four children to have ever ridden on a train. However, I am going to try and see if I can free up the time and resources to let the other kids experience it.

Sigh -- my mom chucked out my Lionel, figure "8" train set when she was 'cleaning up' downstairs one day. I asked later and she said "Oh,,,you're older now and it was just in a box taking up space..." Hmmm -- loved that set. Had a little transformer to hook wires under the metal track and you could adjust the speed. Collectors would cry for an original Lionel set these days...

Trains, and boats and planes...*s

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