Beacause trains are cool.

My roots are rural.  I grew up in the Midwest.  My father’s father was a train engineer, as his father was before him.  My grandfather builds, repairs, and shows antique engines.  These are the deep-digging elements of my life, and yet I am rarely aware of them.  It’s not good for a growing tree to expose its roots repeatedly in a short period of time.  Generally I leave them covered, and they support and secure me, but once in awhile I’m tempted to wiggle my buried toes, as it were.

That’s what sparked my heart in this article about railfans.  There’s something poetic about the movement of freight trains through the countryside.  The sound, the vibration and rhythm, are something of a siren call to our history, to the formation of the United States, to our memory of a simpler, though still vigorous, time.  I love the image of it.  People paint pictures and sing songs and write poems and stories about it.  There’s something there.   So why haven’t I ever ridden a long-distance passenger train in the US?  Why don’t we have easy, fast, reliable cross-country service?  Are the States really that broad?  Are we holding onto the nostalgia of slower frieght trains to tight?  Or do trains only hold our fond memories, not our current trends?  The last I would hope is not true.

Advertisements