Love Letter to a Train by Lois Hewitt

I still can’t believe that I used to work on a train. I was not an engineer or conductor, but a server for guests. It has been a few years since I have done that, but I already look back on the time with nostalgia in my heart.

I always said it was the hardest job I ever loved. If you have ever been a server just imagine doing it on a constantly moving train. Once you got used to it, it really wasn’t that difficult.

History never really interested me until I started working on a train. Some of the passenger cars dated back to the 1920s. The engines were from WWII. I used to imagine train travel back in the day. Slow and romantic.

Since I worked on a scenic railroad, our speed did not top 19 miles an hour. On one particularly difficult bend we would slow to a crawl as to not derail. Imagine going 15 miles an hour in today’s world! It took guests a while to acclimate to the idea of slowing down. Many learned to enjoy the pace.

The idea of slowly moving through the scenery, crossing tressel bridges, following rivers, and stepping back in time were the gifts the train gave to her guests. As I learned more and more about trains, she became a living thing to me and the others I worked with.

Imagine building these gigantic mechanical beings by hand with materials made by hand. The depth and scope I cannot imagine. Every detail celebrated by workers who took pride in providing a new, at the time, means of moving people and products from place to place.

The train saved entire communities by bringing much need supplies during times of distress. It also allowed people to move whether searching for opportunities or enjoying a pleasure trip, the train was the mode of desired transportation.

Close your eyes for a moment and feel the gentle rocking of the train car. Perpetual motion. Listen to the melody of the wheels running along the track, metal on metal yet somehow soothing. Windows down, the smell of smoke from the steam engine, the smell of trees as you slowly move past them fill your lungs and your imagination. It was glorious!

There were several cars and we would be assigned different cars each time we worked. As I worked there longer, I got to know the personality of each car. It didn’t seem possible that could be, but it was. Each car had a distinct character, set of likes and dislikes and set a tone for the days travel.

This was hard work and could be pretty dirty at times. But the people who worked with me loved the train as much if not more than I did. The experience of being in the company of this group of people has forever touched my soul.

My time was too short riding the rails. My age ended up getting the better of me. I do not think a day passes when, even for one moment, I don’t think about my step back in time on the train.

A cargo train runs regularly near where I live and work today. When I hear the distant sound of a whistle blow… I stop for a moment. My heart beats a little faster. I start to feel the ground as it shakes from the raw power of the diesel engine. The sounds get louder and for that brief second as the train passes I am transported back. Oh how I miss you Girl!

I love the train itself, the people who also love the train and I love the idea of it. What this crazy world needs is to slow the pace in which we all live. We need to relearn how to drink in the surroundings and enjoy the beauty that is missed in our daily lives. We need to open our imaginations to a different time.

I know the history of the train system isn’t pretty. Dirty deeds were done and people used to forward the progress. That is a sad fact. But the train also saved people. Saved them from poverty and famine. It allowed people to fulfill their wanderlust and create new lives in new places. The train, literally, changed the world as it was known then.

She forever changed me as a person. Her imprint is a permanent mark on my soul. I will never forget those heady days, those tiring days and those days filled with adventure. Oh how I miss that Girl!


One comment

  1. Well said and well written! I have taken 2 different train routes out west. (the Empire Builder and the Southwest Chief) Take your time to see America. I have one yet to do, the Zephyr, which was the original Transcontinental train route.

    You meet America on a train, all sorts of folks and all friendly (as my experiences were) Great memories.


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