Tuesday, November 11, 2008

By Train

My father was a railroad man and I grew up traveling by train. The romance of this form of transportation was not lost on me. Even as a little girl, I knew the cavernous halls of the towering terminal station held special, unique wonders and I loved it all with such a passion. With ceilings so high they might as well have been sky itself... mesmerizing echoes of the varied voices of porters, travelers, ticket takers... mingling aromas of coffee, leather, diesel - the colours, the movement, the sounds, the smells- to me it was all a whirling blur of excitement and delight. How well I remember descending those crowded staircases that led down to the train platforms where deafening, almost frightening, noise met glorious anticipation in waiting for my train to arrive. And then... “Do you see it??" Around the curving track, here it came, thrillingly loud, colossal, slowly screaming to a halt at my feet. The fairy tale arrival of a magic carpet could not have been more wonderful. I remember the feel of the soft wool blankets the porter would tuck around my shoulders on cold days as well as my nervy apprehension when moving from one car to another as I made my way for hot chocolate in the dining carriage, with the raucous wind whipping round me and the inevitable childish worry....what if I fall???? Trains have the luxury of traveling through countryside unseen by roadways and winter trips were often spent with my nose pressed against cold window glass as I counted grey squirrel nests in tall, naked trees, while summer excursions gently swayed along through ever lengthening tunnels of green. Is it any wonder so many novels feature train travel? Is there any more evocative mode of transportation known to man?
Sadly, passenger trains have all but disappeared in this country. But happily, they still remain in force in the United Kingdom, where traveling by train is one of the joys of my visits there. The last long journey I made by train was a nighttime trip from Inverness to Edinburgh,
And oh, it did not disappoint.