Trains are my first love. When I was just five years old, I remember my Uncle, who lived in the big city of New York, stepping off the train at an Amtrak station to visit his nieces and nephews in the countryside. He brought with him sophistication, excitement and presents, of course. When it was time for him to leave, he would temper our tears with a penny, placed strategically on the track. When his train was gone, with him in it, we had a slick, coppery, jewel-like reminder of his visit.
At 21 years old I found myself wanting to travel across country to my friend’s West Coast wedding. Planes scared me, plain and simple. And were expensive. But for $325 I could get what is now called an Explore America Pass and make three stops within 30 days. I was gone for three weeks. Coach class of course, no sleeper car for me. I did this again at age 25. I could go on about my travels. The poem at the end of this post about sums up my adventures on the railroad.
In those days, my photos were taking from inside the moving cars, with my SLR film camera. The photo albums are somewhere… Now, I can only fantasize about hopping a train, unless I am taking the obligatory trip from Rhinecliff to Havre de Grace by way of Penn Station to see family. So I console myself with a new hobby: chasing trains.
I also work closely with a group of rail advocates dedicated to keeping the rails of Ulster County, the Catskills, NY State and beyond in place. Once the rails are removed from a rail corridor (for trails, lets say) the ROW disappears, as does any future possibility of rail transportation ever again. For more information on the battle to keep the rails in place:
Visit/Donate – Ulster & Delaware Railway Revitalization Corp
AMTRAK – a poem
Sometimes, I wish I had stayed in St. Paul after that stolen kiss
with my crystal flute playing friend.
But I would have missed my one night in New Orleans:
arriving late to a B & B and hanging on the porch,
dripping of sweat and the blues.
I would have missed
the first barista-made coffee,
Snicker-flavored and impossible to resist
while strolling the art-laden sidewalks of Portland.
Then, there was Dallas.
I never got his name, but that two-steppin cowboy
floated me across the Red River dance floor…
he made me forget all about my broken heart…
for three minutes, maybe four.
And El Paso, make me smile.
gazing across the Rio Grande for a while,
so close to romance with the conductor of a train…
But no, I had to hop a bus to Tucson,
weave my rented Chevy through Sedona,
to stand glorious and triumphant on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
All this after my night spent on the wooden bench,
a depot in San Antonio, listening to the thunder roll from the storm
that left me delayed and betrayed,
BUT, I was in Texas, so I almost stayed…
And never will I forget that ride along the rails of the Pacific coast.
Landing in Sacramento, with only my camera and clothes,
standing at the Hard Rock Cafe,
staring at the giant spinning guitar.
That sidewalk singer,
I swore he called out my name.
Until this day,
I wonder if I should’ve stayed
Just stopped right there, started life anew.
This I often wonder…
And then, I say, no!
None of these places,
these cities, these towns would ever do.
Because not one
held the sweet promise of you.