When I was very young I would awaken each day to the early morning sounds of distant train whistles.
A haunting and romantic memory.
When I was still quite young my Mom & Dad bought a ticket at the train depot downtown. With that one ticket they put me, all alone, on a train. Smiling, they watched as the train I was on began moving down the track. I could see them in the distance behind me getting into our family car and driving away. To my surprise, they were at the very next train station in the very next town, waiting for me, still smiling.
On one of our early trips through Germany, when I was only six years of age, and my dad was seventy-two, at each railway stop Dad would challenge me to a race across the station platform to a bright distant candy machine. Even though I was quite young I could never outrun him. There, Dad would insert a couple of German Marks, and a wrapped caramel would fall into my hand. Together we’d walk back to the train eating our candy. Mom never the wiser.
A bit older, Mom and I frequently would take the train from Florida up to New York, where we’d board an ocean liner to Europe. Once, when only ten, while stepping off the train in the New York station, I mis-stepped, and fell down between the cabin and the platform. Landing, with a painful thud, on my back on the railway track. I can still see that large Black conductor in his bright red conductor’s uniform reaching his massive hand down between the train car and the concrete landing to where I lay sprawled on the track, lifting me up to safety. Saving my life. I spent the rest of that day being spoiled with cokes, candy and TV in our Algonquin hotel room.
At the age of sixteen I stepped onto a train in Paris, all by myself, and headed down to Spain. Reaching the border a menacing man in a serious uniform with a large wooden paddle stormed through each cabin, hitting the seats, chasing all of us who lingered too long off the train. I found myself after dark in a border town, walking I knew not where along a dark complicated set of train tracks. Until I saw a hotel all lit up like a wondrous imaginary oasis. A large buxom female manager caught sight of me from behind the hotel’s registrar desk. Immediately she came out to give me a great big hug, lifting me off the ground. Arranging for my room, she asked what I wanted for dinner. “Dos Pepsi’s.” I replied. I fell asleep that night talking to myself in the mirror in my hotel room with a massive complex layout of railway tracks heading in every direction just outside my window. I fell asleep in some distant hotel, in some distant border town, somewhere between France and Spain. Listening to distant train whistles from the north, from France, and from the south, from Spain.
I’ve ridden on trains in which I’ve shared incredible conversations with strangers I would never meet again. I’ve flirted with, and been flirted with. And sometimes I’ve just held a cup of coffee in my hand inside the club car, as I gazed outside at the world passing by, letting my mind drift for hours and hours and hours.
I share these moments because I’m certain we each have our own ‘train stories’ that are endearing personal memories.
Today each morning when I awaken I still hear those whistles from the trains that cross the bridge just down the river that runs by my house. The same house where I was born and raised. Sounds that are still both haunting and romantic. And, even, quite mysterious. And those whistles make me wonder, what’s my next adventure . . .
~ Mr Model ~
Hoping to catch a train…