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The Tracks Of My Years

Earlier this week Jayne at injaynesworld was talking about trains. She was talking about how President Obama was committing millions of dollars to build a high-speed train service. We don't have a high-speed train service in Canada. Some would argue we don't even have moderate-speed service but that's a subject for another time.


Jayne's story got me thinking about my childhood and the role trains played in it. For example, I remember as a kid getting a Lionel train set for Christmas one year. Lionel made smaller, "O gauge" trains and I recall subsequently adding to the set and spending hours and hours playing with it on the floor. I wasn't the only Lionel fan. Singer Neil Young apparently has a huge collection of Lionel trains and used to be a minority shareholder in the company.

I also recall my friend's father driving us - what seemed like miles - to the train tracks to watch freight trains go by. We'd lay down a couple of pennies on the track and then we'd wait what seemed like hours and then wave at the engineer and count the boxcars. Then we searched for our flattened pennies. Hey, this was quite an exciting activity for a couple of 7 year-olds.

A few years later my father, a federal public servant, was transferred from Toronto to Ottawa and, not owning a car, the family took the train. We had our own room and for a 10 year old it was like living in the lap of luxury.


Later, in grade school in Ottawa, my buddies and I used to hop trains on the track that ran behind the school. Lord knows what we were thinking. When we got caught we were told stories of kids falling and getting their legs or arms or even heads severed beneath the train's wheels. That put us off hopping trains.

But it didn't put us off hanging around the train tracks. At around the same time my buddies, the same reprobates I think, and I used to walk down the street from the school at lunch hour and duck under the train trestle where we'd eat our lunch, shoot the shit and smoke. Yep, I had my first cigarette by the train tracks.


Maybe that's why I liked the movie Stand By Me. The film was based on a Stephen King short story about a group of kids who go on a trip down the train tracks in search of the body of another kid who got struck by a train. It was one of those coming of age stories. I and my buddies walked plenty of railway tracks, although we never found a body. But seeing that film as an adult brought all those memories flooding back.

And that pretty much sums up my childhood relationship with trains. Thankfully, since then I haven't strayed too far off the beaten track.

Comments

Cruella Collett said…
Thanks for sharing your train of thought - it was a nice ride. I think there should be more trains in the world - it would make me happy (even if I am slightly derailed).
nonamedufus said…
Cruella: I'm speechless. You've out-punned me. Yeah, trains are the "ties" that bind.
Quirkyloon said…
Young boys still watch trains go by.

Nowadays they still do it, but in the safety of their home: video games. Oh, and they usually shoot things at it.

This was a sweet memory Nomie. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Linda Medrano said…
I remember as a child taking the train from San Francisco to Oklahoma City with my mother. My two sisters and I also had a "compartment" and thought it was very luxurious. The porter came in and put away our beds every day, and opened them up for us again at night. And there was a "dining car" that was as I recall pretty elegant.

But I never hung out around train tracks. I still don't. Pity. I may have missed something there!
nonamedufus said…
Quirks: Yeah, my memories are the real thing. Long before video games, for sure. I'm surprised I can remember, they were so long ago.
nonamedufus said…
Linda: I guess that means you didn't start smoking when you were eleven. By the way I quit about 15 years ago.
Leeuna said…
What a great stroll down memory lane. Thanks for sharing. I still live in the same neighborhood I grew up in and there is a railroad crossing just across the river from my house. I love to hear the trains at night. I think I'd be lost without that sound. I lived away for a few years and I never did get used to the quiet.
Murr Brewster said…
I know a few male adults who are still in love with trains. They're all brilliant and probably on the autistic spectrum somewhere, but they never smoked. I'm guessing you're not autistic, and I think it's the cigarettes that kept you social enough to blog. (I'm known for my scientific observations.)
Kelly said…
I still get a child-like thrill whenever I see trains. And of course I have to make the "Woo-woo!" sound.
Ziva said…
We didn't have trains in the town where I grew up, so it was always special when I got to ride the train to see grandma and grandpa. Yes, that's right, we do have trains in Finland.

I'm not sure they got the right kind though. It seems they got tropical weather trains when we really needed trains suited for a temperate climate. First hint of snow, cold, wind or rain they stop working and are 5 hours late.
00dozo said…
This reminded me of the time I lived right by Lock No. 7 on the Trent-Severn waterway for a few years and there was an abandoned railway line that ran across the river. The swing bridge for the train was still there and teenagers would jump off of the top of it into the canal which was about 25 feet below! Thankfully, no one was ever hurt.

The tracks were never removed and served as a nature and ATV trail in the summer and a snowmobile trail in the winter.
nonamedufus said…
Leeuna: Funny how the things we grew up with bring us so much comfort later in life.
nonamedufus said…
Murr Brwester: Glad you dropped by. You are indeed very observant. *cough, cough*
nonamedufus said…
Kelly: At my age I'm making the chugging sound and now and then I release some steam.
nonamedufus said…
Ziva: Count yourself lucky. We don't even need bad weather to make our trains late.
nonamedufus said…
00dozo: You make me think of when we visited family in Kelowna a few years back and we hiked through the nearby Myra Canyon. The big fires a few years back destroyed 12 trestles. But when we were there the trestles had been restored. You can bike or walk for miles and miles - oops I mean kilometres and kilometres. It really was a picturesque location.
Jen said…
My son had Thomas the Train, the wooden train set and he spent hours and hours playing with it. I spent a small fortune on those damn tracks but they kept him entertained. I think it's a boy thing for the most part. I put a penny on a train track once and was scared the authorities were gonna come and get me. Still have the penny somewhere. Loved Stand by Me.
nonamedufus said…
Jen: My eldest grandkid loved Thomas The Tank Engine. But watching it on TV wasn't enough. My daughter bought him the DVD so he could watch it whenever he wanted. At one point the show was voiced by Ringo Starr. Little guys just love trains, don't they.
Linda Medrano said…
At 11? Oh God Dufus no! I waited till the respectable age of 14 for my first cig.
nonamedufus said…
Linda: Oh, man, by 14 I was up to a pack a day!
Nicky said…
What lovely memories. I'm envious! We took the train a few times to visit my aunt in Connecticut, but I only have very hazy memories of it. Don't know why, but I always think of the WWII era when I think of trains. Seems like everybody then was getting on a train to somewhere.
nonamedufus said…
Nicky: Neat, eh, how just a word can trigger so many memories.
brookeamanda said…
There's a railroad running through the middle of my hometown and three people have been hit and killed by the trains going through. And...that's all I got!
K A B L O O E Y said…
I love trains, hate busses. Lots of good train trips. Lots of bad/scary bus trips. But I never got model train set, so never discovered their wonders. I think we had too small a place and too small a budget growing up.
nonamedufus said…
brooke amanda: Well, that was certainly an uplifting train story.
nonamedufus said…
KABLOOEY: So I guess you never rode any fright trains, then. hahaha
Rachele said…
I spent a good portion of my young 20's hanging with friends at the trestle near our house. We would grab a case of beer, walk out on the tracks and hang out 20 feet above the water on a 6x4 foot rickety, wooden platform and wait for the train to come rushing by. I always feared something flying off the track and penetrating a body so I usually remained stiffly BEHIND someone else. Good Times.
nonamedufus said…
Rachele: Haha, on the outside a reckless type but just a tad reserved on the inside, eh? Yeah, some of the things we did when we were younger.
Marie said…
My boys adored trains as children. Even to this day, though they are in their 30's, when I am stopped at the tracks I go to say "Look, choo choo train!!" Old habits die hard. lol
KiKi said…
Loved this! We used to go snowmobiling down by the train tracks when I was a kid. (No, really!)
nonamedufus said…
Marie: Yeah, you're right. Even today a train going by catches my attention. I kinda feel sad they did away with the caboose here in Canada. As kids we used to wait for the end of the train and wave at the guy in the caboose.
nonamedufus said…
KiKi: You were brave. So you left snowmobile tracks on the tracks then? Kinda redundant, no? Good thing you didn't discover first-hand that the light at the end of the tunnel was a train!
I wish more of us Americans used trains, at least here in California where the car is king and the auto industry purposely squeezed out train service and made sure nobody built any more tracks so that people would learn to love cars.

On Sunday, I am going to travel to San Francisco by TRAIN instead of by car just so I can experience no traffic and be able to relax instead of grit my teeth for 3 hours into the city.

Have you ever read Atlas Shrugged? Of course you haven't. No one in their right mind would. But I did. I ask because of the train thing in there.

Thank you for sharing your childhood memories, Dufus. It was one more wonderful piece of you we got to know.
J. Bear Savo said…
I sell a lot of trains at auction. It makes me smile when a bunch of middle-aged men show up and get into bidding wars while scowling at each other.
nonamedufus said…
Margaret: I don't think I've read Atlas Shrugged but it sure sounds familiar. I hope you enjoy your train trip. The last train trip I took was probably about 10 years ago from Ottawa to Montreal. It's great watching the countryside roll by without worrying about keeping your eyes on the road! I appreciate your kind words. Thanks.
nonamedufus said…
JBS: Do you think they're reaching back in time trying to hold onto their youth?
Linda Medrano said…
I remember as a child taking the train from San Francisco to Oklahoma City with my mother. My two sisters and I also had a "compartment" and thought it was very luxurious. The porter came in and put away our beds every day, and opened them up for us again at night. And there was a "dining car" that was as I recall pretty elegant.

But I never hung out around train tracks. I still don't. Pity. I may have missed something there!
Ziva said…
We didn't have trains in the town where I grew up, so it was always special when I got to ride the train to see grandma and grandpa. Yes, that's right, we do have trains in Finland.

I'm not sure they got the right kind though. It seems they got tropical weather trains when we really needed trains suited for a temperate climate. First hint of snow, cold, wind or rain they stop working and are 5 hours late.
Michael Wolfe said…
My mom claims my first word was "TRAIN!"


If I ever got super-rich, I would have a train set that ran the whole house ...
nonamedufus said…
Neil Young, who is super rich, owns a big portion of Lionel and has a huge train set running through one of his barns.

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