My path to and from school takes me alongside a train track and requires a cross over the track. Sometimes on the way to school there is a train passing by, sometimes there is one sitting on the track, blocking the crossing which causes me to have to detour. Coming home recently I had already crossed over and was driving parallel to the track. I was tired and ready to get home. There are a few street lights along this road, but there were no other cars so it was somewhat dimly lit. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a glimmer of light and a reflection type of light. When I glanced over I was excited to see an Amtrak train slipping by in the night. All too quickly it had passed and for once, I was disappointed that I hadn't been caught by a train! The sleek, silver body of the train slipped by quietly, car by car, like a ghost gliding through the night.
During those few seconds as the train and I passed each other I thought about travel on a train. I had a vision of quiet elegance and gentle swaying of the cars. I thought of the antique passenger cars that I've walked through in different locations. They were always "old" smelling and faded but I always imagined them as they were in their grander days. Some were beautiful private cars and others just plain and useful coach cars. And the reality is that although they were beautiful and comfortable they did not have air conditioning or heating. Steam locomotives were noisy and the soot from the coal covered everyone and everything. Still the elegance of a by gone era charms me.
The train was gone quickly but I drove the rest of the way home wondering what it was like to travel on a train and thinking of how much our world has changed. Train travel was the mode of transportation for so many years, now it is a novelty mode of transportation.