National Geographic: Love Those Trains


Sometimes is has seemed

that railroads were doomed.

The Durango-Silverton railroad

is one of the most spectacular rides

in the world.

In 1960, it was nearly shut down.

In 1883, the Orient Express ran

from Paris to Istanbul

created the ultimate in luxury travel.

It was abandoned in 1977.

In 1887, rotary snow plows first fought

the snow drifts in the High Sierras.

Looking like relics

they seem improbable holdovers

from the past.

Once this streamlined locomotive

hauled passenger trains

at 100 miles an hour.

But for 20 years,

it sat outside a museum,

its machinery rusting.

Yet today

these trains still run the rails.

Now they evoke a more remote past

when trains first

bridged the continent,

Ferried recruits to war

provided celebrities with an opportunity

to be seen and a chic way to travel,

gave a mobile campaign platform

to politicians,

and offered a refuge for hoboes.

Train tracks disfigure

the countryside

Trains assault the senses with

brutal noise and begrime the air.

How then account for the multitude

of people who love trains?

When you're actually running a train,

you just can't get enough.

I don't know.

Maybe I'm just a junkie for trains.

But that's about it.

I bought a caboose back in the '50s

because I was busy riding trains

in the '50s.

And suddenly I read in the paper one day

where trains were going to go out.

All passenger trains

would be taken off.

And I knew unless I got a piece of ride

on the train again.

So that's when I bought my caboose

and put it in my yard.

There are grown men who ride toy

steam trains at a mountain retreat.

There are train buffs

who choose to ride

through South America's Andes

on a baggage rack.

There's town in Iowa

that honors hoboes,

and there are thousands

of young people competing

for the chance to engineer a train.

There are people who harken

to the lonesome whistle blowing

and the clickety-clack

of wheels on rails.

Theirs is a worldwide fraternity

with no membership requirements

beyond sharing in the love of trains.

You've got a sheet like this

and it tells you

who's sitting in every seat,

and every seat is assigned, and...

There are many people so enamored

of trains that they take trains,

not to go anywhere,

but just for the pleasure of riding.

Each year the North Alabama

Railroad Club sponsors

an all-day excursion on a

Norfolk Southern steam train.

Seats are always sold out

and there's even competition

for a chance to work on the engine.

Bill Hayslip is a deputy sheriff,

and he loves trains so much that

he volunteers on his day off

for the dirtiest job

in railroading-apprentice fireman.

I've studied steam engines just

about all my life.

I guess I was born about

There's something about a steam

locomotive and railroad

that's just romantic.

A steam engine kind of has

its own personality.

It's like a lady.

You have to treat it just right.

Steam engines evoke

a special affection.

Though inanimate objects

of iron and steel,

they seem to breathe

with the fire of life.

This day the train will run to

Chattanooga, Tennessee,

evoking cherished memories

of a popular song.

I've often wondered

if I was maybe one of those people

that had trains

in my bolld or something.

Some people have alcohol,

I have trains.

I have spent the whole day

in Birmingham

just to see the two trains

go through town.

My wife thins that's crazy,

but, you know, it's a thrill for me.

Part way through the trip,

the train comes to a stop

in an open field.

Now begins the prized ritual

of the steam train excursion.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "National Geographic: Love Those Trains" STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 31 Mar. 2023. <>.

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