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Romance of rail still beckons

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Carol Edwards grew up a railroader's daughter and often traveled by train. She visited a railroad museum on vacation and the memories came flooding back.
Submitted photo Carol Edwards grew up a railroader's daughter and often traveled by train. She visited a railroad museum on vacation and the memories came flooding back.

School is back in session, which means teachers are scrambling to fit everything into a crowded day and students are getting accustomed to hearing that word homework.

For most of us, it means vacations are put off for another year, or at least until that first break hits sometime in October. Despite the hectic pace of fall, there is one trip that beckons me nearly every day — catching a train to Anywhere, USA.

I grew up as a railroader’s daughter. My father was an engineer for decades, and the love of trains still pulses within me. In today’s fast-paced world where kids are tied to video games or texting or emailing, I can’t help but think of what an incredible adventure they may have missed out on by not riding a train.

As a kid, I remember riding in the sleeper car with my mother and sister as we left the confines of Detroit to head home. Somehow, a mistake had been made in our sleeping quarters, and the three of us found ourselves crowded onto a tiny bed that was not much larger than a cot. We jostled from side to side, listened to the hum of the wheels on the tracks, awakened to every lurch, yet loved every minute of it.

My fondest memory, however, was climbing aboard a train bound for St. Louis on a Girl Scout trip, and knowing my dad was the engineer. I can still see his white t-shirt hanging out the window of the engine as the train slowly inched its way around a bend.

Even now, when I lie awake at night, I often hear the train running through the Center Grove area. That mournful whistle is somehow comforting to me and makes me smile. I often hear the sound of the train’s whistle echoing through the hills of Brown County at our little cabin and wonder how many deer have leaped off of the tracks just in time.

I must admit I don’t love to fly. I am a bit biased about riding on the train and love sharing that experience with my family. Riding through the Sierra Nevada and gazing at the beauty of the land or taking a ride to Alaska where the splendor seizes your breath — just the thought makes me want to book a ticket now. Watching the engine meander around the curve always makes me wonder what incredible sights are just ahead.

Although those long trips might be out of the question, a shorter and more economic trip is easily available for those who want to climb aboard the old train for a tiny look back into time. Gone are the days when trains ran every hour or so and Union Station in Indianapolis was the busiest hub in the Midwest, with the exception of Chicago.

Instead, train enthusiasts can board Amtrak’s Hoosier State train at Union Station around

6 a.m. and return back to Indy at nearly midnight. The fare varies, depending on how many people have purchased tickets. Lots of other destinations can be booked out of Chicago for the traveler who is not in a big hurry.

The next time you see a train or hear its melancholy whistle in the distance, just imagine what it would be like to climb aboard, enjoy an apple from the dining car and gaze out its windows at the fleeting countryside. Trains are an impressive part of our history, and it is grand to know we can still be part of that tradition.

Destination, Anywhere, USA! All aboard!

Carol Edwards is retired after a 30-year career teaching elementary school students at at Greenwood schools. Send column ideas to newstips@dailyjournal.net.

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