Life By The Rails

-Then and Now-

by Benjamin Clark

Sometime long ago, a young boy would often stand in front of a fence by the railroad tracks, as he waited for that familiar sound; the sound of a mighty steam locomotive chugging down the tracks. He would wait for a moment, until finally he could see the smoke appear on the horizon. As it got closer, he could hear it faintly chugging down the line. The chugging grew louder as it began to pick up speed. The ground began to shake, and the mighty freight train was now much closer! The boy smiled as steam hissed from the cylinders, and the thick black smoke covered a portion of the sky. The ground shook even more suddenly a loud blast of the whistle echoed as it filled the countryside with its mournful sound! The huge train quickly passed by hissing steam as the boy watched the rail road cars flash across from his view. Now the train was completely out of sight, and the smoke grew smaller and smaller until it was no longer visible. From that day forward, the boy would wait again and again by the railroad tracks, waiting patiently for the next train.

Many years later, an old man visited the fence by the railroad tracks. He waited patiently for a train to appear in sight. He waited and waited. He did not see any smoke billowing high in the sky, and he did not hear the chugging of a mighty steam engine. Instead, he saw a more modern, quieter type of train. It hummed calmly along the rails, as the ground began to shake. As the train got closer to him, it picked up speed! Suddenly, he heard a loud sound but it wasn’t the sound of a steam engine’s whistle or chuffing; instead it was the sound of an ambient diesel horn. As the train rumbled by, the long line of freight cars flashed across him until the train was out of sight. The man never sees the smoke of a steam engine, nor does he hear the sound of the chugging or whistle. For that time has passed on and all the steam locomotives have been put out of service or scrapped. But for the young boy or girl in all of us, the sound of this remarkable engine is still heard in our thoughts and imaginations!