Thursday, April 24, 2014

Let's get tanked.

One warm night, some twenty years ago, my family detoured for a quick stop by the tracks before getting back to the house and going to bed. The little patch of grass we had claimed as our own train-watching turf saw a lot of action from the mainline and from a scrapyard and a brick factory a few blocks down, and we stopped there frequently.

The train came barreling in, highballing out of Fort Worth, and the ground beneath our feet convulsed. I don’t remember whether the driver gave us a friendly salutation, or how many engines headed the train, nor the makeup of the consist, but on this particular night, something happened that I never forgot.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Where the Fires Linger On

Locomotives hard at work in Tesana Baru Sugar Mill, Java, in 2004. Except where noted, all photographs in this article have been kindly provided by David Longman

In the Western Hemisphere, most railfans reluctantly accept that steam as a primary source of motive power is gone, and won't be making a miraculous comeback. We may be lucky enough to behold the ambiance of preserved locomotives running on heritage location, but most of us have no experience of steam as the dominant method of rail transportation.

Barry Scrapyard. From Wikipedia Commons.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Blood Between the Tracks

  People love the railroads for many reasons.

We are awed by the sheer scale of the machinery, enthralled by the variety of color, inspired to create it in miniature. The trains’ whistles soothe us to sleep; the thunder of their passing reminds us that somewhere beyond the chaos of our daily lives, there is order.

The sights and sounds of the railroads touch on something deep in the human soul. I would wager that for most of us, an interest in trains is about more than just a fascination with the machinery and the purpose that it serves. We hear a whistle, close our eyes, and briefly, imagine that we are on the way to somewhere else. The destination in this imaginary journey is unimportant, only the fact that we envision ourselves to be moving.