Tuesday, 11 June 2013
The Marvel of Trains
I remember, as a kid, standing at the front window of the first subway car and watching in awe as the train went through the tunnel... It still fascinates me. It was my favourite part of taking the subway... As a kid, it was just a fun thing to do, and I remember when my daycare class went somewhere, we would all fight to see who would get to the windows first. Then, we would take turns so everyone got a chance to watch the train go through the dark tunnel. I can't explain why it was so much fun. Maybe it was because everything is so wonderful and new when you're a child, or that some things just never get old. It was interesting to be able to see where we were going when if we were in any other car, all we saw was a boring, dark grey, concrete wall. It was also a bit startling getting to the end of the line to find the lights of another train staring you in the face. While I no longer fight to get the first car or the window, when I do get it, I soak it in. There's just something about the subway tunnels that fascinates me. Maybe it's the idea being able to see the daylight at the end when the train comes up above ground. Maybe it's watching the various styles of tunnel architecture from its various expansions. Some areas are square, others are arched, while others still are circular. Or maybe it's watching the rails branch off in the Davisville yard, or go off into nooks at Eglinton and continue on to only God knows where at the end of the line. Or maybe it's because I've just always liked trains?
As a kid, I would watch the GO and Via trains that passed just behind my grandmother's backyard and count the cars. Trains were how I learned to count. In fact, I still count the cars, and I even find myself counting them in Japanese. I suppose trains have been a learning tool for me growing up, which has developed into a fascination. I’ve even tried to count freight train cars, but I usually end up losing count after about twenty. But don’t ask me to count freight train cars in Japanese… that ain’t happening yet. Maybe it’s just a part of my childhood fascination hasn’t left me. And let’s not forget all those old episodes of Shining Time Station with Beatle, Ringo Starr, and, later, George Carlin as Mr. Conductor. Personally, I preferred George Carlin in the role of Mr. Conductor.
Perhaps my love of trains comes from my love of travel. One of my dreams is to take a train trip across Canada from Halifax right through to Vancouver. There is something, I don’t know, romantic, maybe, about a train ride. When my uncle moved to Halifax, my grandmother would board a train and visit him several times a year. She would have to switch trains in Montreal, and it would take her about two days to get there. When her visit was over, she’d board the train in Halifax and make the trip back home again. Having gone to Halifax by car some five years ago, I know just how beautiful the scenery is between here and Halifax, but I have yet to find out how beautiful the scenery is between here and Vancouver. One day, I will find out; I will take that train ride across Canada.
Maybe my love of trains comes from the world of literature. The Polar Express was, and still is, one of my favourite children’s books, and the movie is just as awesome. Or perhaps it’s from history. There’s the famous Orient Express family of trains, offering luxurious passages on incredibly scenic routes all around the world. If I could afford it, a trip on one of those voyages would certainly be a pleasure. The history of the railroad has always been an interesting one, filled with trials and tribulations. Getting a set of rails through the Rocky Mountains had to have been a feat in itself. Some rail lines had some luck; the Colorado River helped our American neighbours navigate through the Rockies. With the help of some TNT, we blasted our way through ours out west in Alberta and British Columbia. And we can’t forget the numerous Western movies centered around the railroad: The Great Locomotive Chase starring Fess Parker or Night Passage with James Stewart, Audie Murphy and Dan Duryea.
Yes, there is just something about the great locomotive and its achievements… I started off talking about subway tunnels and somehow managed to meander my way through learning to count, Shining Time Station, travel, books, movies and history. I’m very good at doing that: meandering. Maybe the next time you board a train, whether it be a GO Train or a Subway, or the Scarborough LRT, remember that it all started somewhere. It started with a vision that became a reality. Without the old steam engine of yesteryear, we wouldn’t have our current diesel-electrics or our electronically operated subways or the incredibly fast Shinkansen in Japan. Trains are more than just a means of transportation. They are someone’s legacy, a legacy that we will forever rely on to get us from point A to point Z and all the other points in between. So, the next time you’re on a train, take a moment to marvel at it, or if you happen to be lucky enough to be at the window of the first subway car, watch the train go through the tunnel, even just for a minute. That train is taking you somewhere; constantly moving forward, like us as we traverse through the tunnels of our lives. As we go, we pick up passengers; some will disperse when they’ve reached their destination. Others will continue with us until the end of the line. Those tunnels always have an end, as well as lights to help us see where we’re going. We are the engineers of our trains. So, instead of rushing to get ahead, just take a step back and enjoy the scenery as it passes us. Oh, and don’t worry about those tracks branching off. Those branches all lead somewhere, and that somewhere will be where we need to be.