Saturday, May 31, 2014

Going Nowhere Slowly

I was sitting in my truck, under a small shade tree, in the back parking lot of the mall for a while today. From the northeast, the sound of a not-so-distant train whistle came in the passenger side windows which were down to let the southwesterly breeze pass through. Before much longer, an engine came slowly down the tracks pulling five extra engines and a long line of cars of various sorts. (I say “down the tracks” because the Ohio River just beyond the tracks also flows southwesterly at this point.) It was obvious that most of the cars were empty, except for the tankers, which I have no way to know about.

None of them were coal cars; most were flat-beds or modified versions of the same. In the not-too-distant past, 400+ coal cars a day moved through this town to points south. I guess Obama is doing as he promised. Some folks will celebrate the passing of coal as a fuel, yet I’ve always read that auto exhaust causes far more acid rain than what coal we burn in this country. Besides, the foreigners are starting to buy some of what we’re not using, so the overall effect may be negligible on a global basis. Still, production is down, and that’s bad if coal is what feeds your family. Of course, MOST industries are in decline in this country, especially in this area. I suppose that’s why the railroad is taking the un-used engines and cars elsewhere.

The engines had been out of sight for only a little bit when the sound of squeaky brakes was heard and the bumping of train car couplings ran from the front of the train northeasterly to the unseen rear of the train, as the great beast slowly ground to a halt. It sat there several minutes, while I pecked on my computer and listened to the birds sing in the trees around me. Suddenly, there was the travelling sound of couplings bumping once again as the engine apparently resumed its forward motion. Soon the cars were clickety-clacking slowly along again, as the large steel wheels crossed joint after joint in the tracks. One or two cars had brakes that weren’t completely releasing, and their squeaking sounded surprisingly like a gaggle of geese headed down the river. I enjoyed watching the long line of cars move by until its “cabooseless” end disappeared into the distance. (All trains seem incomplete these days, to any of us who remember the old cabooses and the men who lived in them.) There’s some sort of a fascination most of us have with the titans of any sort of machinery—big trains, big trucks, big boats and so on are held in awe by the child in us, I suppose.

I was sad to see so many empty cars, though. Like so many of our friends and relatives, I guess they have to leave their home area to look for work elsewhere, so to speak. © 2014


Chickenmom said...

Wish I was sitting in the truck with you - Oh, how I miss the sound of those trains! Always loved to here the ding, ding ding of the warning signal. Never, ever minded waiting for the line of cars to go by and always wondered what was in each one.

Sunnybrook Farm said...

The coal will be in the ground for future generations that will finally rid themselves of the damage that the baby boomers have done to the country. It is sad to live in the generation that has done to the US what terrorists or any past enemies could never accomplish.

JaneofVirginia said...

Quite a few miles from our farm, there is a train station that in much better days took people from these parts into Richmond. Now a train comes through there occasionally simply to send repair cars to one part of the tracks or another. These days, there is no public transport here of any sort. You drive a car, and when you can't, you stay put. I too miss the cabooses.

Gorges Smythe said...

I think most us who remember their hey-day miss them, Cm.

Yeah, SF, there are too many morons among us.

Times have certainly change, Jane, and not for the better.

Mamahen said...

The nearest tracks from us is about 8 miles away and there is very little traffic on them these days. Every now n then if the boob-tube is off and the wind is right we can hear the clickity clack of the wheels and the whistle as it passes through the crossing. I too agree they were more exciting with the caboose and the guy hanging out the window.

Gorges Smythe said...

Yep, them wuz the good ol' days, Mh.