Railroad to Nowhere

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I have always loved railroad tracks, as far back as I can remember, really, but looking back I think it actually started in the first grade. As a young grade-schooler the bus ride home, though only a couple of miles, often seemed interminable. I enjoyed school, but I couldn’t wait to get home at the end of the day, see my mom and baby sister, play outside. (This of course was back when kids still played outside, built tree forts, got into all manner of harmless trouble, and didn’t spend every waking moment staring at some screen or other, though we still enjoyed feeding endless quarters into the Miss PacMan machine at the bowling alley.)

For the entirety of my elementary school years, my bus driver was Mr. Williams, and I will always remember his deep baritone voice singing out “Railroad crossin!” as he stopped the bus at the tracks. Arriving at the railroad tracks meant I was halfway home, that the freedom I’d been anticipating all day would soon be mine.

Now that I live several hours from the town where I grew up and where my parents still live, I cross those same railroad tracks in the final miles of my homeward journey, and often I think of Mr. Willams, not a young man when I knew him, and long since gone to his reward. More often, though, I think, simply, “home.”

Or at least that’s the only reason I can think of that makes any sense when it comes to explaining why my heart seems to gladden when I catch sight of a set of railroad tracks. So when I found a set of rusty, long unused ones on a random drive-about close to home, I had to come back with my camera (and my trusty photographer’s assistant – aka my dog, Tucker) and spend some time there.

There were also these big hunks of metal and old concrete tunnels lying around nearby, and there was something beautiful and poignant about them to me in the dying light of a winter afternoon a few months ago. I’d like to go back again and shoot them again in a different light.

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3 comments

  1. I love the one of Tucker walking the tracks. My childhood train memory is the mournful midnight whistle each summer night as the train rolled through our small town. Always magical to have the windows open in the summer, and that’s a favorite memory.

    Nicely written post.

  2. Thanks, Sammy, I like that one, too. I know what you mean about the sound of a train whistle at night … there is something mournful and melancholy about it. Anytime I hear a train whistle I always think of Pat Conroy’s novel The Lords of Discipline. That train whistle was almost another character in the novel.

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