Friday, August 20, 2010

the whistle knows my name

There was an abandoned railway track at the end of our street, when I was growing up. It made for a great walking trail to traverse our way through the forests and fields to get to the low lying area where in the summer we used to float on rafts made from old doors and in the winter we would toboggan.

For a few years, the Prairie Dog Central ran on these tracks. It was a vintage restored locomotive that ran short excursions from our neighbourhood to the edge of the city. I rode on it once, and I remember high-backed wooden bench seats and open windows through which you could wave (or make other gestures) at the groups of kids on bikes gathered at the bottom of each street we passed.

After high school, I travelled through Europe by train. In those days you could buy a student Eurorail pass for next to nothing. Unlike Canada where so many of the smaller railway lines have been disassembled, in Europe rail travel thrives. My friend and I took full advantage of our passes, boarding any passing train at the spur of the moment to destinations that needed discovering. I recall swapping stories all night long with a couple of friends on the night train from Basel to Milan. On another excursion we hid out in the sleeper car on the overnighter to Munich, when it became clear that we needed to escape those overzealous German lads.

I remember some magnificent train stations. There were four in Paris alone, all of them cavernous and ornate, reminiscent of a time when train travel was for the well-heeled, not for backpack-schlepping kids like us. In Switzerland, of course, the stations were spotless and paragons of efficiency.

Tomorrow the Marthas and I are getting together for a mini-break and it too will involve train travel. We are heading to Stettler, in central Alberta and there we will board a vintage steam engine for a trip to Big Valley and back. Apparently we are in danger of being held hostage by train robbers, but I have it on good authority that Gabriel Dumont, hero of the northwest rebellion, will be on board to protect our honour from the invaders. There will also be a roast beef dinner.

It should be a hoot. Without question there will be much merriment, as there always is when there are Marthas in the equation. But I refuse to be held accountable for any untoward Martha behaviour, besides my own.

16 comments:

mellowlee said...

Have a blast Barb! XO

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I will do my very best, Mel, thanks!

umbrellalady said...

I travelled a lot by train as a kid and loved it. Still love trains - sounds like it will be an absolute blast. Enjoy!

So - do you need someone to carry your bag? :)

L said...

I now want to run and hop on a train immediately.

Have fun!

kelly said...

that sounds great. One of my regrets in life is not doing that when I was younger. Trying to make up for it now, but responsibilities and jobs mean the trips are shorter than I would like

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Yes, it's a very very heavy overnight bag, Kathy. I think you'd better come along.

Trains are the only way to travel, Lesley!

I'm really glad I did that travelling when I was young and irresponsible, Kelly. Besides I could sleep on floors back then.

John Mutford said...

I wish train travel was cheaper and more popular in Canada. Have a good time on yours, I hope it takes you back to the future.

Jas B said...

Train rides are so much fun...it is my dream to travel through India on a train. Wish train travel was as common here in Canada...I have to take a train ride across Canada as well...some day, some day.

Have fun, Barb. :)

27thstreet said...

Do you know this song....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5YoLjYD8QE

pilgrimchick said...

The rail system in Europe is fantastic--it's actually expected that people will..gasp...ride on the train! I remember buying that same rail pass because I wanted to be able to go anywhere that struck me at anytime. Boy do I miss that!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Not quite back to the future, John, because that always works better with a Delorian and a clock tower. We had a steam engine and a grain elevator. But it was a blast!

I would love to ride the rails more in Canada, Jas. There is so much beautiful countryside to see. Travelling through India by rail would be amazing.

I do not know that song, Mr Anchovy. It's awesome, thanks for the intro.

I miss it too, pilgrimchick. The freedom, the possibilities, the chance to meet people.

Allison said...

Ah, the train. One of my favourite ways to travel. I'm thankful to have seen parts of Europe by train. I agree with John, I wish train travel in Canada was cheaper. Although I do feel like I am riding the change 4-5 times a day when it rattles by the museum, so there's that.

Glad you had a great weekend!

Charlie said...

What a lucky young zombie you were, travelling all over Europe on Eurorail with hardly a care in the world.

It's sad, though, that train travel is disappearing in both Canada and the US. Maybe when the oil is all gone we'll see the trains back again ...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Plus you have all that train business going on in the basement, Al! You are surrounded by trainery.

I hope there are some steam engines being kept in good repair, ready to press into service when that day comes, Charlie. And yes, it was wonderful being a footloose zombie. So grateful I had that opportunity.

Volly said...

I have not given up hope that rail will experience a resurgence in our lifetime.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have a feeling it will, Volly. Those hydrocarbons are not going to last forever, after all.