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.