Sunday, March 04, 2007

I Hear Dat...Train

When he was just a few years old, my son would cock his head to the side and gaze off into the distance. He was listening for the sound of a train, far off in the distance. In just about two months, I will be the father of a ten-year old, a ten-year old train fanatic. There was some question, as the years began to pile up, just when he might grow out of this "phase." These days we aren't thinking about it as much as a phase but rather as a series of opportunities.
When I was a kid, there were some trains in the house: My older brother had an O gauge set that was put away before I got officially interested. My younger brother caught the HO gauge bug big time - for a couple of years. Eventually, all the Caven trains fell into disrepair and eventual storage in cardboard boxes. I didn't give them much of a thought. Not until I became the father of a GERF - a Glassy-Eyed Rail Freak.
I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. My wife grew up learning the names of different engines and lines as her father poured out his obsession on his daughter. I blame DNA - and B&O. My son would spend hours creating freight yards with his Brio trains. This was age three. There were birthday cakes in the shape of trains, trips to the Sacramento Train Museum (more than I can count), and any location that offered a train ride as part of the experience was sought out by devoted parents.
We bought train t-shirts and hats. We own HO, O, Hot Wheel, Brio, Garden, and Lego gauge train sets. Our living room is regularly part of a vast switch yard with locomotives and dozens of cars of all sorts. I have had to do reading on the side to keep up with my son's encyclopedic knowledge of rolling stock. A few weeks back as we drove into the night toward Reno, my son announced that he saw two BR-54s (or something like that) on the tracks up the hill from us. I have no way of knowing if he knew what he was talking about, but I know from experience that it is useless to disagree with him. He knows his stuff.
It has been my great relief that over the past few years, toy trains have returned to vogue. "The Polar Express" and Harry Potter's Hogwarts Express have made it easier to find fuel to feed the beast. When I discovered that Neil Young had purchased a fifth of the Lionel Train Company, I felt a kindred spirit. After a photo shoot with Rolling Stone, Niel said, "I wish I was on the cover of Lionel Trains magazine. My kids would be so impressed if I showed them a copy of that." I know how he feels.


A. Mercer said...

Hey, we're members at CSRR, let me know when you're coming up and we can meet there. My son likes trains and still occasionally plays with his brio/wood track, but has moved on to Bioncles in a big way.

2trakmined said...

when I was a kid at the crossing of 3 great roads and an ohio river, the scariest-most exciting thing between pearlharbor and VJ day was the B&O Freight of all hi-octane gas tank cars tht derailed, burned, and exploded all night. Luella thought the germans had sent buzz bombs across the pond to us. we went to friends house with a bit of a viw 1/2 mile away and roasted thru the windows,, John, Donalds GGF went out with a movie camera and go his eylasjes and the front of his hair roasted off.. but he was tanked any way.And the nex am was devastation- the whole railroad way of houses were gone. The NYC and Penna crossing tracks wre melted and all askew.

So that's the same rr that a lonsome motherless boy hung aroud after schoo and with freinds a few years later.. and learned all about the thrill.. Steam passenger trains moaning thier whisles up and down the shallow valley.. 4 traiuns aday on the Pennsy including the Crack "red-arrow", 10 a day or more on the B& O-- mainlinewashington-Chicago.. "Shenandoah-Capitol limited, big blue Emd e4 diesels-- the rest steamers pull by "president" class pacifics. the lucky few got to get on and get away. and wevry night a couple of boys would be there for theflagg-stopped train.. one climb up to distractthe crew, another climbed the other side to cop a few torpedoes or flares..