Monday, 30 March 2009

XIAN, CHINA - DECEMBER 25: (CHINA OUT) A worke...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

When I was between the ages of seven and nine I walked past a railway line on the way to school and would often stop and watch the steam engines as they thundered past with their carriages full of passengers or wagons filled with coal. I never turned out to be a trainspotter but I could see why people in the days of steam trains, originated the hobby as every engine had it's own personality and appearance. There was a certain exciting feeling when you saw one of these iron monsters approach with it's smoke billowing out of the funnel and the steam jetting out of the valves leaving a trail of smoke and vapour behind it as it careered onwards down the line towards it's destination. I used to stand on top of a bridge to observe them and as they passed underneath the smoke would spread out engulfing the place where I stood and when I looked over the other side another blast of the choking fumes would hit my face preventing me from taking a breath until it dispersed. I was never late for school but as I waked through the gates to begin my lessons for the day the smell of smoke hung on my clothes for a while leaving ME with the visions in my head of the trains and my classmates with the sooty smell until it finally filtered away.
Most trains had their own names and of course their numbers making it an interesting hobby then, but now as the engines are more uniformed in style the anticipation of spotting a train that you have never seen has diminished, hence the reason that spotters now are called anoraks but my sympathies lie with them as all they have to write in their notebooks are the number and make of the uncharacteristic pieces of metal that glides past leaving only the smell of diesel oil behind. The electric trains might be better for the environment but for the enthusiasts there is no DOUFF! DOUFF and all the other noises and aromas that go along with steam engines as they go from a standstill, getting up steam and speed with every forward thrust.
I personaly have no desire to go back to steam but I can understand the enthusiasts that conserve these old trains, keeping the age of steam alive for each new generation to get the chance to experience the thrill of standing on top of a bridge and engulfing themselves in smoke as a real train with character thunders past leaving a trail of soot, oil, steam and smoke in the air and the dream in their mind of being a train driver some day.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh my .....What a pleasant memory for you...I can so relate to this post.
    My father whom passed away a year from April 15th...use to take me down to the trains as a special treat just for him and I.

    Being from a family of 5 brothers and 1 can imagine how special I felt.

    My biggest thrill besides hearing the train closing in on us and anticipating the engineer pulling that cord and waving at me as the train scooted by us.

    One day he even stopped the train and asked me if I wanted to go inside and see what he does. I was beside myself with excitement. My dad was a quiet type so he found amusement in my outward expressions.

    Thank you so much for the trip down memory lane:)