Monday, September 22, 2008

My Town Monday

The historic part of my town could be anywhere in the Midwest with old brick storefronts that recall a slower lifestyle and with a town center. One distinguishing feature of this town, however, are the railway tracks that run straight down Main Street. How quaint, you may be thinking. But of course, you don't live here north of the tracks.

One only has to be five minutes late to an appointment to conjure a train. In fact, an otherwise Christian neighbor boasts his supernatural powers to cause a train to appear on his commute to work. "Oh, no!" is a common refrain as I spot the flashing red lights and hear the dinging bell that stand between me and the highway. I'll be late again! There is one way around the tracks, down a country two lane highway that sports school zones, dump trucks, tractors driving a load of hay, and white haired grandmas going twenty miles an hour in a fifty-five mile per hour zone. It's a toss up - wait for the train or chance going around. Going home, there is no choice; you have to wait.

Still think it is quaint? Have I mentioned that thirty trains, long, long, trains, go through town a day? Minimum? It tends to disconcert visitors. Once, a tourist had turned onto the street and was taking his time finding a parallel parking spot. After pulling onto the street, there isn't a way to tell a train is coming until you hear the whistle blow. The visitor had no time to move, and the train rolled by, inches from his side mirror. We stood watching. After the train had gone, he parked and accosted us. "Do you live here?" he said angrily. Sheepishly, we admitted we did. He then proceed to tell us that he'd had no warning about the train and he was NEVER coming back. Promise?

Once, years ago, the railroad company offered to move the track, avoiding town. In their infinite wisdom, our forefathers declined, declaring the tracks integral to the town identity and going so far as to pen a motto, "We are on track". Changing railroad regulations have caused a major difficulty in town. In the coming years, changes in traffic flow and parking will have to be made. But, there are no plans to move the tracks.

It is not unusual to see residents look up from their meal at the Irish pub to watch the train, only yards away, lumber slowly past or to see them lounging on a bench after exiting a shop, waiting for the slow train to clear so that they can get to their car. I suppose it does remind us of a slower era, a more relaxed pace.

There have been several collisions with cars, and I wonder about what would happen should the train derail. I live only two miles from the tracks where dangerous chemicals roll by thirty times a day. I try not to think about it as I hear the whistle from my home, where it reminds me of the sleepy railroad town where I grew up and often miss. It is a comforting sound.

Want to write about your town? Post a link on Travis' blog.


Camflock said...

I would love to write a comment, but I have to leave early for my appointment in case there is a train for I too live on the wrong, I mean north side of the tracks.

debra said...

Our train is a scenic railroad, coming through town 6 times on the weekends. It generally runs late, since people with bikes can flag them down at any station, and ride for $2.
This makes those who have planned a little outing rather unhappy. Since our is next to the station, we soothe many ruffled feathers. But there is nothing quite like the sound of the train, is there.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My daughter has the Long Island Railroad go by her house constantly. You can speak when it's passing. Yours seems more benign.

pita-woman said...

Hey, at least you have that 2-mile buffer zone if it derails... what have I got... 100 feet? ;)
Admittedly, you do get used to it after a while and are able to tune it out. It really frustrated me when they closed the intersection of Main & 4th (and Main & 3rd to create the skateboard park), as now I have fewer options for trying to beat the train.

preTzel said...

The trains aren't far from our home. We are also in direct alignment with a runway to the airport just 7 minutes from our home. It is not unusual to have a train rumbling down the tracks at the same time the Air National Guard jets are flying overhead in 2x2 formation. It makes for a lot of noise. :)

Travis Erwin said...

Any hope for an overpass?

Junosmom said...

No, Travis, no chance. They've had a major brew-ha-ha unlike any but small towns can do about what to do, what to do, when the railroad demands changes. But an overpass would not work considering the buildings around it. Perhaps an underpass? It will never come to pass.

pita-woman said...

An overpass? Boy, did I so get a chuckle out of that one!
Like I said in one of my blogs last week, you practically have to get a permit to fart in this town.
I guess I(we) shouldn't complain though... if they did change things, the historical, homeyness of this town would disappear, and eventually we'd hear ourselves saying, "remember the good ol' days when the train ran through the middle of town?"

Junosmom said...

Debra, that would be quaint. I recall that near dh's hometown, they give rides. Beats the (*^$%$ out of having nitrous oxide roll by as you eat dinner 10 yards away.

Pattinase: well, benign if you consider I myself don't live on the tracks, but not so much so if you consider what it in the freight cars.
I was watching a Discovery channel show about train wrecks. Now, I am one.

Pretzel: You get the prize on noise level.

PITA: I don't have my fart pass. I hope I don't get a ticket.

Kristina said...

It only took us getting stuck by the train three times before the boys were tired of it. That was over a year ago. I'm guessing real estate agents don't mention what a pain the train is. And, yes, they're going to have to do something about it. They're building too much this side of town to NOT do something about it.

And, I almost never go through town anymore. It's almost always faster for me to go down that 2 lane road, which is sad since the highway is 70.

Barrie said...

I don't live anywhere near a train now. But when I do hear the whistle, it brings back childhood memories. Then again, I'm not on the wrong/north side of any tracks!


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