Trains fascinate the young and the old

By Grant McGee

Last Saturday morning while crossing the Prince Street bridge I saw what looked like a family of four watching the trains in the Burlington Northern Santa Fe yard. Two kids, a mom, a dad. Dad was pointing at something in the rail yard.

It made me wonder if one or both of the children were fascinated by trains or if the grownups were showing the kids how neat it is to see the giant behemoths up close.

I thought it was kind of cool that trains still held a fascination for someone.

I don’t know what it is about trains, why some kids find them so fascinating. Some of those kids grow up and devote their time to being model train hobbyists. It might surprise you to find out who in town has giant train setups in their homes or work on model rail projects with their friends.

When I was a kid, my father worked at a hotel owned by the Norfolk & Western railroad (now the Norfolk Southern). The place was right next to the train station. The railroad’s main cargo was hauling coal out of the Appalachians to the Atlantic ports.

I used to sit for hours at our hotel apartment window and watch the trains rumble by. Sometimes I’d try to count all the passing coal cars.

I had a model train set up with a big Lionel engine and cars. One of them was a flat car with a helicopter on it. Push a button and the helicopter launched. It wasn’t long before the helicopter launched and crashed into my bedroom wall, knocking a blade off. After that I made up stories that the train was hauling the helicopter back to the factory to get fixed.

In the days before Amtrak, the individual railroads ran passenger trains. Our family traveled that way a lot. What I remember most about those journeys up and down the Atlantic coast was the railroads went where highways didn’t, like beautiful river gorges with steep cliffs on either side (the nearest thing I’ve seen like that in New Mexico is U.S. 285 running along the Rio Grande through the mountains south of Taos).

In my late teens and early 20s I would fantasize about hopping a freight and seeing where it took me. I never had the guts though, reality always outweighed the fantasy: getting in trouble with the railroad, maybe falling off, getting locked in a boxcar sitting on a side track, etc.

Yeah, the family watching those trains brought back some memories, but they haven’t been the only folks I’ve seen watching trains in Clovis.

Every now and then I see a man standing on the Hull Street bridge looking at the BNSF yard. I suppose he could be a BNSF employee who periodically checks things on the trains by looking down on them from the bridge. But I believe he’s an everyday guy just looking at the rail yard. I wonder if he’s a retired railroad worker or if he’s just a big fan of trains.

Maybe he’s reminiscing about a train set years ago.

Maybe he’s thinking of those trains rolling off to someplace far away.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at:
blisscreeksw@yahoo.com