Those who know me well know of my rather morbid preoccupation with death. Perhaps because of my own brush with cancer, I think about dying a lot and I’m quite paranoid about my own death, and the possibility of that of my loved ones. I often have dreams about death.
So, I’m spending most of my time these days thinking about mortality and morbidity as a result of 19th century railroads (sorry to those whose eyes are already glossing over or are already clicking away from this blog). I know that few people care about this odd topic.
But there’s something about the human drama of it all–the thrill of speed (of trains) combined with the fear of derailment (or some other type of accident) that drove people to try this technology, and to eventually depend on it for so much of their lives. Even when it was so unpredictable and unsafe. When the possibility of crashes or robberies or some awe-some adventure lay at the end of those maddeningly predictable parallel lines stretching off into the horizon.
To me, RRs are a lot like life. We check the schedule and try to get on the right train going in the right direction. We expect that we’ll get there somewhere near to what the timetable predicted (unless, of course, we’re riding Amtrak–so let’s pretend we’re on a train in Europe instead). But we also know that there are so many variables that will affect our path: detours, weather conditions, broken couplings, possible injury or illness, etc. But it’s the possibility of reaching that depot at the end of one’s journey that motivates us to hop up onto the train in the first place. And the view is so amazing along the way. There are some great friends to ride along with, and some yummy snacks in the club car. Sometimes the rhythmic swaying of the train lulls us to sleep. We awake and see it’s only dark outside w/a few random streetlights passing by to mark our progression. And when the sun rises and the train bends around a curve we can see the track that forever lies ahead…