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I Likes Me Some Trains by ghostsniper

I likes me some trains. Always have. Rode em to death when I lived in Europe. They sway, back n forth, back n forth. Soothing. Specially at night time. You almost can’t NOT sleep at night on a train. Trains lull you to slumberland. That’s their job. That’s why no train has ever been robbed at night. The intentional robbers fall asleep against their will. Happens every time. Fact. Look it up.

And the clicking. The wheels going over the cracks between the rails. It disappears after a while, as you back burner it, but it’s always there. Just waiting for you to drop your guard, then the clicking starts all over again, then disappears again as your mind wanders. Trains make you think. Can’t help it. And remember. Can’t help that neither. One more thing on the trains resume.

The European trains were divided into little compartments with an aisle down 1 side. You could go into a compartment and slide the pocket door shut. Peace. As long as you had it to yourself which I frequently did. The big window occupied almost the whole wall, down to about 2 feet above the floor. It was like flying, about 8 feet above the ground. And backward if you preferred as there was a bench seat on either side.

I sat on the back porch of a caboose one time on a little stool the conductor placed there. Watching the track disappear in the distance. I broke out the sketchpad and drew what I saw. The track started as a dot at the top center of the page and spread out into a triangle as it got to the bottom. I filled the page with the landscape I saw and flipped that page over and continued on the next page. This time the triangle was truncated, the top was cut off, and it still kept spreading and I kept drawing. The top of the railing was at the top of the page and the thin steel pickets below it and down at the bottom of that page was the stretched steel fencing floor and my feets so I turned the page again and kept sketching. Page 3 showed the back of me with the railing in front of me and the landscaping from page 1 smaller and getting distant. the view was through the window in the rear door looking out onto the porch. The up-close woodgrain of the door and, using artistic leeway, I drew the much lower latch mechanism higher so that it would be in the scene, but most of the action was out through the small round cornered window. Flip to sheet 4 and the rearmost seats were visible and also the topmost part of my skull through the now smaller door window. There was a young fraulein in one of the seats and she held a cat and wore typical traditional Deutch attire. Lederhosen, etc. I did about a dozen pages altogether, changing seats frequently and drinking dark brews slowly.

Many years later I scanned those sketches into the computer and after making copies I reduced them in size to 240×240 and printed them out. I cut them out with scissors, stacked them on top of each other in reverse order and stapled them together. Now, the pages could be fanned from the bottom (like the bottom right corners of the pages in “The Whole Earth Catalog”) and a “movie” could be seen of what I seen that day 30 years prior. It’s best to view it while sitting down for when viewing it it appears you are moving backwards and more than 1 person I have showed it to has lost their balance.

Yes, I likes me some trains. In 2000 I went into a train store and purchased an MTH O gauge Christmas train and a bunch of accessories, spending far more than I imagined trains cost. I had never owned a train before cept maybe a cheap battery powered one when I was little. This MTH train was BIG. The locomotive is a 4-8-8-4 and is about 14 inches long. The tender is another foot long. And they talk to each other and there’s an internal computer chip involved and a remote control. It plugs into the wall, makes smoke, rings the bell, does the whistle, and plays train station sounds. And from a wireless source, it will play Christmas or any other type of music or sounds that I want. I’ve added to this set over the years and though I only set it up at Christmas time it takes all day to get it right. 27 cars as of this writing, some buildings, a bridge, a snow-covered lake with skaters I made from a scrap piece of mirror. And on and on. It circles the tree several times, up, up, and finally over the fireplace hearth then down, down, down, the other side. Smokin and chuggin the whole way. The cats are mesmerized when seeing it. The first time they were terrified and flew but then they slowly got used to it and started coming around. Caramel is the most drawn to it. I have to keep her back. Know how I do that? When she gets too close I hold the bell button down on the remote then hit the bellowing whistle button and she lays skid marks out of here. Careful though. Caramel is a big gurl, about 22 lbs, so when she ignites Christmas trees can teeter. Careful.

Then about a week after Christmas the whole thing reverses. Takes all day, cause I do it right. All the cars are put back in their boxes, wires are wound up and zip tied, trees are pulled backwards down their plastic tubes, batteries removed from the remote, etc. It’s a teary day when the train goes away….until next year.

I likes me some trains and we live about a mile from one and I hear it 2 times a day. On winter days, and nights, when the leaves are gone, I can stand on the back porch on the 2nd floor and peer through the skeletonized trees into the valley below and see the train and hear it’s mournful moan as it crosses the highway, goes around the curve, and disappears into the distance, like that track in my sketches so long ago. I likes me some trains.

— ghostsniper January 22, 2019, 9:11 AM

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • DeAnn January 23, 2019, 3:53 PM

    I like trains too. My dad worked for Santa Fe Railroad from before I was born until probably about when NASA landed on the moon.
    And I like your story here. That rendering sounds interesting.

  • Howard Nelson January 23, 2019, 6:09 PM

    Nice, nice. Helps to keep one on track of what’s worthwhile.

  • Patvann January 23, 2019, 6:12 PM

    Wonderful. Beautifully written. Thank you for bringing that to us.

  • Casey Klahn January 23, 2019, 8:35 PM

    Good one, Ghostie. I always loved trains and especially after hearing how Casey Jones piled one up head-on with his hand on the throttle. That is some fucking stone-cold courage.

    I once rode from Columbus, GA to Seattle, WA on the Amtrak. I guess I thought it’d be romantic and recalled my dad’s having been in nearly every state of the union on troop trains in the war. Actually, it was romantic, because I met a young woman from another country and dated her for awhile after that.

    Trains. They are something. Is there an untapped infrastructure waiting on America’s tracks? Possibly, but we haven’t any clear-headed entrepreneurs to make something of it. Like Willie’s song (Arlo’s?), we roar forward but what’s important is in the past. Like Ghost’s drawings. The track speeds backwards.

    Initiative. Courage. Innovation. Industry. All in the past. We have some nice wind farms, though. sarc/

  • Anderson January 24, 2019, 4:13 AM


    It’s neither Willie’s or Arlo’s song. A man named Steve Goodman wrote it, and the most powerful performance of it you will ever witness comes from the writer himself. The performance was given just after he wrote it, still in his youth, dimples, bib overall schtick, etc. But Goodman’s own version, unlike any others, is more powerful to me because he enunciates the lyrics like a folk singer who penned the words himself. You then realize the song is a real American masterpiece and not just a ‘catchy’ tune.

    He is mostly unheard of in popular culture, but a legend among those in the music biz. He had the strange combination of being a Jew from Chicago who also loved country music and trains. As often happens with members of the Hebrew tribe, he had talent on-loan from God. Enjoy:


  • Snakepit Kansas January 24, 2019, 4:39 AM

    I was drunk the day my momma got out of prison….. Steve Goodman

    I had a hunting lease a few years back with a train track running parallel with it. Trains would come through at a good clip, horns and all. The track was so busy that the deer, turkey and other wildlife were completely used to it and ignored it all. After sitting in a tree stand bow hunting there for three years, I barley noticed the trains myself.

  • Anonymous January 24, 2019, 6:21 AM

    Good stuff, Ghostie.

    Red Streamliner, written by Bill Payne ‘n Little Feat
    “Now you’re cast of steel and cast aside.
    Broken dreams maybe, but you haven’t died.”


  • Marica January 24, 2019, 7:08 AM

    “You Never Call Me by My Name”

    There exist folks who don’t know of Steve Goodman? Good Lord!

  • Vanderleun January 24, 2019, 11:18 AM

    Picked up at Western Rifles with this comment.

    Something Different | Western Rifle Shooters Association

    Old Gray Wolf | January 24, 2019 at 09:58 | Reply
    Like Willie’s rendition best, but that song has always been a favorite. Old music is all I care for. Reminds me of better days, riding in an uncle’s dusty pickup, with shotgun shells, livestock meds and a tobacco pouch littering the dash, and our shotguns bouncing on the seat between us. Back before we all knew the world was burning down around us.

  • Centurion_Cornelius January 24, 2019, 11:45 AM

    Great stuff! The steam locomotive–most complicated piece of machinery built by man–probably until the space shuttle. To be “THE Engineer” on a steam train–WHOA!–that was second to being POTUS for us young tykes.

    We lived in an old 1873 Victorian high-Italianate home just off the Town Square, which had the obligatory train depot off to the west. Many times daily these iron-ponies would rumble into town and upon departing, belch forth their black soot out from the coal-induced inferno in the engine’s belly.

    When I grew up and inherited the place, I had cause to check the knob-n-tube wiring hastily put up in our home’s attic between the rafters, and I only then noticed the entire attic was black! Rub your fingers over a rafter and it was covered in a black talcum-like powder. All that soot from the steam locomotives burning all that coal got up in the drafty attic spaces.

    We still hear those plaintive train horn wails at 3 or 4 a.m., but now they’re diesels, made up in Erie, PA by General Electric. No charm in those beasts.

  • downeasthillbilly January 24, 2019, 3:16 PM

    On a long hot overnighter across Ontario, I sat at the open back door of the last car, with a guy who worked for the railroad. We drank Brador while he told stories about burying whole trains that derailed in the bush. About bull moose during the rut, that would hear the horn, see the light and charge the locomotive. One of the items on my life list, which I didn’t plan, but will never forget.

    On another note, I detect a note of nostalgia for a world gone by. We are the last to remember and mourn what was. Maybe it’s time to edit the TV show’s name to Good Night America.

  • Brad January 24, 2019, 3:32 PM

    My 9 yr. old grandson was playing baseball this past summer. This particular game was at a diamond across a small open field from the railroad tracks. Mid-inning a train started rumbling by. The umpire had to stop the game because all the players had turned to the outfield to watch the train go by.

  • Casey Klahn January 24, 2019, 6:36 PM

    Come all you rounders if you wanna hear
    The story about a brave engineer
    Casey Jones was the roller’s name
    On a 6-8-wheeler course he rode to fame
    Caller called Casey ’bout half past four
    He kissed his wife at the station door
    He climbed in the cabin with his orders in his hand
    Said “this is the trip to the Promised Land”

    Casey Jones, climbed in the cabin
    Casey Jones, orders in his hand
    Casey Jones, leanin’ out the window
    Takin’ a trip to the Promised Land

    Through South Memphis Yards on a fly
    Rain been a fallin’ and the water was high
    Everybody knew by the engine’s moan
    That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones

    Well Jones said “Fireman now don’t you fret”
    Sim Webb said “I ain’t a givin’ up yet”
    We’re eight hours late with the southbound mail
    We’ll be on time or we’re leavin’ the rails

    Casey Jones, climbed in the cabin
    Casey Jones, orders in his hand
    Casey Jones, leanin’ out the window
    Takin’ a trip to the Promised Land

    Dead on the rail was a passenger train
    Blood was a boilin’ in Casey’s brain
    Casey said “Hey, look out ahead,
    Sim, jump, Sim, jump, or we’ll all be dead!”

    With a hand on a whistle and a hand on a brake
    North Mississippi was wide awake
    IC railroad officials said
    “He’s a good engineer to be a laying dead”

    Casey Jones, climbed in the cabin
    Casey Jones, orders in his hand
    Casey Jones, leanin’ out the window
    Takin’ a trip to the Promised Land

    Headaches and heartaches and all kind of pain
    Are all a part of the railroad train
    Sweat and toil, the good and the grand
    Are part of the life of a railroad man

    Casey Jones, climbed in the cabin
    Casey Jones, orders in his hand
    Casey Jones, leanin’ out the window
    Takin’ a trip to the Promised Land

  • Casey Klahn January 24, 2019, 6:44 PM

    Anderson, thank you for that Steve Goodman tip. If he wrote You Never called, etc., and The City of New Orleans, that puts him at the top of the heap for me and American songwriters.

  • Casey Klahn January 24, 2019, 6:44 PM

    …”among American songwriters.”

  • Dinah January 24, 2019, 7:01 PM

    I’m old enough to have heard of Steve Goodman, but sadly, have not! I appreciate the introduction. The link led me far and wide…and I thank you! There are so many captivating things residing on the intertube that there are not enough hours in the day to ‘enrich’ myself. I do what I can. A treasured family memory was of a steam locomotive making its way south through our little town, heading I think for New Orleans for some sort of world’s fair. Kept kid home from school as it was snowing like mad and he needed to see the locomotive. We went down by the tracks, under the road overpass, and watched that behemoth come roaring and smoking through the snowstorm towards us. It was fantastic! I grew up seeing the old-time trains come through town and stop at the small depot. It made waiting in the car while my mother was in the A&P real treat.

  • ghostsniper January 24, 2019, 7:56 PM

    You may not be aware of what the 4-8-8-4 train is all about. It was built for Union Pacific and it’s a steam train, powered by coal, commonly called the “Big Boy”. Someone farther up mentioned american engineering and the Big Boy was just that. It don’t get no better. It’s the pinnacle.

    The Big Boy locomotive alone was 85′ long and with the tender they weighed 1 and 1/4 MILLION pounds. whoa The biggest trains ever made. So big that they were too long to go around train curves without the mandatory articulation join in the middle. Yep. There’s a big hinge right in the middle so it can flex/bend and go around curves. Because of all that weight it has to have, get this, 24 wheels and those guys are almost 7′ tall. That is, the 8-8 wheels. They are almost 7′ tall. The 4-4 wheels are smaller. Over 6000 horsepower and will go 80 mph. jayziss, can you imagine? That much weight going that fast. If it goes west to east it can make the earth slow down. j/k

    Early on when I started collecting cars to add to my set I learned that there are 2 types and they never mix. Freight, and passenger. My train, and all Big Boys, are freight only. You can read more about these amazing trains on wiki here:

    You can see a side view of an actual Big Boy at work here: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a3/ec/5d/a3ec5d9523f4145cf86fdb22ef665858.jpg

    Google Union Pacific Big Boy Train to see some videos. Amazing. Try not to fall asleep. I warned you before.

    From our house, about a mile away from the Helmsburg train track, I can feel the vibrations of the train in the floor when it is close. I imagine if it was a Big Boy the glasses would be rattling in the hutch and the fillings in my teefs.

    I have never seen a Big Boy in person but surely would like to. But then, I’d also like to see a modern aircraft carrier, and a C5A Galaxy, up close and personal. And the spruce goose and one of those giant russian subs in dry dock. And the earth from about 100,000 feet up. Dreams keep me alive and stole my soul when I was born.

  • Jim January 25, 2019, 7:39 AM

    “…in a lonely shack by a railroad track, he spent his younger days… and I guess the sound of the outward bound made him a slave to his wandering ways…”

    It sure did. Day and night those trains kept rumbling by and I always wondered… where?

    One summer day I decided to find ‘where’, and hobo-style, jumped aboard. A day later I found myself crossing into Canada… a 15 year old runaway having the time of his life. The first of a few trips by rail, some into the Cascades. Then, as GS notes, there was Europe, good God Almighty.

  • David Foster January 25, 2019, 9:00 AM

    There are a few places in the US where you can get hands-on experience running a steam locomotive. I wrote about my experience with the Essex Steam Train here:


  • David Foster January 25, 2019, 9:04 AM

    There are several places in the US where you can get some hands-on experience running a steam locomotive. I wrote about my experience at Essex Steam Train here:


  • Nobody Atall January 25, 2019, 11:48 AM

    My oldest loved trains as a child – part of the bedtime ritual was asking “Will there be trains?” To which I’d have to respond “There will be trains.” We lived near a major cross-country route and the train traffic was continual, especially at night. Now my children have flown and I live in a more out-of-the-way area, but still hear a train or two in the nighttime. From a distance, they sound like life — going somewhere, and mostly but not entirely sad.

  • DAN January 26, 2019, 9:04 AM

    GEE we kinda got left out in paradise. we did have the diamond match lumber train going thru, only it was couple miles away,no time to run uphill to watch it, might get lucky & be on the tracks walking home when it came thru & then we put our pennies on the track & hide in the bushes till it was gone then try to find our squished treasures, still have some stashed somewhere, learned quick to put down more than one or two on account of they got lost in the track ballast, worked better in chico where there was pavement between tracks. only had to dodge cars to pick up our prizes. twas a helluv a good place to be a KID.!!