Monday, May 9, 2016

View From a Train (In the Category of Be Where You Are.)

We ambulatory creatures make paths as we travel from one place to another. It is in our nature. Deer, bison, elk, and moose first carved the forage trails in North America. Indigenous peoples widened them over years of annual hunts; settlers used wagon trains to flatten out permanent avenues to points west. In time, the rutted pathways became dirt roads, then gravel roads, and then paved asphalt, but before Americans turned their time and attention to constructing  the Interstate Highway System, we built railroads. We built them in places the animals and their hunters could not go: across wide, swift rivers, through solid rock, and up steep grades at angles carefully calculated to allow an iron horse to climb and descend. As the tracks crisscrossed the nation, they sliced through rural farmland, across wide open plains, and over rugged, rocky slopes.  It is much the same with highways today.

But it's different, the view from a train.
The 611 awaits boarding in Roanoke, Virginia.
The 611 engineer signed the box of the model
for my husband.
For my husband's birthday adventure, we took a train ride on a steam engine, the J-Class 611 built in 1950 by Norfolk & Western; a throwback to an earlier age before the ubiquity of air travel, when luxury was still affordable. He has an N-scale model of the J-Class, and when excursions on the real deal became available, we knew we had to take a ride. The Roanoke-to-Walton-to-Roanoke run takes just shy of four hours through rural southwest Virginia – Appalachia some call it, others, God's country. Tracks cut dirt roads in half and follow creeks that meander past houses, hovels, and the rusted bodies of buses, trucks and boats – evidence of past affluence now decayed. It is a different world, compared to the one I see from the highway, closer, more personal. We steamed through backyards with hanging laundry and the early starts of large gardens – just the cabbages in the ground for now. Crowds with cameras met us at each railroad crossing and on hills, in the woods, on boats fishing the river – everyone waving and smiling at the sight of the 611 and the sound of her steam whistle.
Watching the 611 from the North Fork of the Roanoke River.
I could write a poem about every picture I took, or a story, or a novel. I bet, if you let the muse move you – like a slow, low whistle, the kind only steam can blow – you could write one too.

It's different, the view from a train.
Bending a curve; there is no mistaking the front of the train.
Our view from the inside of Powhatan Arrow car WATX 539
A feed mill beside the tracks.
Not Golgotha, but nearly as grim.
Blue Ridge Mountains living up to their name.
Green like only May can bring it.
Folks dressed for Sunday and Mothers Day didn't have to leave their front yard to see the train.
Other folks had to go a little further.
Fork and ford. Which path should we take?
Diamond windows, emerald walls.
A collector of things.
All things relinquished.
The last frost date will see this field in Elliston, VA transformed. Only a few more days...
Following Crab Creek in Christiansburg, VA.
A house near the tracks.
A road to somewhere.
Backyard garden in Shawsville, VA.

Train art at the rail yard.
(I had fun with the photo filters – I will admit that freely. Not every photo, but...) 

1 comment:

  1. "Ford & fork. . "; take the left. Unless your good friend lives behind the gate.