Riding the rails


© Tim LaBarge 2008

I’m not sure what it is about the train that can lure two-year-olds in and not release them until they’re five or six.

With Thomas the Tank and his buddies scattered throughout the house, real engines rumbling by ten blocks from our house and the discovery of a movie called “Ridin’ the Rails” – a history of steam engines in the U.S. hosted, narrated and songs sung by Johnny Cash – trains are often discussed in our house.

I could stare out the window of a train for days and not get bored. It causes a flood of memories from my time taking trains and buses all over Spain. Then, I was on a different schedule. I remember going to the train station in Sevilla and staring at the list of outgoing trains. Nothing really struck me as being the place I needed to go that day. So I went to the bus station. I spotted a bus bound for a spot that seemed interesting: where the Rio Guadalquivir meets the ocean. A conversation with someone on the bus changed my plans to go all the way to the ocean and I jumped off in the town of El Rocio. There I studied birds and rode horses with folks I met who led trips in Donana National Park. It was amazing.

Sitting on the train from Seattle, I realized just how different things are when children, snacks and naps are involved. A guy named Ken was sitting next to me drinking some nasty smelling alcoholic concoction called Tilt. With each 16 ouncer of this sweet, syrupy beverage – Ken says “It tastes like soda pop” – his words blended together and became more focused on one theme: the lack of hospitality on the train. Meanwhile, Sara and I were interested in getting Leo to eat a sandwich, Jack to nap and the four hour trip to move smoothly. Leo only wanted to eat crackers and a few bites of a pear, Jack only napped for ten minutes.

So as the boys squirmed and Ken complained about the tone of the conductor’s voice as she announced, “Next stop, Kelso – Longview,” we thought the whole afternoon might explode. But then old Ken’s troubled thoughts ceased and his head tilted to one side as his eyes shut.

Quiet, at least for a little while, except for the sound of the train on the tracks.


  1. awesome…in parallel rory and i hit the 1/5th scale hobby club in Bend Sunday. “i don’t ever want to leave.” he said. the club host then directed me to this treat — Train Mountain near Klamath.
    umm, care for a crater+camping trip?
    new sched- now a regular joe m-f. 🙂
    happy Ken fell asleep,

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