Catching trains…

I have always been fascinated by trains, and both my husband and my son are train enthusiasts and model railroaders. For anyone with an interest in trains, the ultimate experience is a steam excursion. We were fortunate to take two trips behind CPR1201, the last steam locomotive built in the Montreal Angus shops, when the Bytown Railway Society was running trips from the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa in the late eighties. The first trip was to Hawkesbury, the second to Brockville. I love the Victorian look of this photo, from our Hawkesbury trip, our first steam excursion. It was taken in the early morning as 1201 was steaming up. Even now, long after the demise of steam power, there is still something so compelling about a steam locomotive. A steam locomotive is all about being in the moment. You can’t be near one without being completely transfixed by it. The sheer size of the machine, the smell of steam and grease, the intricate arrangement of driving rods and wheels, the hissing of the cylinder cocks, the smoke billowing from the chimney, all transport you back in time. And a steam excursion is a train trip like no other. Crowds gather wherever the train passes. People at crossings, farmers working their fields, kids playing in their backyards, all stop and wave. Other enthusiasts follow the train’s journey in their cars, racing beside the train, hurrying to the next crossing, trying to capture the moment with their cameras. And then there is the runpast. The train stops at an appropriately scenic stretch of track and everyone hurries off the coaches, cameras ’round necks, to stake out a good spot to capture that perfect shot. The engineer then backs the train up until he can get a good run past the crowd. The anticipation is palpable as the sound of the train grows louder and louder. The earth beneath your feet shakes as the monster roars past belching smoke. What an experience! The engineer, who probably enjoys this ritual more than the passengers, backs the train again to pick up the passengers and the journey continues. Sadly 1201 is no longer running; she’s in storage at the Museum and you can’t even get in to see her now. There are so few operational steam locomotives here in Canada and they are part of our history, of our heritage. So if you ever have the opportunity to ride behind one of these glorious monsters, please take it. Close your eyes, listen to the clacking of the wheels on the rails, to the rhythmic chuffing of the locomotive, to the shriek of the whistle and return to the days when steam was king.

Copyright 2011 Anne Corke

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