Daily Archives: February 3, 2011

For the Love of Trains

I come from a train family. My great-grandfather worked on the Delaware and Hudson Railway for 47 years, and literally died on its tracks. He instilled in my father a love for trains, and my father did the same for me when I was a child. Now, I intend to pass a love for trains on to my own son.

My love for trains lay dormant for awhile as I pursued other interests as a teenager and twenty-something. But those transient years apparently weren’t enough to wipe trains from my memory. As I’ve emerged into adulthood, trains have again become one of my biggest interests. Why? I have a few ideas that I think most train buffs will be able to relate to:

1. The Power. Trains are an engineering marvel that helped build the world, and it’s easy to be awestruck by a 1,600 horsepower diesel engine (or several) pulling hundreds of cars filled with thousands of tons of coal or freight. The power of trains is what brings out the child in us as we’re humbled by their might. At the same time, this power reminds us of the greatness that people can achieve.

2.  The Artistry. Though filled with immense mechanical power, trains were also made to be aesthetically pleasing. As far as diesel engines go, I’m a big fan of the round-nosed ALCO PA’s, as seen here. But trains also add a lot to scenery; whether an industrial landscape or a wintry mountain forest, trains add beauty to the world rather than detract from it.

3. The Collectibility. Trains are utterly collectible due to the immense range of varieties that exist. And, it’s possible to collect a lot of different things related to trains, such as images of certain trains, train rides, or model trains. I attended a model train show recently, and I noted the detail with which model train collectors can become involved when a man next to me to pointed at an HO scale No. 19 Delaware and Hudson ALCO PA1 diesel engine and said “they have 19, but I need 17.” There are actually four models of these diesels, 16 through 19, and I need them all.

4. The Lineage. For all of the reasons above, a love for trains is easy to transfer to younger generations. Their power teaches; their beauty inspires; and their collectibility allows for these virtues to be physically passed along. Indeed, trains are a family thing, and even if my son should forget about his boyhood trains while he’s studying microbiology at Dartmouth, I’m sure he’ll return to them someday when he stumbles across his old train sets, and decides to pass them along to his children.

Are there any other train lovers out there?


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