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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3 responses to “For the Love of Trains

  1. The only reason I’m into trains is for travel. I will never fly again and some of the most relaxing vacations I’ve taken have involved riding the train to my destination. Definitely worth the time!

  2. Cathy

    My father was a train addict (his grandfather was with the Northern Pacific Railroad ), making a detour to see every historic steam engine, taking every steam engine excursion, and spending most of his free time building model trains. We didn’t inherit his addiction but it was important for us to take our children on a long train trip, just like he took us when I was 11. It’s something that every family should do, just like every family should take that road trip across the U.S. But hurry, before the government does away with Amtrak.

  3. avid

    Lovely post, Wes.

    One of the first sounds I shared with my now nine month old grand daughter was the whistle and chug of a steam loco. Gotta get ’em young.
    Also, there are only one or two good songs about planes, and about a million great train songs.

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