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Thoughts on a Train


There’s something compellingly romantic about trains. As a kid one of the things I looked forward to when we’d go on vacation to my grandparents’ in Nova Scotia were the trains that would rumble through town beyond the nearby cow pasture. My cousins and I would sometimes sneak out to play long the railbed or even tuck under the track in a culvert pipe. We also spent a few pennies on the rails, crushed flat under the weight and pressure. At night I’d look forward to hearing the whistle and rush of the train before I fell asleep.

I also like visiting New York. I get there less often lately, but business takes me into Manhattan at least once or twice a year, and I take the train. It’s relaxing to me, and Penn Station is in the heart of Manhattan, so it’s also convenient. Here are some thoughts scribbled down while returning from one such trip.

4:00pm ET, departing Pennsylvania Station, New York City, on the Amtrak 2166 Acela, northbound, headed for Boston. Descending to the train, I got one last whiff of the city and one last listen to the noise. I’m a country boy, but in short bursts New York is a great place to be.

My seat is on the left and I am looking west. Manhattan skyline is impressive. It’s a bright, sunny day. New York Presbyterian Church building stands out. Looking down at rooftops, it strikes me how much razor wire is down there. I see plenty when I go into the prisons in Mass with my ministry. Nasty stuff.

Lots of water. Looking at the rivers and bridges, I am reminded of the monumental importance and achievement of erecting the Brooklyn Bridge and what it meant for the city. Love the song. We take bridges for granted these days.

Lots of rubbish along the tracks. Repulsive. Vagabond shelters. Evidence of pure laziness.

Graffiti everywhere. The cartoonish, balloon letter style of gang markings has become a tired cliché. One word stands out to me: eptic. Guess it’s the handle of the individual responsible.

Smoke stacks. As a kid I thought the immensely tall brick stacks of industry were cool, especially as they belched out their vapors. I know better now.

Lots of unimaginative architecture. Nice view of the backs of decaying warehouses. An unfolding bleak brown monochrome of buildings and dormant vegetation along the expansive salt marshes.

Port Chester, NY. Life Savers Building. Nice.

Cos Cob. Mianus River. Who names a town Cos Cob?

Wrong side of the tracks? From where I sit, there is no “right side” of the tracks. No one wants to live anywhere near the tracks.

Stamford. Looks like what a modern rail town should be. Like the UBS Building.

South Norwalk. Gutted warehouse. Norwalk River. Norwalk. A peek east: nice water view.

Fairfield. Porsche, Audi, Mercedes Benz dealers on the border with Bridgeport. Bridgeport is definitely not a German car town. Nice ballpark (Bridgeport Bluefish). Bridgeport looks like it’s working to reach its potential as a revitalized rail and port town, but there’s a long way to go. Plenty of construction underway, but a whole lot of blight.

Railbed from Bridgeport north through Milford is remarkably clean. Ongoing attention, or simply a lack of nearby residential areas and a raised railbed keeps rubbish from collecting?

I get aggravated when southbound trains pass blocking my view.

5:16pm. Shadows growing longer. Horizon bright. Blinding glare at times.

Warehouses in West Haven and New Haven. Trash reappears along railbed. Stop in New Haven. Like the brick and look of New Haven from where I sit. Impressive renovation, possibly old train station. Outskirts of town are bleak. Peeking east again, the ocean view is very nice. Much more interesting than my westward view.

Light fading as we speed toward Providence. Lighted church steeple stands out poking up from silhouetted evergreens.

Lots of stuff hidden along the tracks. Trash. Washing machines. Barrels. Abandoned vehicles.

Niantic Bay. Acres of shrink-wrapped boats waiting for spring.

6:02pm. Seeing more and more of my reflection in the window against a blackening view. Time to find something else to do.

Share  Posted by Mike Spinney at 2:06 PM | Permalink

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