Train travel came up with the Otterbees today. Trains taken across the country. Trains from Bellingham to Seattle. Trains in foreign countries which were less than pleasant and brought to mind the song  “Passengers will please refrain from flushing toilets while the train is in the station.”

I  have traveled on a train several times in my long life span. When I was very young my sister, mother and I took the train from Boston to Erie Pa. where my mother was brought up. I really remember little about it. My grandparents on that side of the family died before I was about 7 years old. I do have memories of visiting “the farm” where they spent the summer outside of the city. One year they bought two goats to entertain us. They named them Abigail and Ezra. My sister enjoyed them. I did not. Ezra preferred butting me where ever I stood.

My mother’s sister for whom I was named was there one summer. She was living in Mexico and, of course, spoke very good Spanish. We would play a game where she would tell us to do something in Spanish and we were to guess what it was. What a clever way to get us to set the table, make the beds etc. I should have learned a foreign language and tried it with my kids.

Another train trip I recall was when we were living in the DC area. Three kids under five and they would all ride for free. What a deal! At the time my fourth child was concealed under maternity clothes.  We took the train to RI where my parents met me and took us all to the Cape. Three kids under five on a train by yourself is not recommended. It was a challenge, such that, for the return trip I wanted to know if the local Doctor could give them something to make life a little easier for me. He prescribed phenobarbitol – remember this was 50 years ago!!  Two of my little cherubs went to sleep but only after throwing up and alarming another parent that they had some dreaded disease. The third child, Katie, at one and a half, ran up and down the aisles the whole ride back to DC. Obviously the prescription had the reverse reaction for her. Oh well. Lesson learned.

By the time my kids were 8,10,12 and 13… (almost, as they all have late fall birthdays,) I thought a train ride to Cape one summer might be worth trying again. (silly me)
We were living inon the other sided of the country in Bellingham, WA, and arranged the trip from Vancouver to Montreal. It made up for all the misery of the first trip. The kids had a great time. They made friends in other cars and visited back and forth with them. Bill spent most of the time in the baggage car with several other young boys. I didn’t know until a lot later that there was a coffin in there. The conductor asked the boys if they thought a ghost would rise up from the coffin.

Sia met a little girl her age named Valerie. She was many cars farther from where we were and they visited back and forth over the three and half days of the trip. One time they had barely left for a visit to Valerie’s mom when they came back. “Why back so soon?” I asked. “Valerie’s mom said we should visit you.” I got the message. Valerie had a younger sibling and I am sure her mom was very happy to let the girls be with me for a while.

We had four berths… so Sia, the youngest got to sleep with someone. Amelia was the usual one to put up with her. She slept spread eagle… arm and legs out wide. Poor Amelia.

We went into the dining car the first meal on the train. The tables seated four. I wasn’t sure how we would handle this when the person in charge assigned Bill to a table seating three old folks. I could see him out of the corner of my eye. He sat up straight. He put his napkin on his lap. He carried on a conversation with the people. I almost didn’t recognize him. When we left the car, one of the old folks asked if that was my son. I said yes, quite proudly. “Very nice boy,” says the lady, “for an American.”

When the dining car was finished with meals, it was converted to bingo games. We  stayed up well beyond bed time and played until we were all droopy eyed. We all won something: a deck of cards, a lighter (this was long before no smoking says) and other train memorabilia, except Katie. At age ten, she  was not a happy kid. Katie likes to win and even offering her some of the prizes, she still was not happy. SHE had not won them.

From Montreal to Boston, we took a plane. Then we transferred… three guitars, nine pieces of luggage and four kids and me to a very small plane to the Cape. I was afraid the luggage… or a kid.. would not make it. As we sat in the seats waiting for take off we could see the pilot. He was reading something. The gentleman across the aisle said to me “I hope he isn’t reading the manual.”.
We arrived safe and sound on the Cape, all kids and luggage accounted for. Several weeks with cousins in that wonderful house singing songs, swimming and… fortunately for me… a plane ride home.

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4 Responses to trains

  1. Ruth says:

    Ahhh…a post about trains and family and emotions. Your words swirl around and make it all very good. Thanks for writing, Ruth

  2. The part about giving the kids meds to calm them down was hilarious! Traveling with 4 kids – wow! I also loved the part about Ezra the goat and visited the farm. Wonderful details made me visualize. 🙂

  3. Linda Baie says:

    I do love your stories. You know just how to put in enough detail to make them interesting, but also wanting to know more. Your train adventures are quite amazing; what a courageous traveler you were. And you left just enough out at the end to make me say, ‘so what happened at the Cape?’

  4. Tam says:

    Nothing like the memories of a train. I traveled as a nine year old to Niagara Falls with my aunt and cousin. I traveled the South Shore to Chicago and back many times. I traveled as a nanny with a one and five year old. Recently I took two grandchildren on a short train ride. I love the sounds of trains. Thanks for letting me go back in time a bit. You are one brave person.

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