The Trains are Gone
I took a drive down old Hwy 98 this weekend through the old home village. I drove down the sideroad beside our old place next to the Ruscom River and very slowly approached the barely marked railway crossing that ran behind our place, carefully looking both ways for a train as I’d always done.
I need not have been so cautious. Because the trains are gone.
I had no idea. Last year when I visited the ancestral homeland, I never saw a train. But I assumed they were still running. Maybe they weren’t. The impact of the realization that they were gone hit me .. well .. like a freight train. I can’t explain why it was such a shock, except maybe to say that it triggered a whole set of memories. Trains in the night. The rumble of an approaching train, and then feeling it gradually get closer as it shook the house and demanded our attention with its loud whistle.
I sometimes felt a bit afraid as the train got closer. There were some very dramatic accidents that happened at those crossings, both behind our place and my grandparents. And there were some fun stories too. My father still tells about the Mail Flyers and the Wolverines and the other names they would have for the trains that came by. My mom used to take the train home from school in Ridgetown. One time, she tells me, she brought two baby goats home on the train. When I was a kid in the 1960s, the rail line was double tracked. There were no passengers trains but lots of freight. You could sometimes see two trains coming at each other on different tracks from different directions. There were a lot of trains.
This summer, I want to walk the rail line all the way from South Woodslee, through Ruscomb, to Comber. A long slow way to experience my birthplace at a leisurely pace and maybe experience the place from a different perspective. I’ll look at the surrounding land, imagining what it must have been like to be riding on one of those trains, whistle blowing, pistons pumping, flying along on the hard, flat countryside. I’ve never seen the place from the perspective of the rail line before. It would have been a little dangerous to do that a few years ago.
But now, I can walk along the rail line without having to listen for that distant rumble. I won’t have to get off the rail line. Because now, there are no trains …. just the silence of the fields. And my memories.