I thought that trains were probably the greatest method of transportation ever as a kid. I got to take the train in to work with my dad once and couldn’t believe how lucky he was. The view was amazing to me, even if it was just houses and empty spaces marked by telephone lines zipping by. My dad seemed unimpressed, and even told me he slept through a lot of it. I didn’t understand at the time why he would (then I became an adult myself and had to commute, and I realized that sometimes the lull of the moving train is the perfect tranquilizer).
In my young mind, I figured that sure, airplanes got you there faster, but you could actually see where you were on a train. You didn’t even need to be in the window seat to have a pretty good view of outside, either. They have sleeper cars and dining cars with real tables and real tablecloths. On airplanes you get those uncomfortable seats that barely recline and less and less food.
When I got a little older, I learned that trains weren’t just good for carrying people like my dad to work or families on vacations. I learned about something else that would greatly interest me: mine railways. I’d like to say that I came about this in a real way and not thanks to Snow White, but I’d be (at least partially) lying. I thought it was completely cool that you could ride a ‘train’ in to work, use it to get all your equipment in and out, and use it to haul the fruits of your labor at the end of the day. This seemed like a much better use of a train than taking my dad to his boring office job, or so I thought. And told him, to which he simply laughed.
Transporting freight by train is also a great idea – it’s cheaper than flying it from place to place, especially heavier cargo, it can be loaded with containers directly off ships to take things the rest of the way, and it gets there faster (and you can move lots more of it) than if you shipped it via truck. It’s also more carbon-friendly than both air and truck transport, something I recently learned.
The more I learn about trains, the more I discover how they changed the face of the United States. They brought this great country together, allowing people to travel, to ship goods and livestock, to bring machinery and services to places that would have been nearly impossible before those tracks were laid. I have also found out that this was not a unique experience to the United States and have read about how trains did the same thing throughout countries the world over. I never thought that I’d be a fan of history, but learning about thinks with a focus on trains has really given me a great understanding of the past.