Salt Lake City, like many of her counterparts in the United States, is divided by railroad tracks. They are quite active and the trains that rush past the busy city streets are very audible, no matter how far away you live from them. The whistles from these trains are so noisy during the wee hours of the night that I have trouble sleeping at times (even though we live at least 15 miles from the tracks). I hated trains.
During a particularly sleepless night, I tried a relaxation technique. I imagined that the trains were boats. When my husband and I visited San Francisco, we stayed at a lovely hotel in Oakland called the Waterfront Plaza Hotel. Right on the bay, we could hear the horn blasts from the boats all night, but it was relaxing to us. The image of the huge ships gracefully sailing past us, announcing their presence was romantic. That sleepless night in Salt Lake, I pretended that the whistles I heard were from the gently floating ships on the San Francisco Bay. I fell asleep quickly that evening.
It didn’t take me long to realize how silly this was. Only a couple evenings of thinking led me to the conclusion that there might be residents of Oakland and San Francisco that abhor the sounds of the bulky and overloaded ships. Boats aren’t romantic if you see them every day. Then I remembered the romance of trains. People all across the nation build model trains, elaborate tracks, and beautiful minature houses and buildings, all to be serviced by the epitome of transportation in the nineteenth century. Trains are romantic.
Now, as I lie awake at night, listening to the resounding whistle blasts, I hear trains, clanking and blustering along the rails. I imagine them bringing supplies to my favorite stores and transporting people from there to here and back. Unfortunately, none of this has really helped me to sleep any better or more than I did before.
Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.
- They hand us now in Shrewsbury jail:/ The whistles blow forlorn,/ And trains all night groan on the rail/ To men that die at morn.
- A. E. Housman
- Across the Columbia Plain : Railroad Expansion in the Interior Northwest, 1885-1893 Paperback by Peter J. Lewty – A history of the growth of the railroads in Northwest America. Includes a map of the railways and a glossary of terms.
- Always in Camera : Archive Photographes of the Great Age of Steam from the Public Record Office, 1860-1913 Paperback by Robin Linsley – Pictures of the steam monstrocities that streamed past the plains of the United States.
- America’s Railroads : The Second Generation Hardcover by Don Ball – Modern trains are featured in this book. Enjoy the newest in railway technology (circa 1988).
- California State Railroad Museum – Located in Sacramento, this museum features the history of trains. On permanent display are artifacts that defined the romance of the train era.