I was sitting in my truck, under a small shade tree, in the back parking lot of the mall for a while today. From the northeast, the sound of a not-so-distant train whistle came in the passenger side windows which were down to let the southwesterly breeze pass through. Before much longer, an engine came slowly down the tracks pulling five extra engines and a long line of cars of various sorts. (I say “down the tracks” because the Ohio River just beyond the tracks also flows southwesterly at this point.) It was obvious that most of the cars were empty, except for the tankers, which I have no way to know about.
None of them were coal cars; most were flat-beds or modified versions of the same. In the not-too-distant past, 400+ coal cars a day moved through this town to points south. I guess Obama is doing as he promised. Some folks will celebrate the passing of coal as a fuel, yet I’ve always read that auto exhaust causes far more acid rain than what coal we burn in this country. Besides, the foreigners are starting to buy some of what we’re not using, so the overall effect may be negligible on a global basis. Still, production is down, and that’s bad if coal is what feeds your family. Of course, MOST industries are in decline in this country, especially in this area. I suppose that’s why the railroad is taking the un-used engines and cars elsewhere.
The engines had been out of sight for only a little bit when the sound of squeaky brakes was heard and the bumping of train car couplings ran from the front of the train northeasterly to the unseen rear of the train, as the great beast slowly ground to a halt. It sat there several minutes, while I pecked on my computer and listened to the birds sing in the trees around me. Suddenly, there was the travelling sound of couplings bumping once again as the engine apparently resumed its forward motion. Soon the cars were clickety-clacking slowly along again, as the large steel wheels crossed joint after joint in the tracks. One or two cars had brakes that weren’t completely releasing, and their squeaking sounded surprisingly like a gaggle of geese headed down the river. I enjoyed watching the long line of cars move by until its “cabooseless” end disappeared into the distance. (All trains seem incomplete these days, to any of us who remember the old cabooses and the men who lived in them.) There’s some sort of a fascination most of us have with the titans of any sort of machinery—big trains, big trucks, big boats and so on are held in awe by the child in us, I suppose.
I was sad to see so many empty cars, though. Like so many of our friends and relatives, I guess they have to leave their home area to look for work elsewhere, so to speak. © 2014