BOSTON — I was born too late. I missed the heyday of train travel by about 100 years, and I haven't stopped trying to make up for it.
Trains featured prominently in my childhood. My father built an HO-scale model railroad empire in the basement, constructing the trains and buildings from intricate kits. Long after my brother lost interest, Dad could be found puttering over the layout. He'll love the elaborate garden railways in our cover story (right).
A recent trip with my family to the Indianapolis Children's Museum reminded me of the reason trains fire my imagination. The extensive collection of Lionels and trains in all sorts of gauges - all the way up to the full-size Reuben Wells steam locomotive - give train buffs a thrill.
For me, trains are reminders of slower times, when travelers were lulled by the click-clack of the rails instead of deafened by the roar of a jet engine. The sound is appealing whether you're on the train or not. "The rhythm of the rails" Arlo Guthrie sang in the 1972 hit "City of New Orleans."
Growing up, I would often hear a train whistle in the night. It spoke of journeys and distances and adventure. The sound was both soothing and provocative. It hinted at places beyond my hometown that I had yet to visit.
Everything connected with trains has this effect. The old stations, the platforms on which people gathered and waited. Names of railways, like the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, which is immortalized in song.
I've ridden trains on three continents. The sound - and the feeling - never gets old.
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