Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Photo Challenge/Reaching Up

Coming home after meeting friends for dinner this evening I realized that I had missed yesterday's prompt - REACHING UP.  Then a bit of inspiration struck as I sat at the train crossing down the block from our house watching those gates reaching back up after the 7:00 train had passed.

We live roughly a quarter of a mile from the North Branch Train Station, which is really just a train stop now as the station itself was lost in a fire many years ago before we even moved here.  Still, it is a stop on the Raritan Valley commuter line that goes into NYC.  We've never taken the train to NY from here only because the trains don't run back out here past a certain hour of the night, so we usually leave from a station farther up the line.  

I've lived near "the tracks" all my life.  As a child we were half a block away - almost a stone's throw if you had a very good arm.  We were brought up to respect the imminent danger of playing on or near the tracks, still, there were times we laid pennies on the rails as trains approached and after they passed we would search for the flattened pieces of copper.  Sometimes we were lucky and found them, often times not.  And I seem to remember being told, in that way that grown-ups tell you things to scare you away from doing dangerous things, that laying pennies on the tracks could cause the train to derail and fall over on you.  Was it true?  I don't know, but it was always in the back of my mind.  Didn't really stop us though.  Wish I could find one of those pennies to show you.

The noise of the trains never kept me from sleeping.  Sometimes in the summer, with the windows open, a longgggggggggg freight train would pass by slowlyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.  The clacking on the tracks was musical, and if the conditions were just right, you might just be able to hear the clanging of the bell at the crossing which was eight blocks away, or the screeching of the train stopping to deposit it's freight at the JM Plant (Johns-Manville, when it was located in Manville, NJ).  And as those trains unloaded, you could hear the motor rumbling, the cars would roll forward, the screech of the brakes, and then the boom as the cars were knocked together as the train stopped again, and again, and again, until it was unloaded and ready to move on.  There was a double track there, so sometimes other trains did pass going in the opposite direction, whooshing by.

When HWNSNBP and I got married we found an apartment in a two-story house on the other side of town right across the road from the other rail line that went through town, though by that time, that line was not used very often.

And then we moved to Branchburg where we're actually the furthest from the tracks that I've been. It's not as easy to hear the clacking of the trains, or the clanging of the bell but when I do it doesn't bother me.  The commuter trains move much faster than the freight trains and here they do share the same rails, just not at the same time.  Meaning they go through here so fast sometimes you don't even realize there's a train.

As I sat at the crossing this evening, I wasn't sure whether the approaching train would be stopping or not, and wished that I had pulled out my phone (camera) sooner because being the first at the crossing I had a bird's-eye view of the train approaching and the green, red and white lights were so pretty. 


  1. I love the sound of trains and you honestly stop noticing it when you live near one that passes regularly and share that childhood experience of putting pennies on the tracks. We used to walk on the railroad track when we were older . . . with that same warning in the back of our minds I'm sure. This is why I like photo challenges . . . one minute you think about a prompt and next thing you know all sorts of things come into your thoughts. Have a wonderful day!

  2. What a fascinating post, Lorraine. I so enjoyed reading it. I grew up near a train-track too. It's funny, back then nothing was thought of taking a short-cut across the tracks to the beach, or walking down the coast along the tracks on the far side of the station (which was the end of the suburban part of the service; trains going any further were few and far between). Here, the train runs by the end of our garden, and I'm always subconsciously aware of odd freight or maintenance trains running past when there are no scheduled services. And in December, when they run a steam train to visit Santa, the sound is so unmistakable. And sheesh, even though our station has a level crossing and C is always liable to take long detours to avoid the possibility of the gates being down, I never even thought of it when it came to this prompt. Well done you!


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