The train operator, I believe, is required to blast his horn four times right before he plows his powerful engine through the railroad crossing. And he does so regularly, fervently and almost religiously, over and over many times night and day.

You can hear it loud and clear throughout the whole town. The sound echos off the canyon walls as it vibrates the air in our little otherwise sleepy community.

I guess you could consider it the signature sound of a railroad town. 

Union Pacific keeps it’s freight, goods and mighty engines rolling on through rain or shine. It has right of way all the way night and day.

The rail line is a long conveyor belt stretching all across the country. It’s an ever moving shuttle through the land. 

It’s also our little town’s connection to the outside world. With it’s regular schedule it keeps our tiny hamlet up to the moment in the here and now. 

Without it’s near constant motion we are liable to stagnate in time and the stillness of the desert, and perhaps slowly fade off into the past.  

Townspeople are all quite used to the sound of the train. It rarely, if ever, disturbs their sleep. It’s a bit like the sound of crickets. You hear it so much that after a while you pay it no mind. It’s only if you don’t here it for a time that you feel something is missing.

I’ve asked some people if they like the trains or consider them a bother? The answers I get are usually ambivalent: “Trains are trains. They don’t bother me none”. 

The one complaint some may have is waiting for one to chug on by while sitting in their car at the crossing. 

Most freight trains these days consist of well over one hundred cars taking longer to pass by. The boxcars have different colors and sizes.

Most display the scribble of names, symbols and slogans of inner city youth. They look like rolling art galleries showing off gangland graffiti right across America.

In one respect, trains are a modern, powerful and effective means of mass transport. On the other hand, they are a nostalgic reminder of America’s history. They helped to open up and developed this vast territory. They ran over the mountains and across the prairies and modernized the Old West. They connected east coast to west. And, after all this time, they still roll on.

Roll on locomotive. Take it down the line. 

Heading off to Denver. Goin to make it there on time.

Winding through the Rockies. Climbing toward the sky.

Goodbye to California. See you all by and by. 

We cross the Great Divide, chugging on our way.

We’ll chalk up 400 miles before the break of day.

Life’s a thrilling journey. It’s bitter and it’s sweet.

But the wheels keep on turning till it’s all complete.

Throw your cares to the wind. Seek fortune and fame.

Life is just a journey on your choo choo, choo choo train.

Alright friends and neighbors. That’s it for this week from your old rambling railroad poet. Catch you all later on down the track.

Dan O’Connor can be reached at