I was walking our dog this evening, around six o’clock, when I heard the low rumble of an approaching train. I live in Silver Spring, Md., a few blocks from where the tracks cross over Georgia Ave.
When walking down our street, we can see the trains passing at our level, giving the illusion that there is a crossing up ahead. Actually, Georgia dips down below the tracks at that point. But I always look, for I’m reminded of the times my father would take me to watch trains on Sunday afternoons.
Sometimes we’d go to what we called the alley, near New Jersey Ave, SW, where the passenger trains would exit the tunnel from Union Station, heading south.
But our main spot was behind the Twin Bridges Marriott, just across the 14th St Bridge. From there it was a wonderful mix of freight and passenger trains. The passenger trains moved fast, the freight trains were long. I learned where to look on the cars to see how old they were. Each rail car will be marked “New” or “Built”, with a month and year.
My friends were more interested in cars; trains may have seemed from an earlier time. My father was older when I was born, so, in a sense he was from another time. I remember him saying we were less likely to see model trains in department store windows at Christmas time. He saw change coming. But I might have been a little more resistant to such change.
He died when I was young. Others might talk about going to ballgames with their fathers, and we did that a couple of times, too. And I became a big fan.
But just watching trains pass by on a Sunday afternoon is what we really did.
After a day when we saw several, he said, “We really hit the jackpot today!” In a way I still have hit it, because if I hear a train coming, I’ll always look.