The Engine of the Train


Big metal bumps into big metal. There is a satisfying clink. Almost as good as the dink of cold beer bottles as we toast each other after a hot work day.

Every time I take the train from New York City to Westport, NY, the train stops in Albany to get a new engine. And so I hurry from my seat to the platform with the other train enthusiasts (12-year old boys, pot-bellied men, tourists from Japan) to watch the new engine back in and clink against the train.

Why is this moment of impact such a thrill? Because the engine is small and the train is heavy. Because the elegance and engineering of rail travel still amazes me. Because there is a satisfying clink. Cheers!

I love Amtrak

The train conductors are service people who do not check their personalities at the door. You get to know them when you take that seven-hour train up or down between NYC and the Adirondacks.

One conductor had a plate of homemade cookies from a station mistress.

I was ogling them, smiling.

“Do you want one?”

“I’m on a diet,” I said. “I shouldn’t.”

I got up to use bathroom.

When I returned to my seat, there were two cookies beside my computer.

They were seriously the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever eaten.

I love the Amtrak conductors. The guy then railed (!) at me about how some people spread out too much on their seats when new passengers need those seats, then he started spouting how too many people are politically correct and he’s a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh’s. Okay, I tuned out on this last part of his diatribe.

I am a huge fan of political correctness and common courtesy. And you’d think the conductor would be too, especially if he wanted passengers to share their space well.

But I didn’t get into it with him. Not with the sweet taste of chocolate chip cookies still melting in my mouth.