I’m not sure what it is that particularly fascinates me about them; maybe it’s the whole package. I like the sounds of their whistles. I like the sounds of their various linkages and mechanisms. I like the look and sounds of steam locomotives. (They seem magical to me, even if you don’t bump into Harry Potter and his friends on one.)
I like the deep guttural roar from diesel locomotive engines. I like the massive “clang” when train cars are coupled. I like what is to me a mystery and a wonder that so many incredibly heavy train cars of so many sorts can be linked together and pulled by locomotives whose power boggles my mind.
From the time I was a boy old enough to know what a train was, I was fascinated by them. (Oh, how I wish I still had the old Lionel model train we played with when I was a kid!)
I remember our family taking Dad to the train station in Amarillo where he would board a very real and very large train to travel to all sorts of places to preach the good news of Christ Jesus. The places were interesting to me, but the idea of riding a train that far was enthralling. (Book idea: Trains, Plains, and Automobiles and Fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission. Hmm.)
And so, no surprise, I loved the late spring semester outing when kids like me from Amarillo’s San Jacinto Elementary School got some real life education added to their schooling, and Mrs. Faulkner’s third grade was ferried by bus to a passenger train in Amarillo to board and take a wonderful trip all the way to Canyon, Texas, a bit less than 20 miles away.
We never left this planet; we were boarding a train, not a spaceship. But we seemed to ascend into a brand new world as we climbed up those steps and were conducted into a fascinating adventure. The door closed, the whistle whistled, the engine roared, and that steel monster began to pick up speed. I loved the clickety-clacks and soporific rocking motion as the old world outside our windows slid by.
Years later, when I was traveling to Indiana myself to preach—trips to Indiana were some of Dad’s most oft-repeated travels—I checked into booking passage on a train for myself and a son. I never could make it work.
But I did manage to take a granddaughter on the Polar Express once (out of snow-poor Lubbock, Texas). And I later bought a new Lionel train to make trips, for many years now, around our Christmas tree many times every year.
I like train stories. I like train mystery stories. I like train Christmas stories.
Maybe, if I may wax a bit philosophical here, trains fascinate me and many other folks because they are their own microcosmic worlds. Like stories, they ferry us to exotic locales, all the while reminding us that the journey itself is an adventure. They carry us with fascinating people. Unless we’re dull as dust, a train trip surely might even tempt us to get our faces out of our phones long enough to quit phubbing (phone snubbing) life’s fellow passengers and find out that all people are fascinating if you just listen awhile. A train trip is a great time for that and a fine time to learn some important life lessons about the life journey we’re on.
Lessons abound, but let me mention just a couple.
If you want our society to go off the rails, the easiest way is to convince as many people as possible that there are no rails. Or that what the rails are made of is of no importance. Or that how far apart you place the rails is unimportant and simply a matter of personal preference.
You see, if we want to go on a successful and rewarding journey via rail, we need to pick a good destination, ride the right train, and be sure the rails are strong and trustworthy and consistent.
I figure it’s also vital on our journey through life to make the trip on rails that are good, true, solid, and trustworthy. Not everything is good. Not everything is true. Not everything is right. Not everything from the multiplication tables to gender to the law of gravity is up for grabs. Not if you want to avoid derailment or being squashed like a bug by a locomotive you try to ignore rather than to ride.
One of the verses in the Bible that scares me the most is found in Judges 17:6 where we’re told that in Israel in those days, “[E]veryone did whatever he wanted to—whatever seemed right in his own eyes.”
That is chaos, a terrible train wreck just about to happen. I like trains; train wrecks are another matter entirely. In our journey it’s more than a little important to listen to the Conductor who knows the train, the rails, and our journey perfectly. And, above all, there is this: he loves the passengers with all of his heart.