Today is National Train Day. I have a long history, as well as a love, with passenger trains. I grew up in a town where the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad had its regional headquarters. The company was one of the largest employers in town. Two beautiful, brown brick three-story buildings owned by the railroad sat in the middle of town. One housed the company’s regional offices, the second was the station. I still remember the marble floors, the tall, pane glass windows and wooden oak benches of its interior.
Many passengers departed from this station; soldiers on their way to the World War II, sisters on their way to visit family in Kansas City or Chicago, or kids, like me, taking a short ride to the town only 20 miles away just so I could spend the day with a girlfriend.
On another occasion, my aunt bravely packed me at age 7 and my brother, age 4, onto the train for a cross-country trip to the coast of Oregon. And what a trip it was. I took lots of black and white snapshots with my Brownie Hawkeye as we passed through farmland, cr ossed mountains androde through ranches until we reached the spectacular shores of the Pacific Ocean.
The old train stations evoke a nostalgia of a romantic travel time gone by, at least in many parts of the country. How wonderful if this country could have as many high-speed passenger trains as elsewhere in the world. Perhaps as gas prices continually rise and fuel for cars becomes even more expensive, trains will once again come into widespread use and get people where they need to go.
I love to stage photo sessions in the historic train station here in Bellingham whenever possible and always with permission. In recent years, there has been a trend among some photographers to use railroad tracks as a background. This has been an especially popular location among the high school seniors. I explain to my senior clients who come in with that idea in mind that it’s dangerous to shoot on the tracks and refuse to shoot on an active train track. I have safe spots where I shoot where the trains or the tracks are in the background. But again, you must be extremely cautious even in these situations.
So here’s a big salute to National Train Day and all the choo-choos that pass your way!