Train In Vain

I’ve always loved trains…

I’ve lived with a train running through my back yard all my life, but that could have just as easily made me hate trains…there’s a scene in “The Blues Brothers” where Jake goes into Elwood’s apartment for the first time…right outside the window, El trains constantly rumble by…Jake asks, “How often do those go by?” and Elwood responds, “So often you won’t even notice”…that’s kinda how having a train outside my window has been over the past 21 years…

When I was little, I loved Thomas the Tank Engine…on my trips to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I could ride the parks’ railroads for hours, and this year I even got to ride in the historic Lilly Belle…I guess it’s the part of me that likes old-timey things, and trains fit right in with that…

Since I don’t drive, my main mode of transportation is the train…specifically, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, known as SEPTA…since I started at XPN (and even a little before that), I’ve been taking the train into Center City Philadelphia on a regular basis…there was a train station about a fifteen minute walk from my high school…on days that we would get out at 2:15, I would head to the train so that I wouldn’t have to wait for the school buses whose schedules and reliability got less and less predictable each year…once I got my job at XPN, I got a SEPTA pass, which looks really cool and official…

Of course, there are plenty of times that I wish I didn’t have to take the train…there are days when the cars are absolutely packed with people, and these are usually the hottest days of the summer…there are many times when the trains are extremely late, which was the case just yesterday…

Now that I take all my classes at Temple’s Main Campus, I just take the 20 minute train ride to the Temple station each morning…on Mondays, my train is at 9:03…through all the revised timetables that get issued every now and again, my trains never seem to change…9:03…I get to the station a little before 9:00, and there is always a train before mine that goes by Elkins Park without stopping…that train goes by at the same time it always does, meaning that my train can’t be far behind…9:03 comes and goes, but my trains have a tendency to be a few minutes late, so I’m not worried…besides, my class starts 20 minutes after my train gets to Temple’s station, so I still have plenty of time…the minutes start to tick by…the main way I tell time is by what I’m listening to on my iPod…I don’t wear a watch but, like a runner, I can pace myself or gauge periods of time based on how many songs go by…as I waited for the train yesterday, I was listening to White Light/White Heat by The Velvet Underground, and had gotten to “Sister Ray,” the last song on the album…that song is 17 minutes long…as the song went on, the train still wasn’t coming…around 9:15, an announcement comes over the PA system, and the now-large group of people at the station turn their heads to hear that the 9:03 train wasn’t coming…a few minutes after, as “Sister Ray” drew to a close, a train pulls slowly into the station…I’m not even sure the train was supposed to stop at Elkins Park, but there were enough people waving it down that it pulled to a loud halt…this train was pretty full already, and the train’s speed never progressed past a crawl during the whole trip…also, in the rather large gap between two of the stations along the way, the inside of the car began to smell like burning rubber…”So this is how it ends,” I thought…

On top of all that, the commotion on the track behind my house has been heightened to “Positively Bananas” recently…this is because they’re doing work on the tracks the only time they can: in the middle of the night…a week or so ago, this appeared at the train station:

...all the live-long day

In simple terms, that means that, between 8:45pm and 4:45am, I will get no sleep no matter how hard I try…when I was coming back from the Y-Rock meeting last week, my train was held up at the stop before Elkins Park because an inbound train was coming in on the same track and could only switch over when it got closer to the station I was at…

So let’s review:

Trains I like

Trains I don’t like


Lyric of the Time:
Come down to the station
To meet my baby at the gate
Asked the station master
If my train’s a-running late
He said “If you’re a-waiting
on the 444
I hate to tell you son
That train don’t stop here any more


~ by E. on September 30, 2008.

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