Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everything Old is New Again...

To most people, the whistle and chug of a steam locomotive is a haunting memory from the past. Specters of a time when steam was king still are scattered throughout the world in museums and (in some rare instances) as working dinosaurs brought back from the railroad boneyard. The golden age of steam is gone. These trains are a thing of the past.

Or are they?

On first glance, Britain's Class A1 Number 60163, named the Tornado, looks like just any other resurrection of the past. In reality, while the plans date back about 5o years, the locomotive itself first took its trial run in August of 2008. It's a brand-new steam locomotive built in Darlington by Hopetown Carriage Works which took 18 years and £3 million to create. Saturday marked her maiden voyage from York to Newcastle.

In fact, with booming fuel costs, people the world over are rethinking the use of diesel over steam. In Paraguay, steam has been brought back for tourist trains. Switzerland and Austria added new steam locomotives to some rail lines. A steam line from Chile to Argentina also is in the works. In fact, the Hunslet Engine Company (founded in 1864) is back to producing steam locomotives in Leeds after 35 years out of the locomotive business.

There is a certain mystique to steam engines which are lacking in cold diesel locos carrying freight to and fro across the US and many other nations. The beauty of the intricate gears spinning in clockwork unison harkens back to the time when travel wasn't only about the destination, it was about how you got there. Today, we speed along in a hurry to get somewhere while missing everything along the way. We clambor into planes hoping for a quick flight or drive at fastest speeds to get from point A to B.

But for many of us, the ghosts of steam still haunt us with pleasant longing. We long for excellent meals in dining cars instead of inedible rubbish on a plastic airline plate. Hopefully, with such specters as these rising from the grave, people will start to rethink their priorities. Instead of insane breakneck speeds in automobiles, applying make-up in rear view mirror while texting and risking accidents for that not-very-important instant message, we still might be able to relearn allowing someone else to take the reins as we sit back, enjoy the ride, and have more time to do these daily mundane tasks as scenery flies by our windows. To interact with other people in public transportation instead of closing ourselves into little boxes and avoiding the world around us.

Dead or alive, we're all a part of something greater than ourselves. We're a unique blend of thoughts, history, and cultures. The world isn't something to be afraif of and avoid; it's something to embrace, learn from, and become involved with. Perhaps our world would be a better place is we took the time to think about what lies beyond the dashboard and step on board a railway once in a while...

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

My hubby adores trains. I shared this excerpt with him and he really appreciated it.