Showing posts from 2020

Christmas Eve on Ancient Paths

Perhaps you have noticed, dear Reader, that while much of the world seems to gear itself up for the 25th of December, the 24th has a special feel of its own?  Christmas Eve, December the 24th, the day before.   But in the year 2020, how the warm Christmas lights and the push for normalcy seems a paradox.  The deaths mount in numbers that are hard to comprehend and they carry with them the sorrows of families intertwined with the suffering of those they love.  While some push to do life as normal, others real from loss and still others seek shelter from a raging pandemic storm that threatens from all sides.  The country stands divided after a bitter election, and the pains of social injustice seem never soothed.  The economy suffers, people are out of work.  In other years, the 24th has felt a special and still sort of Peace compared to the rush of the day the follows. This year, it is a surreal feeling Eve that is upon us. I heard the cannons in the south ... and with the sound the Car

Waning Light at Galva

In the not so distant past there lives a different place, somewhere buried in memory.  It's a place where a warm fall sun slowly drops toward the horizon line and an eastbound California Zephyr makes a late-running dash into the Windy City.  It's not far from a little place called Galva, IL where an old timber bridge crosses the former CB+Q mainline in the heart of the Prairie State.  It's a warm and quiet late afternoon there, and the years do nothing to change it.  The human soul, it seems, was never meant to age in years. In those days, it seemed only 'yesterday' that railroads like the Rock Island and Milwaukee plied their rails and struggled their last remaining days in cold winters and hellish conditions.  Stations had personnel and baggage handlers, and passenger trains were daily.  Dear reader, stand with me here on this bridge for just a little while and gaze at the great play that is being unrolled before our eyes under a Prairie State sky. It is merely a

But a Handbreadth

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12  It wasn't so long ago that one could stand here near Uniondale, Indiana and watch SD45s, Alcos and early GEs stream across the background of the small cemetery above.  It wasn't so long ago, but then again, perhaps it was. EL, Uniondale, Indiana, 1975 Out across the flat prairie of Indiana the piggybacks streamed, cutting a path from Chicago to the East in the days before Conrail.  To me, the Erie-Lackawanna has always been fascinating like some of the other fallen flags from the same era.  I'm aware of no other railroad that opted to buy passenger diesels, not for the sake of hauling passenger trains, but for the lengthened frame and added fuel tank capacity that they could achieve. There is also something beautiful about a set of Alco PAs in gray and crimson pulling piggybacks.   But the truth is that time passes quickly as a day comes and a day goes, the sun rises and then sets again.  The day

Don't let it end like this

Location:  Mount Pleasant, Iowa It was just a cold winter day in the early 2000s.  The ceiling above was unlimited and the blues were showing vivid on yesteryear's slide film.  Running east like a wind itself, the California Zephyr is seen streaking across the flat eastern Iowa landscape with its sights set on the Mississippi River crossing.  Once safely through the winding and narrow passages of Burlington, the small towns of Illinois will flit by the large windows, just for an instant, as the cars gently rock along the double-tracked transcon.  Then, a final run into Chicago on the Race Track.  All along the way, the stainless steel will glisten in the low winter sun.  Maybe - just maybe - I see a little of that old panache of America's famous trains showing through.   So much has changed so quickly in the pandemic era.  The Zephyr and its long distance stablemates will retreat like many of us to a different way I wonder, will we ever have these daily runs again?  Will dining

Kingdom of Idols II

Milepost:  1519.8    Butte, MT In 2009, I first wrote an entry titled " Kingdom of Idols " and wondered at the passing of eras. Of the era of 2009, I wrote: ... We rest in .. [an era].. of entitlement and gratification, one that quickly moves beyond past accomplishments for which we have no personal use. Our current idols have plotted an interesting course that is just now coming into clearer focus. The destination does not always seem appetizing, but the howl of radials along the Clark Fork remind us of its coming. And so we continued in that era until something changed.  Indeed, since I last wrote on these pages, the entire world has changed.  All around us institutions that marked western civilization and the world at large remain shaking.  Dear reader, consider that in a matter of days education systems, government systems, healthcare systems, economic systems, transportation systems, and many personal freedoms that we lay claim to in the West lay closed all abo