Still Waitin’ For That Train

When I wrote about a song called “Night Train” in a recent piece, I connected it to my high school marching band and my transition into a football player. But aside from those memories, it’s also a type of song that’s very near and dear to me — a train song.

engineIt’s pretty common knowledge that old coots like me are often train buffs, but my fondness for choo-choos was a part of me long before I entered geezerhood. I came up with a theory about that recently, while listening to some of my treasure trove of train music. It ranges from the simple sound of Chet Atkins and “Freight Train,” to the big band era’s Harry James and “Waiting For The Train,” and that latter song’s title relates directly to my theory. I think that I was train-deprived as a kid.

A quick disclaimer here: I had a comfortable childhood in a middle-class home, and completely understand that a lot of kids had it much tougher. But when you’re young, it’s pretty easy to feel sorry for yourself when a couple of your friends have fancy train sets and you don’t. I was entranced by the shiny black Lionel locomotives and the big humming transformers, and there were a lot of extras too. I remember that one kid even had tiny tablets he could put into the engine and it would make smoke come out. Neato!

Although I’m sure my parents went through some thin times, they weren’t poor — but they were frugal. And like most parents, they sometimes had to judge whether a cheaper version of something might do just fine for their kid. So when I began agitating for a train set for Christmas, it might not surprise you to hear that they ended up getting me something a little less impressive than I’d visualized.

The entire train — even the locomotive — was made of brightly-colored plastic, which gave it a Disneyish look more suited to younger kids. The power supply was simply a plastic box with four batteries (which soon ran train2down) and there was only a limited amount of track included. It was pretty underwhelming, and I guess there’s no way that I won’t sound like an ungrateful whelp when I say that I was mightily disappointed. However, I wasn’t the kind of kid who threw tantrums, so I swallowed my dismay and made the best of it.

Now that a lot of years have passed and I view this through the prism of adulthood, I know that things are not always as simple as they seem. For one thing, one of the friends I envied so much was part of a broken home, and lived with his father — a rarity in those days. His estranged parents often competed with each other by buying him expensive toys. I think his train set was one of those — and don’t even get me started on his fancy Schwinn bike.

But the fact that I remember the whole experience even after all these years means that it must have been pretty significant to me at the time. And it just might have had a little to do with my life-long attraction to all things railroad. I guess I’m still just waitin’ for that train.cacd


4 thoughts on “Still Waitin’ For That Train

  1. Well, now you’ve made me feel guilty. I had one of those Lionel trains with one of those semi-humping transformers. I think they are referred to as “O-Gauge” now days. But alas, it was smokeless so that makes me feel a little better. Although my cousin had a smoker and it was definitely cool.

    I remember a couple of accessories but especially a coal loading elevator that was really cool. And a gateman that would come out of a little shack when the train passed and swing a lantern. I actually found a link showing both those items here. Great memories for sure.

    And then to add to my misery, you had to bring up the bicycle! You must be referring to the Black Phantom and after confessing to owning the train of “your” dreams you expect me to confess with regard to the bike…….NEVER! 🙂

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  2. Yeah I remember the little train figure too, and wasn’t there something that would load little logs onto a special car?

    With the Lionel and the Schwinn too, I’d suspect that you were the guy I was talking about, except I know that he’s no longer with us. Of course, there were probably zillions of kids that had both — just not me.;)

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  3. I guess you were talking about Eddie? I remember the kid named Larry(I think) that lived down the street from us…he had a fancy Lionel train set up on a plywood stand in his basement that his father made complete with mountains and a village, etc. But now that I think about it I seem to remember his dad spent more time running it than him so I guess it was more like his dad’s toy train.

    By the way, I remember when I got that fancy blue and white Schwinn bike for my 11th birthday complete with streamers. I think I had the best looking bike in our neighborhood, heh, heh.

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