AT RANDOM: I heard the train a-comin’

So, the other night, I’m driving with my son on the back road from the Village Green Centre over toward 43rd Avenue.

The kid says to me, “Dad, you better hurry if you want to beat the train.”

“What train?” said I, obviously fixated on the road.

“That one over there,” said the boy, pointing to the right.

Sure enough, there was the big CN locomotive, pulling another engine and a bunch of cars southbound.

And it was heading to the crossing at 43rd.

So – and without breaking any speed limits I might add – I put my local knowledge to work.

I turned left at 43rd, right at 30th Street, south to 41st Avenue, turned right, looked northbound and saw the train just crossing 43rd, the bright lights of the engine shining straight ahead.

Delay avoided.

As my son and I were heading to our destination, I got to thinking, it’s been awhile since I’ve been stopped at a railway crossing, waiting for the ol’ “iron horse” to make its way along the tracks.

Kinda wish now I’d stopped on 43rd Avenue.

My fascination with trains – and I’m certain this is a guy thing – dates back to childhood.

My parents bought a house where Okanagan Brewery now stands. So, if you know Vernon, you know the proximity to the tracks.

Close. Real close. Like, maybe, 50 yards.

From our front window, I could look down the tracks toward the Highway 6 railway bridge. I always knew when the train was coming north. I could hear its whistle and I would run to the window. Then, I could see the huge beam of the lights underneath the bridge as the train approached the tunnel. Seconds later, it would magically appear.

Driving down the highways and byways of the province, you get fortunate to roll beside a railway track.

Every once in a while, you get fortunate to drive beside a majestic train. You make a motion to the engineer to blow the horn, and smile when he obliges.

My first trip on a passenger train was from Vancouver to Whistler to Williams Lake on B.C. Rail. Spectacular scenery, things you could never see from a car. Not sure how a train breaks down, but that one did. About four times. Fortunately, the train came conveniently equipped with a beverage cart.

My son, like his dad, also became interested in trains at a younger age. He was hooked on Thomas the Tank Engine. His mom and I spent, approximately, $6 million on Thomas figurines, tracks, books and videos.

A retired train worker in Spallumcheen built not only a replica Thomas engine in his garage, he had an actual train, complete with track, trestle and tunnel and would give rides to anybody who stopped at his property for a small donation.

Took the boy to the train museum in Revelstoke after, of course, we stopped at the Last Spike in Craigellachie.

Legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot beautifully captured the hard work that went into creating a significant part of our country’s history with his epic tune Canadian Railroad Trilogy.

I know there’s a push by recreation users to take the line from Coldstream to Kelowna and turn it into a bike path or hiking trail. And I’ll be OK with that IF the rail line can’t be saved. I always wanted to take a trip from Vernon to Kelowna on a train because I’m sure the scenery along Kal and Wood Lakes would be cool.

I’m happy that trains are rumbling again through the North Okanagan, to the point that I wouldn’t mind being stopped at a crossing.

If only they would bring back the caboose.


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