A couple of days ago I heard a train in the distance, its chugging and its horn echoing through the valley. I live high up on a hillside on one side of the Susquehanna River valley, so the sound is trapped. I hadn't heard that sound in a while or at least been conscious of it. I used to hear it all the time.

The airport near where I live is not very active. We don't hear planes much.

In North Carolina, we lived pretty close to the local airport. A highway was under construction (stil is) that's less than a mile from the house as the crow flies. The highway marks one of the approaches to the airport. Not that anyone ever told me, but when you drive over the highway and notice a jet headed straight for you, or at least over your head, you get the idea, particularly when it happens often. I don't like the sound of jets all that much but you get used to it and tune them out. They didn't drive me nuts at home.

Before that, we lived for ten years in northwest-central Indiana, about an hour northwest of Indianapolis. The local airport there was even less active than this one, being a university airport. I flew in and out every once in a while but on prop planes. Jets came from visiting sports teams. We heard very few planes overhead.

Prop planes sound different. Instead of a rushing sound, they drone. And they're much louder than jets from inside. Like with trains, it's an old sound.

In Indiana, we lived less than half a mile from train tracks. At night a train would go by every once in a while. Not passenger trains, freight trains. Long ones. They could be extremely loud at that distance but at night we tuned them out.

When we first got there, train routes went through town. People were constantly late for appointments because they got stuck at railroad crossings. That had a very bad side effect: people raced trains. You're on your way somewhere, you know a train is coming, and you wonder if you can get across the track before it arrives so you're not hung up for five to ten minutes waiting for a two hundred car freight train. About every year and a half there would be a car-train accident.

One of these happened out of town (so not in the in-town count) to a friend of ours. In this case it wasn't a race; the driver crept up to a low visibility crossing to see if a train was coming and it hit the front of her car, spinning it around violently. Our friend was a passenger. Because of the angles, she was thrown out of the car. She was wearing a seat belt but it protected her from the wrong direction - she was sitting in front but thrown out a rear window, like twenty feet. She somehow survived and went into physical therapy.

Have you ever noticed that when you watch the Olympics on television that there's an unusual number of Olympians who experienced bad accidents? I now understand this. The friend started in on physical therapy. At some point, she got back to normal, but now she was used to all this disciplined exercise and she didn't stop. She became a triathlete.

Another accident, this one in town, had a very different outcome. It took place in front of J's day care facility while the kids were outside playing. J was outside, at this age enjoying the attentions of girls competing for his attention. He may have been in a wheelchair but he was cute.

This was a very old train route - President Lincoln's body traveled on it on its way back to Springfield. Here there were a pair of train tracks. There was a short line waiting for a train, the light was on and I think this intersection may have had a right lane gate. A young woman, late teens-early twenties, was about three cars back and late for a tanning appointment. She looked down to where the train was coming from, calculated that she could beat it, swung around traffic into the oncoming lane and crossed the tracks. Done all the time.

But there was a Pair of train tracks. She only looked one way and, very unusually, there was a train coming from the other direction that was closer. That train hit her car and set it up for the train coming from the other direction. The train tracks were maybe four feet apart, not enough room for a car between them. Trains with what can be hundreds of cars can't stop. She did not survive.

Even though one train hid the accident, the kids were rushed off the playground and into the building. They were too young to have known what had just happened right in front of them.

The through-town routes were eventually moved. Now there's a road where the tracks used to be.

Living in an area where we heard trains but not planes was pleasant. I can't tell you exactly why I'd rather listen to a train, but I would. I'd imagine so would you.

Now that I'm here I'll listen more closely. I've only been conscious of hearing the one train, but it was an old echoing sound complete with a horn blown repeatedly. They echo more in this valley than they used to on the plains of Indiana. There were all sorts of cars driving through the valley, including a highway that will soon get interstate status, but the train sound cut easily through all of that.

Happy listening.

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Comment by JMac1949 Today on February 24, 2017 at 9:12am

Out here beyond the Bastrop city limits we hear the occasional train... mostly at night.  Not very many airplanes.  R&L

Comment by Stephen Brassawe on February 24, 2017 at 9:14am

I share your fondness for the sound of a train in the distance. I also like to get closer sometimes, too.

Comment by Ron Powell on February 24, 2017 at 10:07am

In the small town of West Haven , CT, the New Haven suburb where I I grew up., the New York to New Haven railway ran through the heart of the town not more than three blocks away from the street where my house was located.

We could here the passenger and freight trains from my home passing  by at all hours of the day and night from my home.  

My school was a block away from the the overpass  which amplified the sound/noise as the trains chugged by.

There were occasions when I would be walking with friends under that overpass and could hear the trains approaching from a distance due to the sound traveling along the tracks.

If I were caught under the bridge at the time the train was actually crossing the sound was terrifying and I would instinctively or reflexively bolt at top speed to avoid hearing that awful noise. 

I was once marching in the annual Memorial Day Parade with the Cub Scout group that my mom  maintained for our neighborhood as 'Den Mother'.As it happened,  the parade route took us under the railroad bridge at precisely the time a train crossed. Despite all effort I made with every fiber in my body to remain calm and stay in line and in step,  I bolt ed, terrified, flag and all.

The only saving grace to that incident was that nobody else saw me because there was no one standing on the underpass sidewalk to view the line of march.

So much for me and the sound of trains...

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