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And Then It Stopped

October 10, 2016

I had fifteen minutes to make my train. It’s about a twelve minute casual walk from my office to the train station. I knew that if I hurried, I should make it in plenty of time. 

My lovely wife had called with one of the family emergencies that accompany a family as large as ours. Even though I’d just arrived at work, I was grabbing my coat and heading back to the train station to catch the 8:22. I checked my phone (who carries a watch any more?) as I hurried in the brisk autumn morning. It’s about a half mile from my office to the train station. Four blocks north and then one block east. (Utah “blocks” are pretty big.) Cross the train tracks and you’re there. 

And that’s where I ran into an issue. The crossing guards were down and I could see a slow moving frieght train rolling south. I could tell that I was going to beat the end of the train to the crossing. I slowed and checked my phone. Seven minutes until my commuter train would be rolling in. As the frieght cars slowly ambled by, I could see the station platform in between them. I wasn’t worried about the time. I tried to wait patiently.

A minute ticket by, marked by the slow moving passage of the train cars. They were moving slowly enough that it was tempting to walk around the crossing guards, step up on to the train, and climb down the other side. I’m sure that the railroad peopl ewould have had a major problem with that. Besides I still had five minutes until my train came. 

I could see the end of the freight train slowly approaching the crossing. The crossing bells kept up their constant clang as we waited for the engine to push the last of the cars across the road. The train slowed even further. If it slowed much more it would . . .and then it stopped. The engine was just a dozen feet or so from the crossing. 

Four minutes to train time. I was in danger of missing my train because of another train. The irony wasn’t lost on me. The emassive line of train cars inched forward about six inches and then stopped again. Behind me, one of the cars lined up waiting for the crossing gates to rise, honked his horn. I thought, 

You’re honking at a train. . .Yeah, that’s really going to help. 

Three minutes to my train. I was hurrying home to deal with an emergency and I knew if I missed this train the next one wouldn’t be here for another half hour. I really didn’t want to miss this train. Finally, at two minutes before the scheduled arrival of my commuter train, I made a decision. I crossed in front of the frustrated drivers and walked down the broken rock that held the train tracks in place. I was joined by a bicyclist and another pedestrian. We walked about 10 feet beyond the end of the train before cutting across the tracks. We then made our way across the additional tracks that would soon be bringing the Frontrunner commuter train. As we made our way around the end of the train, the people waiting to cross in the opposite direction took courage from our example and also made their way around the train. 

There was no such relief for the drivers in the cars stuck staring at the graffiti covered oil cars. 

Two minutes later I saw the headlight of my train coming around the back of the stopped freight. As I climbed on, the freight was still sitting in its original spot, blocking vehicle traffic and daring pedestrians to hike around the end. Finally, as I sat down in my seat, I could see the freight train slowly start to move. . .backwards.

I love riding the train. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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