The sound of trains

Columns | Vienna Review | April 2010

I grew up with the sound of trains; my dad was a stationmaster all his life. I remember visiting him at his train station with my grandpa. It was the highpoint of the week, walking to the train station, clinging to my grandpa’s hand, shy and excited. My dad would take off his huge red hat and place it gently on my head, making me feel as if I was in charge of the station. Opa and I would share our lunch packet, sent along by my grandmother that always included one of her homemade cookies.

Dimensions of time and space are so different when you are young; what appears to be a glimpse of time as an adult is like an eternity for a child.

Finally on the train, our packed-lunch already eaten, a surprise was always waiting. While the scenery sped past us the sound of the heavy train wheels rolled beneath our feet, my grandpa would lull me into the magical world of fairy tales.

I was reminded recently of all this standing at Durington station on a cloudy Tuesday morning, waiting for a train to London. That world is gone now, my childhood journey over; life would never be the same again. My father is still stationmaster, in Feldbach now, but my grandpa died two years ago. And anyway I have grown up.

A familiar voice startled me out of my daydreams:

"The train now approaching is the 7:05 Southern Service to London Victoria." I had heard it so often I knew it by heart.

Glancing across the platform, I felt a shiver up my spine. There to my left was the bridge where two years ago a man had jumped onto the tracks and got run over by the approaching train. He had derailed.

My train will lead me into the future; I will be the one to determine which route to take, when to get off, and when to take another one. I am not afraid really. I know about trains. If I get on the wrong one, I will just get off and go back the other way.

- Sarah Rabl

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