Friday, January 13, 2012

Trains on the brain

No matter where I live, trains seem to follow me. The house that was home for the first seven years of my life was across the road from a commuter railway line. I can remember peering out my bedroom window with my brother, every morning, to watch the trains clackity-clack past.

As a teenager travelling to my weekend/summer job, much of my adolescence was daydreamed away - out through the windows of the silver Sydney trains that carried me from the suburban sprawl and into the city.

Over the years, there have been a number of places I've lived in that were a little too close to the trains. Our flat in west London afforded blurry views from the back windows - of trains which whisked people to Oxford, Bristol and Wales. Those trains were bigger, louder, and faster. Foxes loved to hang around those tracks at night, so the evenings were often punctuated by their call, and if we weren't careful, the contents of of our rubbish bins would be raided and strewn across the garden and street.

Is it any wonder that my dreams are frequently peppered with trains? Not so much these days, but for a long time, the most commonly reccurring theme involved me travelling somewhere - usually on a train. Sometimes I'd be on the wrong train, sometimes I needed to change trains. Train platforms would change around on me, announcements would be muffled and confusing. Getting to the destination was never without drama, and I would always wake with relief... easy fodder for Psychology 101, right?

And now? We don't live so close to a railway line, but there is one that winds through our area. The distant sound of the train horns is now familiar, but for a long time they seemed like a sound effect from any contemporary American film - distinctive and chorus-like. A little surreal for me.

The local line passes near J's work, and on the days that I'm playing taxi driver, there's a good chance we'll be stopped at a railway crossing, waiting for a hulking Amtrak train to pass. This is always to Miss Pie's train-obsessed delight, whereas I brace myself with visions of the train suddenly derailing and hurtling towards us. Sydney has very few railway crossings, so this is one difference in LA that I'm still adjusting to.

Oddly enough, I've yet to set foot on one of these Amtrak giants. Despite the fact that I'm experienced with the train networks of four cities, and have hopped on trains in at least ten countries, I haven't been on any here yet. I think that speaks volumes on how necessary a car is in Los Angeles. If the public transport wasn't so dire, I'd have definitely ventured out sans car, but the logistics of it are of nightmarish proportions. Alone, it would be less of a problem, but remember - I'm usually accompanied by little ones. That always complicates things.

Oh, but I lie - I may not have been on an Amtrak train, but I have been a few smaller trains here. You know, the kind that are intended to give small children a thrill (as seen above)...


  1. Wait, LA has trains? Has anyone told LA that?

    I think I have done train travel in America. Maybe through the East Coast, I'm thinking?

    All I know is, avoid Greyhound. Not from personal experience but through myth and legend. Apparently, it ain't pretty....

    1. Avoid Greyhound - duly noted. They're buses, though, right? I think long-distance bus travel sucks way harder than train travel...

    2. Yep, buses. Apparently, only for the desperately po' and scarily insane....