The clickety-clack of the eight o’clock passenger train was an alarm clock which signaled the end of summertime evenings. The Pennsylvania track, just a mile from our house, was easily seen from our backyard. It’s tiny yellow windows gleamed brightly in the winter when darkness came early, but you might miss it in the summer when it was still bright outside. You had to listen for it. It barreled through the countryside at top speed hurtling its passengers along the train track from east to west.
It was summertime and we played outdoors until dark. The eight o’clock was a signal that the evening would soon be ending and mom would holler from the back porch. “Kids! Time to come in!”
There were countless trains passing through on our track but I was fascinated by the passenger trains. Who were the passengers? Where were they going? Were kids allowed to ride trains? Were they going somewhere fun or going to work or moving to a new home? One evening we happened to be in town, first in line at the railroad crossing when the eight o’clock came through our small village. I got to see it up close! You could see right in the windows and look at the folks riding in the cars. I drank it all in as it whizzed past. It made the fascination even more intense.
The eight o’clock was a short train compared to trains that carried cargo and goods across the country. There was just an engine, several passenger cars, and often a mail car.
Trains, in the 1960’s, were a major mode of transportation. No matter where you lived, they were part of the landscape.
I loved watching old movies having scenes where someone was leaving on a train, someone waving from the window, someone running along beside the car until they couldn’t keep up anymore. It all seemed so romantic and exciting to me.
“Ruth! Time to come inside. Second warning.” As I sat on the back porch step, watching the eight o’clock train, I wondered if somewhere other kids were watching the same scene. Maybe dreaming of a train ride or inventing stories about the passengers they caught a glimpse of as the train rushed down the track.