When we were growing up in Connecticut, my brother and sister and I distinguished our grandmothers from each other by referring to one by “Grandma in Ohio,” and the other one as “Grandma on the train.” When my grandfather was alive, he and my grandmother would drive from Manhattan to the country, as they referred to Connecticut, every other weekend. My grandfather kept his treasured 1949 maroon-colored Chrysler New Yorker, with it’s plush velour seats, in a garage in the city all week and took it out for weekend excursions. It was his pride and joy.
But when Grandpa died, my grandmother, who had never learned to drive, took the hour and a half train ride to visit us. We would go to our little station in Fairfield, stand out on the platform, and watch the New Haven Railroad commuter train roll in on a Saturday morning.
After college, when I was an editor for a small publishing house in Westport, Connecticut, I would take the train into New York to oversee projects at the printing company on Varick Street. I looked forward to the ride into the city, just a little over an hour, the clickety-clack of the wheels along the track, the rocking and jiggling of the cars, the pop of the hole-punch as the conductor punched the tickets, the hiss of the breaks as we pulled into Grand Central. Some years ago I had the pleasure of taking my granddaughters on their first train ride as we all met in Connecticut and took that same ride into Manhattan, now on the Metro-North. I loved watching my oldest granddaughter sit on the edge of her seat, nose pressed against the window, watching the world go by.
The reason I’m writing this today is because I just read in our newspaper this morning that tickets for seats on the first Amtrak trains out of Norfolk go on sale today. The trains don’t start rolling until December, but advance tickets are already available. Service from Norfolk to Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston will soon be a reality.
I’m going to wait and see how reliable the train travel is before I hop on a train myself. My sons took the train from D.C. to Newport News a few years ago to visit us one Christmas, and what should have been a four-hour train trip took nine hours because of numerous problems. Not very reassuring. Wish we had good train service like they do in Europe. But the thought of once again hopping onto a train, listening to the clickety-clack of the wheels along the track, being lulled by the side-to-side rocking of the cars, watching the world go by, seems like a ride I’d like to take again. Do conductors still punch tickets, or do they now scan them with some high-tech modern device? Hope they still carry their hole punch.