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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

May 10, 2005

My grandson Sean and trains

Filed under Family

To paraphrase an idiomatic expression, the last two days I have been "on the rail" visiting church members. Whenever possible, my means of transportation is the train, which enables me to make good use of my time. (Whether writing for my blog while on the train is a good use of time is another matter.) Yesterday the speed display on one ICE train I took inched up to 302 kmh (189 mph). Not bad, I thought – my grandson Sean would really like this!

Sean is four years old, the son of our daughter Rachel. He really likes trains, and his fascination with them started when he visited his Oma Monica (my wife) and his Opa (guess who?) in Mobile, Alabama, where my father-in-law lives. The house there is about a quarter mile from a major freight route of the CSX railroad. Long freight trains pass by at regular intervals day and night.

Our house in Mobile is within the city limits, but you would hardly know it. It is surrounded by woods and water, and the road loading to it is unpaved. (Yes, we do have electricity – when there isn't any hurricane!) The railroad line crosses that dirt road, and until recently the crossing was totally unguarded. You had to slow down and make sure no train was coming before proceeding. Now there are crossing barriers that close automatically when a train is approaching. But since anyone who likes that kind of challenge can maneuver around the crossing barrier, the engineer always sounds his horn loud and long – day or night. Our crossing is one of several in close proximity along the route, so the horn sounds off and on for several minutes. You can hear its distinct piercing sound clearly, even over the phone.

It didn't take long for Opa, Sean and Rachel on train tracksSean to associate that horn with the train. During waking hours he excitedly told his Opa "choo-choo train" every time he heard the horn. We also spent hours playing near the crossing so Sean could see a passing train close up. In between trains we would walk or sit on the tracks, as you can see in the photo of Opa, Sean and Rachel.

Maybe I can convince Rachel to let Sean accompany me to Germany next year when he is five. Next summer Germany hosts the 2006 World Cup football (soccer) championship, and Rachel is quite a fan, having lived herself in Germany for 8 years. And there are the trains for Sean, which he can ride free if he accompanies his Opa. :-)

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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