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A Train Whistle in the Middle of the Night

It has been some time since I was camped at the right distance (say, 4 miles) from a train. A busy track lies beside Interstate 40. The overall route has been popular over the decades for many forms of transportation, and for good reason. It reaches the Pacific without crossing any mountain passes.

 Appreciating the quiet rumble of the train and its whistle is more intense if you frankly acknowledge how obnoxious they are up close. When you hear that soothing sound from 4 miles off, you have to wonder how it could be the same machine.

In a stationary house you would be quite lucky to be at just the right distance for the train to have the optimum effect. In an RV park you would probably be squeezed between the interstate highway and the train track. But a dispersed camper can easily move a mile closer or further away. With that idea in mind Coffee Girl and I mountain biked downhill a ways yesterday until we could see over the last ridge. There it was, still a couple miles off. I decided to stay put.

Looking at the train isn't really that interesting. It's the sound that counts, the sound in the middle of the night. Not quite plaintive. Searching and lonesome and yet somehow reassuring.


Ruth said…
I love the sound of a train in the middle of the night. It's comforting but a kind of lonely sound also. Of course being a few miles away is so much nicre than sitting right on top of you!!!!
Nice post, Boonie.
We were "camped" in Lusk, Wyoming our first time out as full timers. It's a pleasant small town set among the state's rolling hills border with South Dakota, so it is also in tornado country. Busy tracks skirted the north end of town, and since the town was small, not that far from our pleasant park. After he first couple nights we thought about leaving; the horn was so loud. But about the third night we began to sleep through most of the blasts, and by the time we left, thought them a pleasant and unobtrusive characteristic of Lusk. The tornado siren, on the other hand, scared the shit out of us a couple of times!
Box Canyon Mark
Unknown said…
When I was a little girl I used to love to watch the trains go by, counting the cars and wishing I could jump aboard a slightly open boxcar and ride away on hobo adventures.

Even today I automatically count the cars as trains pass and the whistle that sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night (not loud and obnoxious but soft, plaintive and far away)still calls me to adventures afar.
Unknown said…
The sound of a distant train is great if I can sleep through the blasts as the train passes a grade crossing. However, for this summer -- after a Westminster Elks stay and currently at Benson -- I have had enough. Looking forward to a long winter's stay in west Tucson without train sounds. The coyotes will be a great change -- and much more calming.
Twoscamps said…
Made me think of Hank Williams and the song "Lonesome Whistle". Thanks to you, we know where to position ourselves while boondocking near Flag.
Maria, it sounds like you're about getting ready to act on your childhood hobo fantasy!

Wandrin, PERHAPS you are camped a bit too close to the tracks to enjoy the sound, per Ruth's comment. PERHAPS you should take that into account in moving from city-camp to city-camp. (grin)

TwoScamps, there certainly are places NEAR Flagstaff that are the right distance to the train, but IN town itself, yikes!

Mark, I'm not sure I could ever get used to close trains as you did.
Anonymous said…
as a conductor for union pacific railroad,working from la to yermo california. eighty seven crossing a had to blow. if i ever here another air horn it will be to soon!!! fellow travler gary
Akphotobob said…
My favorite addition to a train whistle is a pack of coyotes!! Boy, that is a symphony!! Bob