Toot, toot … the train is coming

By Wendy Byerly Wood

October 23, 2013

The rumbling of the building at least once or twice a day, waiting on the traffic to cross the intersection, the loud whistle warning it’s coming … this is the life of an area serviced by the railroad.

As a youngster, it wasn’t unfamiliar to see a train pass right in front of my paternal grandparents’ house beside the Moravian church where my grandfather was then serving as minister. The trains would come and go, traveling along the rail bed that was on a small hill between their house and road, and the main road from Clemmons to the Hanes Mall area.

I vividly remember pictures taken the summer of 1977, just months before I was born, of a derailed train right in front of their house. That’s something not everyone gets a chance to see, and it’s not a good problem to have especially for the rail company.

My life has had occasional chances to ride on trains — trips to Tweetsie Railroad, the North Carolina Transportation Museum at Spencer, the subways in New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.

But one of my most memorable experiences on a train was when as an elementary-age youngster, my mother’s parents decided to take the whole family — for adult children, their spouses and the grandchildren — to Raleigh for the day. We didn’t travel by car like most people would do nowadays, instead we all boarded an Amtrak train first thing in the morning and rode to Raleigh, spent the day seeing the sights, and then rode home in the evening.

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the time we were actually in Raleigh, but the ride on the train is branded in my memory. Looking out the big windows and watching the trees, cars, buildings, pass by in a whiz, with occasional stops here and there to pick up passengers.

One of the rail trips I would love to experience is the Great Smoky Mountains Railway, with an overnight stay and a ride back.

At almost 3, my Little Man is fascinated with trains, so when he and my husband visited just a few days after my work here in Elkin began, as soon as I heard the train whistles blowing we were out the front door and peaking at the train tracks through the chain link fence attached to the side of the building.

Little Man wanted to know where the train was going, what was in the cars, the whole bit. And the best thing of all was the train had parked itself just down the tracks near Harry’s Place, so we were able to drive right up beside of it where he could get a close up look.

We had taken him last year to the Transportation Museum at Spencer, but he was then just a year and a half old or so and we missed the last train ride of the day. So he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to ride a train, other than the little one in the kids section of the fair.

Maybe the train running through Elkin to people who live here and see it every day isn’t as fascinating. You know how people take for granted what is in their lives on a frequent basis.

And yes, the stopped traffic can be an inconvenience.

But how cool is it to be able to sit and watch one or two engines pulling car after car of industrial materials, whether it be loads of lumber or grain or whatever. To know that they have an important place to go.

The rail industry is still alive and well in Elkin, and I’m enjoying hearing and seeing it during my daily time in town.

Wendy Byerly Wood is the associate editor of The Elkin Tribune and The Yadkin Ripple. She can be reached at wbyerly-wood@civitasmedia.com or at 835-1513.