#312 The sound of a train coming into the station

First you wait.

Cold wind whips you on the lonely platform as you shudder and shuffle in the rain. Whether you’re catching the commuter train downtown, backpacking home from college, or visiting in-laws out of town you’re alone in that barren platform zone, baby.

So you wait … and wait … and wait … and wait… and wait… and wait… and wait…until!

There is a light.

Yes, staring down those distant rails you spot a tiny yellow light glowing like a flashlight of hope at the top of dark well. Reflections flicker and shine off the metal rails and suddenly your desire, dreams, and destiny all twist into a long string of giant metal cars rushing and rumbling towards you.

Crowds jostle and businessmen sigh while bells start ringing and babies cry. If you’re lucky you might get that whisper-flipping sound of a thousand panels in an old train schedule board flipping all at once while the chugging engines and screaming steam whips the wind together and that streaking steel finally slows to a screeching stop.


There will be an announcement on 1000 Awesome Things next Monday.

Photos from: here and here

53 thoughts on “#312 The sound of a train coming into the station

  1. I love the sound of trains, except when it’s early in the morning, when there’s not enough ambient traffic noise to dull it and it startles me awake. It’s scary to be half-awake, yet half dreaming that you’re tied to the railroad tracks, old-timey style, and about to get run over. Eeeep! Happens to me at least once per week.

    1. Sounds like someone watched too many Saturday morning cartoons while half-asleep!!

      You would not have liked an apartment I once had. It was in the back part of a house that backed onto a busy railroad track. My bedroom window would buzz with the vibrations. At first it would wake me up every time, but then I got used to it, and the white noise caused by the 11pm train (usually a long one that took over 5 minutes to pass through) would help me fall asleep even if my in-house neighbours were being noisy.

  2. I swear I have been to that train station where the letters flip! Those cities are all ones surrounding my grandparent’s hometown in Italy. That sound, and the one of a train, is one of the best feelings in the world.

    I know this is a long time coming reply, but thank-you Neil. Thank you for inspiring me, making me cry, smile and laugh till my sides hurt. You know what I do to cheer my loved ones up? I show them your blog or I ask them to think about one awesome thing that happened to them that day. Never fails to put a smile on their face. :)
    Thank you.

    I thought I’d give it a shot- I wrote an article about the feeling of coming home to Union Station in Toronto from University in small-town Eastern Ontario, check it out if you’d like, anyone! Grazie :)


    1. There’s nothing like pulling into your station and feeling so relieved that you’re home at last. Although for me, it’s usually coming home from Toronto.

      As a rookie TTC rider, I’m always so chuffed when I manage to find the subway station without getting lost. They have a habit of hiding the entrances in shopping centres without sufficent direction to them unless you’re already going the right way, which I rarely am.

  3. When we were little my older brother always stepped on the yellow line that we were never allowed to step on when a train approached, right on the edge and it’d make me furious. Because we weren’t allowed and I always thought he’d get hit by the train.

    1. I always liked to stand with just the tips of my toes over the line. It was a small rebellion but not enough to feel like I was in danger.

  4. I’ve always loved trains. They are my most preferred mode of transportation for a couple of reasons. This of course being one of them. The sound make me think of a new journey about to happen even if I’m only going a few minutes away, you never know what will happen on the train. :)

  5. Love the sounds of all trains but the experiences and the whistle of the passenger train is awesome. It sounds romantic…all the miles it’s seen, the people, places and things; years and years of stories it could tell.
    And we need always remember the lesson of, “The Little Blue Engine That Could!” and did:)

  6. You should also add how awesome it is when the board of the departure times change. It’s sooooooooooo awesome to watch.

  7. I think of all modes of transportation, trains have the most romantic symbolism for us Canadians. It always makes me sad when I see tracks being removed.
    My hometown has AWESOME limestone train trestles spanning the river valley we’re nestled in. When one of the train lines was removed, the townspeople banded together to save the trestle and turn it into a walking /cycling path. If you donated to the project, you’d get a name plaque on one of the wooden planks. (It also turned a very dangerous shortcut to the middle school into a very safe one).

    1. I’m not Canadian, but I know what you mean about it being sad to see them take up railroad tracks. There was a set of tracks that ran through my hometown and when I moved back here in July, I noticed that they were taking them out. Apparently it just “didn’t get used enough” … though it seems to me that there was no harm in leaving it …

  8. I live in Chicago and LOVE it when I get to the “L” platform and hear the train and see the light coming just as I arrive! Awesome!

  9. I lived in NYC for a number of years and had to take the subway EVERYWHERE. So, I was constantly waiting for trains, and it was always truly awesome when one pulled up, and we got to pack ourselves on like sardines.

    However, when I traveled to other cities, I was amazed that so many of them had an ingenious little service – they would display on a screen, the exact time (to the minute) of the next train arriving. The idea was so simple, but it was amazing how much it changed the psychology of waiting.

    When I had no idea when the next train would come, I’d be impatient, pace around a little, constantly look at my watch, constantly look down the track for the light coming.. it was miserable.

    But when I was in these cities, and I knew that the next train would pull up in exactly 6 minutes, I never once had to pace around, or look at my watch – I’d just pull out a book, and comfortably read for 6 minutes until the subway pulled up exactly on schedule.

    I’m sure there is some sort of psychological explanation for this: The Von Restorff Effect? Fundemental Attribution Error? The Availability Heuristic? Hyberbolic Discounting?? (obviously, at this point I’m just saying fancy words at random..)

    At any rate – a train arriving is definitely awesome. But I’d add that knowing exactly when a train is going to arrive? Almost just as awesome!!

    1. Ha ha! Agreed! When I was a kid, I never knew when the streetcars in San Francisco were coming. I would always leave early for everything to ensure I got places on time. But now they have the little timers in the tunnels and at the covered bus stops.

    2. I take the metro in DC everyday and I have an app that tells me when the next train is arriving up to a week in advance. never have to wait again.

      1. I was going to comment about something similar! Right before I finished grad school, the university created an app that showed the shuttles (not quite the same as a train) on a map via GPS and also gave their ETA. It was pretty cool.

        I definitely agree with Freddo — KNOWING when it’s coming quells the anxiety. The days of not knowing were dark and filled with impatience.

  10. For me it’s a bit different–I take the subway, but seeing the subway come is also greeaaaat because when you’ve been waiting for 30 minutes, and a bunch of trains have come but none of them are the one you need, seeing that (for me) blue circle with an A on it that means it’s an A train in the distance is amazing.

      1. Me too!?!?

        I think he’s going to get an Awesome-themed reality shows, where the most frequent commenters have to live in a house together and vote each other out based on who has the ugliest avatar-square..

        I’m pretty sure I’d get voted out first.. :( Poop-brown square is the worst!

        hmmm.. ok, that’s probably not it.. but I’m still curious!

        1. I think it’s definitely a reality show, but instead of voting each other off (I mean, what’s awesome about sending home one of our own?), we’ll all be living in a house together and someone will be there to film our witty banter and general awesomeness. I mean, I think it’d be a great show. We’re pretty awesome.

            1. Yay! Definitely Nutella..

              I wonder if I’m going to have to bunk in the room that has all the Twilight posters hanging up on the wall, all of Jacob’s abs..

              Because you know there is going to be one of those rooms..

              1. I’m pretty sure there’s one of those rooms in your current house, Freddo, and that you bunk in it already. ;)

              2. No Freddo, you’d get the duck themed room with a duck phone like on Jersey Shore. (Yes, I watch it, even though I know it’s killing brain cells.) Though, this reality show would be way more entertaining.

            2. Oh, Nutella, naturally. I’d say about 50% of the awesomeness that will be captured on film will be us bantering wittily though mouthfuls of Nutella.

              I was assuming Freddo would bring his wife, and we could count on her to keep us fully stocked with Nutella, Snuggies, all things Twilight-related, and also take care of us if we get sick. I’ve got to believe that she’s every bit as awesome as he is, so she rightfully belongs.

              We’ll probably even practice doing all the aforementioned awesome things, like running through the sprinkler, putting on warm undies from the dryer, searching high and low for dangerous playground equipment, and taking field trips to find the best bakery air.

              You may laugh, but I say … it can’t be any worse than some of the other reality shows in existence! :)

  11. I’m a pretty positive person, but here in Boston there is not one thing to love about taking a train. If the wait doesn’t get you crazy you have not much to look forward to on Boston trains. We have the suffocating odors of: BO, cigarette smoke, nasty perfumes along with other unidentifiable stenches. We have the rudest people who bump into you and would not let a person in need sit even if they feel to the ground. You get banged around like a pin ball praying they make your stop and you don’t miss it. The entire time your thinking “please by the grace of GOD let these hoards of people depart so I can reach the door”. Jumping off the train and having a warm ride waiting right there now that is AWESOME.

  12. . First light in dark or foggy day, than sound, you’re NOT alone in that barren platform zone, baby.Great. So touchy. Try to remember how many good movies you know without train ? So few. Another thing, when I see railroad I feel cozy and warm, baby.home is near.

  13. What I find awesome is when the train doesn’t stop. You hear and feel the rumble as the train speeds past the station, you see the flashing lights inside (and maybe someone you know once every five years), and afterwords, you feel the wind coming off of the train.

  14. What I find awesome is when the train doesn’t stop. You hear and feel the rumble as the train speeds past the station, you see the flashing lights inside (and maybe someone you know once every five years), and afterwords, you feel the wind coming off of the back of the train.

  15. The man I love was hit by a train 4 years ago. He survived, but developed an addiction that stemmed from his persistent pain from the accident. He is in rehab trying to recover as I write this. Hearing a train, and even crossing tracks in my car, makes me nauseous.

  16. I always have to wait and I hate it when I have to wait a long time. The only thing you can do is waiting and waiting and waiting. And staring at the floor. Waiting is wasting your time. When the bells start ringing or when I see the bus is coming there is immediately a smile on my face. And it’s also awesome when you’re just on the station and you train or bus is just there.

  17. I live outside a light rail station, so I hear this all the time! I’ve got used to it, but when I travel to the subway itself, if I’m going on a route I hardly take, I get overexcited and feel AWESOME!

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