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PC: Flashback

          In my daily drive to work, I run parallel to a Conrail
     (ex-NYC) double track main in several places so that I
     occasionally get to see a freight going one way or the other
     during my morning and evening drives.  As part of my routine, I
     watch for the evening Westbound to determine the route I need to
     use going home in order to avoid the stopped traffic.

          It was late into the dusk of twilight as I rolled Westward
     toward Anderson, caught up in the usual drive time traffic.
     Clearing the buildings of the small town of Daleville, the
     highway once again lined up with the Conrail tracks.  The track
     signal ahead to my left was showing green, so I glanced in my
     left-hand rear view mirror to see if there was anything in sight.
      The bright glare of a locomotive headlight reflected back at me.
      It was fairly close and was moving along quickly.  I turned my
     attention back to the cars in front of me and yet, something
     about that headlight was different, almost compelling.  Looking
     again, I found the light nearer still and the shape of the loco
     and its consist was becoming more discernable in the growing
     darkness. It seemed out of place, but I knew that I should
     recognize it; I had seen this before...

          My heart leaped.  It was a New York Central Niagara complete
     with Elephant Ears (smoke deflectors)!  The frontal silhouette
     was unmistakable!  The dark shape of the loco framed the
     headlight as it raced through the gathering darkness pulling its
     consist of Westbound freight cars.  THIS SIMPLY COULD NOT BE!  My
     gaze moved to the road ahead and back to the mirror and back to
     the road and back to the mirror as I tried to see more clearly. I
     knew that this wasn't possible.  It had to be a trick of the
     failing light and the deepening shadows and yet...

          The locomotive was catching me and, now, there was something
     else about it.  I could swear that I could almost see through it.
     The consist no longer looked right and the size of the cars were
     a little too big.  I watched as the smaller 1950s cars faded to
     be replaced by something larger.  And then the Niagara had
     shifted, blurred and faded and became two...  two Conrail Blue GE
     units pulling Westward with its train of modern freight cars. 

          As the track curved away from the highway, the train and I
     separated, but it no longer matted.  For what I had seen was not
     a part of what was there.  For a moment, for just one beautiful
     and all too brief moment, in my minds eye at least, the NYC
     Niagaras that used to rule this Main had lived again.  I knew the
     look.  I had seen them before.  I used to race with them in my
     mind when my family would take trips south out of Anderson.  We
     would parallel NYC trackage and the Niagaras, Mikes and Hudsons
     would race by us on their way to far off places.  For just a
     moment, after nearly 40 years, that time had lived again.  The
     ghosts of my mind had escaped and by using the tricks of light
     and shadow had given me a glimpse of what had once been.  They
     had shown me a memory long lost, but, obviously, not forgotten.

          Is this, then, what drives us to create (or re-create) with
     our model railroads?  Do our 'ghosts' express themselves in the
     miniature steel rails that pave the way for our 'scale'
     locomotives and consists that continue to deliver the 'mail', the
     'passengers' and the 'freight' that makes our scale worlds go? We
     think that our buildings, people, farms, industry, cars and
     trains are the worlds that we want them to be, the worlds that we
     make.  But are they? Or is it the ghosts of Rails Past that drive

          As for me, for just one moment, the Interlocking Towers were
     manned and the Cabin Cars (cabooses) followed their freights as
     sure as night follows day while crossing guards protected their
     grade crossings and 'name' passenger trains still raced each
     other against the schedule and the clock.  For just a moment, for
     one wonderful moment, the world was young. 

                                              - - END - -

               Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays to you all.

Ghost Trains by Roger Hensley - Copyright 1994 Originally Published
Electronically in Model Rails Online v1 (Internet) - May '94 and again
in Volumn 25 No. 5 (Winter 1995) of the Central Indiana Division
'Rusty Spike'.


Roger Hensley - 00rphensley -AT- bsuvc.bsu.edu - rhensley@ecicnet.org
Information Systems Specialist - Ball State University  - Muncie, IN
=== http://bsuvc.bsu.edu/~00rphensley/cidwelco.html ================
=== The Railroads of Madison County, Indiana =======================

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