I love trains. I have always loved trains. When I was a kid, I loved watching trains and I can remember getting my first toy train for Christmas when I was five. I ran that train all day until it stopped working. My mom loves telling that story, especially to William and Olivia. A few years later, when I was in fourth grade I got an N-scale train for Christmas and I played with it until I grew up. Well, I grew up but I am still playing with trains or at least collecting them.
A few years ago, I came across a collection of rail stock at a garage sale and I bought it all – about 40 cars – cabooses, box cars, stock cars, tank cars, and a couple of flat cars but no locomotives. I was thinking it would a great hobby to share with William. I really didn’t know what I was buying and truth be told, I bought a lot of junk. But, the train bug hit and hit hard. Before the year was out, I would have a train table in the basement and the beginnings of an N-scale collection. It has morphed considerably since then and Beth cringes when I tell her I have been a train store.
We live only a few miles from the Union Pacific line that heads west to Seattle, San Francisco, and points west from Chicago; it was Chicago and North Western Railroad until the UP bought it in 1995. I can hear horn blasts and trains rolling through town when I listen. Yesterday afternoon, I had just picked Olivia up from vacation bible school (VBS) and was headed over to pick up William when I spied a train rolling through Wheaton. Sometimes, the trains stop outside Wheaton and wait for permission to enter the yard in Chicago but this one kept rolling. When I looked at it, it looked different, not your normal freight, coal train, or container train. It reminded me of a load I had seen before – a load of tractors. As I got closer, I realized what it was – a load of wind turbine blades. The blades were laying on the flatbed cars and strapped in with two cars per blade. It looked like a long train. I was bummed I did not have my camera with me, but I had my cell phone and it has a camera and video capabilities. I was on the phone with Beth and we remembered the wind farm under construction in western Ohio, near Van Wert, we had driven past on the way to visit Versailles last week. We had seen wind turbines in various stages of construction with and without blades. It was pretty cool. We stopped along the way home and took several pictures. I continued past the train and on to pick up William. William climbed in and Olivia reported our find. I had promised lunch and asked both of them if they would like to chase it down, meaning – seeing if it stopped before it moved into the yard to be switched to its final destination. Both eagerly accepted! I was already in and it was great to have accomplices! We drove through downtown Wheaton and into Glen Ellyn, the next town east of Wheaton along the rail line. The road parallels the railroad tracks and there is a stopping area just outside of Glen Ellyn before Lombard. It is triple track – three parallel rail lines – used for freight and commuter trains. The outside tracks are dedicated for commuter trains serving Chicago and the western suburbs all the way to Elburn (about sixty miles due west of Chicago) and the center track is for freight trains and it was where train with the turbine blades was. In Glen Ellyn, there is a grade crossing where I could look to see if the train was stopped and if it weren’t there, our train trek would end. As I crossed, I saw the tail end of the train and knew we had found it!
The kids were excited and we called Beth to let her know we had found it and she laughed. Training, watching trains, or driving to see trains is a fun activity we have done before and it includes everyone, including Beth. We all enjoy it. I drove further down the road where we could stop and check out the load. The train was stopped and waiting to move forward, sometimes trains can sit for hours and wait. We were not far from a train store, I frequent, and we drove over for a visit. It was a short visit and I didn’t spend any money, Beth would be proud! We turned around and headed home. As we got closer, William noticed that it appeared the train was ready to move so I pulled into a parking lot beside the tracks and we waited. Before long, the locomotives fired up and began moving. I filmed the move and William and Olivia counted the cars. Two locomotives, sixty-eight flat cars, and thirty-four turbine blades. It was fun and after the train cleared and was gone, we climbed in the car and headed to lunch.
We spent the rest of the afternoon on errands and we had a relaxing evening. I cooked BBQ ribs and baked beans and everyone was happy – even Ivy, who got a rib, or two. It was a good day and if I had more time, I would have cleared off the train table and run a few trains. I know Olivia would be in for it. I need to re-discover some old toys. Yesterday was a wonderful day, today is gonna be a great day, with the forecast for tomorrow a million and six times better. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.