Saturday, May 9, 2009

national train day 09 May 2009

Happy National Train Day!

The US celebrates the birth of the First Transcontinental Railroad on May 10, 1869 when the "golden spike" was driven into the ground at Promontory Summit, Utah, connecting the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railways.

The Transcontinental Railroad revolutionized our country. It established a link between the East and West Coasts and essentially opened up the West for commerce and migration. It's construction is considered one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century.

The development of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950's and 1960's and government interference brought about the demise of the US passenger rail system. The primary use for trains in the US these days is to move freight. There continues to be pockets of heavy passenger train use, mainly in the Northeast in major cities like New York, Philadelphia and Boston, but unless you travel or live in an urban area, it's possible that you may never ride on a train.

Train travel in Europe and the UK is far more commonplace. I vacationed throughout England and Scotland a couple of years ago exclusively by train and have had the pleasure of riding on the Eurostar through the Chunnel to Paris.

Movies like Harry Potter have romanticized train travel for a whole new generation.

Countrymouse is a huge HP fan, but more so of the books. His favorite train scenes are probably from Back to the Future 3 and the Jules Vern train crafted by Doc Brown.

For me, it's the scene at the end of the first Thin Man movie, when Myra Loy and William Powell share a very tame 1930's kiss aboard the westbound Transcontinental Railroad on their way back to California. You can't help but smile.

The good news is train travel is having a bit of a renaissance as more railroads privatize. Train travel will never relive it's heyday, but who knows what a good dose of capitalism will do for the industry?

In celebration of National Train Day, here's a playlist of some groovy train songs. I've left off the first one I ever learned, I've Been Working on the Railroad (thanks Mom), but I think you'll see a few other goodies here.

Train Songs (aka The John Galt Line)

Johnny Cash: Folsom prison Blues
REM: Driver 8
The Decemberists: The Engine Driver
Rosanne Cash: Runaway Train
Ozzy Osbourne: Crazy Train
Grateful Dead: Casey Jones
Magnetic Fields: Born on a Train
Porcupine Tree: Trains
The Beatles: One After 909
Billy Strayhorn: Take the A Train (just because I love Billy)
Chris Isaak: 5:15
Crosby, Stills and Nash: Marrakesh Express
The Monkees: Last Train to Clarksville
Bruce Springsteen: Downtown Train
Feist & Ben Gibbard: Train Song
Michelle Shocked: If Love Was a Train
Counting Crows: Ghost Train
Amos Lee: Night Train
John Mayer: Stop This Train
John Denver: Jenny Dreamed of Trains
Josh Turner: Long Black Train
Soggy Bottom Boys: (I am a) Man of Constant Sorrows
MFSB: TSOP (Soul Train theme)

And one last one, Kraftwerk: Trans Europe Express, because it makes me think of my youth...

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