Reflections on a Train

imagesWho would think that living in Vermont could involve taking the train to work? I certainly didn’t. Living in Vermont involves green mountains, pristine river valleys, unspoiled vistas, hiking, canoeing, watching the wildlife, but not commuting on a train. Living in Vermont means that wherever we go, there is space and quiet.

But wherever we go, it usually takes us a long time to get there. Whether to school, the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or work, most of us spend long hours in our cars. In fact one study showed that we Vermonters spend more time in our cars than people in any other state.

When my husband and I moved to Burlington, we were delighted that now we could walk to almost everything. But since for two days a week I was still working in Hanover, New Hampshire, I was still spending long hours in the car.

And then I thought of the train. The train? Yes, I could take the train to White River Junction! I could leave one car there and drive the short route to Hanover and the house of my friend where I spend the night.

So now, every Tuesday morning I arrive at the Essex Junction station, a little room behind the bus station. Six or seven passengers, most of them on vacation or excursion and many from other states or countries, sit around the perimeter of the room on wooden benches or plastic chairs. We smile and acknowledge one another, sometimes striking up conversations, beginning to feel the bond that develops among voyagers. There’s something about traveling on a train that gives one a sense of solidarity with one’s fellow human beings.

When we hear the train whistle, we gather up our bags and go outside to the platform. The conductors, leaning out of the open doors as the train comes to a stop, hop out and usher us up the steps.

I settle into my seat – there are usually plenty of seats available – and gaze out the window as the train starts to roll. Neither here nor there, I am now in train space, this in-between place where I can read a book, do some writing, or take a nap. Often I simply rest my eyes on the passing scenes: the Winooski River beside us, with its changing colors and depths, the foothills of the Green Mountains, and the picturesque towns we pass through, like Waterbury, Northfield, and Randolph. Once I spotted a moose in the wetlands, placidly watching us.

There aren’t very many of us Vermonters whom the railway can connect from home to work, so I feel fortunate to be one of them. Every week I get a little adventure, a taste of the travel I’ve always loved, and meet people from faraway places. And without having to drive, I can take pleasure in those green mountains, pristine river valleys and unspoiled vistas of this unique state.

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