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Short Flash Fiction: The Last Train. Why I Love Trains and Their General Appeal

Author:

Ann loves to write fiction of any kind. Flash fiction can be more of a challenge but makes us use words frugally.

Classic, Majestic Steam Train

by Robert Carr, my father

by Robert Carr, my father

Inspiration

This was first written in response to a writing competition, for an anthology of local work. I came across it by chance, whilst going through various articles, so I decided to use it for HubPages. I've tweaked it a bit and I hope you enjoy it.


The Last Train

He held on tight, soaking wet. A train sped past.

A dog with a bone; you know the type, won’t let go.

Right now, he couldn’t let go.

Why had she refused him? Joe had it all; good looks, house, fast car, money. What’s not to like? Yet she’d refused him.

You turn up on the doorstep of your girl’s house, dressed in Armani, brandishing a bouquet of velvet-red roses. How can she resist? You don the winning smile, make a fool of yourself on one knee, gaze up with doleful eyes and say,

“Marry me!”

Then, in front of the curtain-twitching neighbours, she says no.

Well he’d show her, tell her what he was going to do. Then she’d change her mind and come running. He’d sent a text repeating his proposal, adding his intended action if she said no for a second time. She was working and it remained unread. That was the final straw.

In the torrential rain, the bridge railings were slippery. His grip weakened. A second train rattled the metal beneath his hands. Maybe he didn’t really want to do this. A crowd had gathered on the grass far below. Was she there?

How to get back up to the track, though? One foot found a broad girder. His strong arms pulled up, his feet found further purchase and up he went, back onto the track. The crowd cheered. Then they started waving. He smiled in victory, waving back. The crowd starting shouting. He wondered why. Only at the last second did he realise. A third train thundered down upon him.

.............................................................................................................................


Why do I love trains?

It started at the age of 11. From September 1962 to July 1969, I attended secondary school on the other side of the South Downs from where I lived in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex. Each day, I cycled five miles to the closest station, Hassocks. Then it was one train to Brighton, transferring to a second which dropped us at a small platform near to school in Hove. Then back we’d go at the end of the day.


Home and Station

My home from 4-15 years old

My home from 4-15 years old

Victorian Hassocks Station (pulled down for a modern building - I cried)

Victorian Hassocks Station (pulled down for a modern building - I cried)

Clayton Tunnel

Northern Entrance to Clayton Tunnel, cut through the chalk South Downs

Northern Entrance to Clayton Tunnel, cut through the chalk South Downs

The train cut through the chalk of the South Downs by means of the mile-long Clayton Tunnel. The carriages clattered and banged like a pile of falling saucepans and sometimes the lights would go out.

In those days, some carriages were self-contained eight-seaters with a door on each side, opened by letting the window down on a leather sash, then leaning out to open the catch. Overhead luggage racks were netted string. We had great fun doing somersaults from the rack. How we never damaged anything I’ll never know!

But the best bit was the cycle home, freewheeling down a steep hill, whatever the weather. If we felt brave, it was no hands; fortunately I never ended up with no teeth as well.


My Bicycle

Not the Original but still my bike!

Not the Original but still my bike!

Fascination

What is the fascination of trains? Steam trains in particular awaken nostalgia and romance. Trains across Australia, trains across America, trains across Europe, they all have a majesty of their own, whether steam or diesel or electric.

You can take a train to get you to your holiday destination or you can spend a complete holiday on a train. More mundane, you can use the national network locally, to get to town for shopping or to go to work.

There are people (usually males), known in Britain as ‘anoraks’, who collect engine and train numbers so travel on them just to add to the list. Travel to all our main cities, travel to every county, travel to seaside resorts, there seems to be some compulsion to say you’ve done it, been there, got the number.

Trains give you freedom of movement. You have time to watch the world go by, look into others’ houses and gardens, survey the scenery complete with herds of cows or a group of horses galloping free. You can talk to as many or as few people as you wish. You can eat and drink in comfort, you can read, or you can sleep (just don’t miss your stop!).

Whatever you do, though, please don’t stand on the rails.


Do you like to travel by train?

What's your experience?

© 2020 Ann Carr

Comments

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 03, 2020:

Yes Lawrence but, as you say, what amazing scenery - worth the trip! We took the logging route over to the west coast of the north island, to get to New Plymouth - great fun. It was New Year's Day so we didn't meet a logger!

Ann

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on September 02, 2020:

Ann

That depends! Auckland to Wellington about eight hours, but you dont want to miss a second of it.

Going down to Christchurch by car takes about two days (1,400 miles)

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 02, 2020:

Thanks, Lawrence, for your interesting input. We travelled by car in NZ but then it doesn't take too long to get anywhere, does it? Lovely roads with so much less traffic than Britain!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on September 02, 2020:

Thank you, Mel, for your interesting and kind comments.

Yes, this one met a messy end but then he was rather arrogant and self-centred - didn't really deserve that though!

Train travel here tends to be expensive but I love it anyway. France is much cheaper and generally much more reliable! It's government funded though. Ours used to be but is now a myriad of private companies and a nightmare trying to connect when having to change lines.

Glad you enjoyed this. Apologies for the late reply; I've only just seen it. Good to see you!

Ann

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on September 01, 2020:

Ann

Over here in NZ there aren't a lot of trains between the main centres. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all have their own networks but not a lot otherwise.

Hamilton used to have a rail link to Auckland and Wellington, but it got cut in the 90s.

Thankfully, there's been a rethink since then and a new Rail link for commuters is coming in a coupke of months.

Back in England I would only ever go into any city by train, both Diesel and Electric, but can remember as a kid riding on the footplate of a steam goods train

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on August 27, 2020:

You know, your story is not so far-fetched. I have a friend whose crazy Hungarian grandfather threatened suicide as a way to catch a bride. When she said no to his proposal he went around the corner to his house and fired off a shotgun in the backyard, into the air. She heard the blast, came running, and immediately agreed to marry him. Not really a romantic tale, but interesting nonetheless, as well as effective. Unfortunately I don't think there was such a happy ending for your flash-fiction protagonist.

Unfortunately, passenger train travel is pretty much dead in the United States. We base our status here on our our automobiles, and long trips are made either on airplanes or in our cars. I would love to take a train trip, but Amtrak, our one government-subsidized passenger line, is kind of pricey.

I always enjoy your work and the kind of thinking it provokes.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 20, 2020:

Hello Cheryl. Great to see you today!

Thanks for your kind comments. I hope you manage to ride that train sometime soon.

Keep safe and well.

Ann

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on August 20, 2020:

This is a very interesting article and kept me engaged until the end. I was hoping to ride a local Amtrack but COVID prevented me. I still want to some day.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 18, 2020:

Thank you, Greg, for such a lovely comment. Nobody's said they had to read something of mine twice (apart from if they couldn't understand it!). Yes, the daily commute was a big part of my school life. It even gave us a few days off when there was too much snow and the head girl (also a train girl) phoned in and said we couldn't possibly make it! She gave us two days' holiday on our toboggans!

Great that I've given you a yen to get back to trains.

Thanks again for your response and compliments.

Ann

greg cain from Moscow, Idaho, USA on August 18, 2020:

Ann - I just love this! First, the flash piece was so good, so nice I had to read it twice. Loved it. Then...the nostalgia of the old days to school, riding the bike no hands down the hill (you know that's my thing!), riding the train, pining for the old station. I have ridden on trains in Canada, Germany and Netherlands. Now you've reminded me I want to travel by train some more. So much to see, so relaxing and soothing to rock gently back and forth as the train hurtles along. Who knew it could be such a big part of someone's everyday life growing up in grade school? As always, Ann, really nice piece, so very well written.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 10, 2020:

Yes, it was about 12 miles down the road, but the cycle and train rides took about one hour and a half, each way. I enjoyed it though and we were a sizeable group, known at school as 'the train girls'!

Thanks for your visit, Nithya, and for leaving such a lovely comment.

Ann

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 10, 2020:

Great story, the third train-did not see that one coming. It must have been a long ride going by cycle and then by train. The free wheeling down the hill must have been exhilarating! I love train rides and I enjoy viewing the scenery changing every second.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 09, 2020:

Thanks, Denise. I don't know Spain well but that sounds good. It's time you took another train then! I love the big trans-continental trains that exist in the US, Canada and Australia. We have nothing like that here as we're not big enough!

Thanks for dropping by. Always appreciated.

Ann

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 08, 2020:

I got to take a train while we were in Spain from Madrid to Cadiz. It was a lovely trip and very relaxing. That was in 1976.

Blessings,

Denise

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 08, 2020:

Thank you Linda. Love of trains often runs in a family. That must have been great for you, having a grandfather who was a train driver. A messy job then!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 08, 2020:

Peggy: The Glacier Express sounds wonderful and I've always wanted to go to Canada.

Yes it was a sad ending for him; he paid the price for being arrogant and self-centred! Rather a high price though, I admit.

Good to see you.

Ann

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 07, 2020:

I love trains. I've done so every since my childhood. My grandfather was a train driver, which seemed like a fascinating career to me when I was a young child.

Your story is excellent, Ann. The ending is dramatic.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 07, 2020:

My train-riding experiences are limited, but memorable. I rode the Glacier Express in Switzerland, a steam-driven train in Canada, and a short ride on a train from Houston to Galveston on a wine trip aboard.

Your short story was well done. It was an unexpected and sad ending for the young man.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 04, 2020:

Hello again, Liz. I love that your father boosted his stock by giving you and your brother trains! Thanks for coming back.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 04, 2020:

MG Singh: Thank you for your kind comments.

I know India has some wonderful trains but I've never been there to see them. They always look huge in tv programmes or documentaries. Going through the snowy Himalayas must be awesome.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 04, 2020:

Hello Lora! You have some great memories of trains. I agree it's easy to fall asleep; I'm always worried I'll miss my stop!

Glad you liked the story too. Yes, he was a self-centred, foolhardy bloke who thought he was the bees' knees and came a cropper. I know a few of those!

Thanks for the input, Lora.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 04, 2020:

Hi Pamela! It seems we're all train lovers. Glad you liked the story and that the hub brought back some memories for you.

Ann

Liz Westwood from UK on August 03, 2020:

My Dad regularly gave me and my brother trains as gifts. We each had 2 train companies. I am sure, it was a way of him building up his stock. His model train layout was always a work in progress. I don't think it ever did reach full completion.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 03, 2020:

Trains fascinate me. India has some of the oldest train lines and the 3rd largest train network in the world. One can travel from Mumbai to Pune and the train through the Ghat mountains goes through 21 tunnels. It's a fascinating way to see India as the lines cross thousands of miles, through jungles( Assam) deserts( Rajasthan ) and the snow-covered Himalayas. Your article was wonderful and I can see the spirit in which it is written. Thank you.

Lora Hollings on August 03, 2020:

I find trains just fascinating, Ann. They evoke nostalgic memories of my youth. I used to take the train to Chicago from a northwest suburb four times a week to take classes at DePaul University and I also played in the Civic Orchestra there. I used to spend most of the time reading and studying on the train as it usually took about an hour to get there and back. My only problem was trying to stay awake as the rhythmical sound and motion of the train would often lull me to sleep. I used to love looking out the window and seeing the different landscapes and houses. I would often see children playing in the backyard and in the spring, there was a town on its route that was known as lilac city because of all the different types of lilacs that were grown there. To this day, I will never forget the sight of seeing so many profuse blooms when the train would pull into the station. And you would always here the conductor announce each town along the way until the train pulled into the big station on Canal Street in the city. There were two lines that would go to the city from the western suburbs. There was the Union Pacific/West Line whose terminal was in Geneva and the Burlington Northern Railroad whose terminal was in Aurora.

I loved your story, too. It certainly had a surprise ending. I think it could also serve as a warning for those who do risky things just to get the attention of others. Putting ourselves in dangerous situations can often have unintended consequences. Great job!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 03, 2020:

I am aother train lover. My parents had stories of taking me to see a train any time I heard one when we were out. My first train trip happened when I was 10 and I went alone to visit my aunt and uncle.

I enjoyed all the information in your article, Ann. I also liked the story with the surprise ending,

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Hi Shauna! Glad you liked the story.

Are you sure you weren't in England if all the trains were late? They have that reputation here. I still like to go on them though.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Thanks, Mary. Yes, trains are often used for special events or destinations aren't they? Maybe that's why so many people like them. The older ones do have some character which sadly has gone from the modern ones.

Good to see you.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Hi Liz! Glad you liked the story! My Dad gave me a train set for my 8th birthday and I'm still not sure whether it was for me or him (he had two daughters). I loved it and it gained me great street cred with my two male cousins who thought I was really cool.

Thanks for the visit.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Yes, John, I've had the privilege to go on the Indian Pacific twice and also on the Ghan with my sister. How wonderful they are. I believe there is also the Overlander and another that I can't remember the name of. They are big, beautiful shiny silver beasts!

How about some poems from your porch about those lovely trains?

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Thank you, bill! Yes, that eerie sound in the night is awesome. We would watch the steam trains from a bridge and wait to be enveloped in steam!

Glad this evoked some memories and thanks for the kind words.

Ann

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 03, 2020:

Wow, Ann, this short short story really packs a punch! I seriously did not see that third train coming!

I've only ridden a train three times. The last two were to visit my parents three hundred miles away. Both times the train was late in arriving and even later arriving at my destination. I may enjoy the ride if Amtrak would learn to be on time!

I'm glad you have fond memories, though. Train rides are supposed to be romantic and relaxing. Glad you had your moment!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 03, 2020:

I love trains, too. They always promise a new destination, so it's always exciting. Although we often drive when we travel, we occasionally take trains when they have something unique to offer.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 03, 2020:

That was a shocking short story. It had me gripped from start to finish, with a real shock at the end. My father was fascinated by steam trains, probably an anorak in his youth. As a result we visited several preserved steam lines and, of course, York railway museum.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 03, 2020:

Oh, I have been on the Indian Pacific too. A great trip between Sydney and Perth.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 03, 2020:

Wonderful memories, my friend! Is there a more forlorn sound in all the world than a train whistle in the middle of the night? I love that sound. As kids we would stand on a bridge and watch the trains speed past below us, occasionally spitting down, trying to hit the train as it went past, but in awe of its strength and speed and dark rumbling sounds.

Lovely! Thank you for the memories. Brilliant, simply brilliant!

Happy Humongous Honorable Monday to you!

bill

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Miebakagh: Shame there aren't many trains any more. I think many countries use the railways for haulage but it's a shame they've hijacked them!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Thanks, Devika. Glad you liked the story. It's great to see that so many fellow hubbers love trains!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Hi Flourish! Glad you liked the story.

Does your daughter still love trains? I have visions of you charging along in the car to beat the train to the next crossing!

My sister and I love trains as they've been part of our lives for ever. She lives near York which has a wonderful train museum; it houses the Flying Scotsman.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Hello John! Well you have to love trains if you've worked on the railways for that long! Those massive trains like the Ghan are so majestic - and the history of them is fascinating.

Thanks for your contribution.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Thank you, Miebakagh. Glad you enjoyed this.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Thank you, Linda. Great that your daughter now loves trains. Riding for the joy of it is what it's all about.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on August 03, 2020:

Hi, Liz! Thank you. That 'Skunk' sounds wonderful and what a great name! I'd love to read your article about it too.

Ann

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 03, 2020:

I love trains ton. It is my best mode of travel. Unfortunately, trains do no run in my part of the country regularly. The truth is that the politicians has hijack rail transport in favor of long haulage trunks.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 03, 2020:

Hi Ann I too like trains and traveled a few times by train and enjoyed the short rides. Your story is interesting with a bit of a nasty experience.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 02, 2020:

When my daughter was a toddler she loved trains so much that we went from one crossing to the next (because we knew the local schedule) so she could see and hear them. She’s almost come out of her car seat she’d get so hyped up pointing and shouting. We would also go climb on an old stationary train engine before it was finally put in the transportation museum. I really liked that flash fiction of yours. What an ending!

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 02, 2020:

A wonderful article and short story, Ann. So glad you resurrected it at HubPages. I love trains too..well I worked for the railways for 17 years. It must be fifteen years since I took a train ride though unfortunately. But I have been on every type lol. Good to see a pic of the Ghan too.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 02, 2020:

Ann, I love the poem. It inspires and refresh the mind. The marriage them make me merry. Thanks.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on August 02, 2020:

My older daughter (now) loves trains. I say now because when she was a toddler we lived near enough to the tracks that we/she could hear the rumble and the blast of the horn. Her eyes would become as large as saucers and I'm certain she thought that train would burst through the walls.

We've moved somewhat further way from the tracks now; they are a 15-minute (1-mile) jaunt downhill. Our girl is developmentally delayed and still lives with us. She's approaching 40, but in the years since our move has developed not only an acceptance, but a love of trains. She views station/depot cameras that post online and we have often taken a day trip on a train for no other reason than to give her the joy of riding.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 02, 2020:

Yikes!! What a conclusion to that story!

I love trains as well. Unfortunately, I've never had the chance to actually travel anywhere by train.

However, I've ridden on several short tourist lines of historic note.

There is the famous "Skunk" train in northern California, about an hour and a half north of me; and there is the Roaring Camp and Big Trees line in the Santa Cruz mountains, about the same distance to the south of me.

Both are steam trains, but the Skunk only runs its steamer in the summer season. If you go on the all-day excursion, you get to ride it, or if you start from the coast at Fort Bragg. The steamer only goes from there halfway to Northspur and back. If you are starting from the other end, at Willlits, CA, (where we did), you catch a diesel-electric to Northspur, where you transfer to the steamer.

I'm going to have to write an article about it!!

Thanks for prompting these memories!