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Off the Rails ~ Don't Race the Devil

John is a long-time poet, short fiction, and article writer. He loves story-telling and also has a Certificate in Permaculture Design.


Introduction to the Poem

In a reply to my comment on one of his recent articles, Eric's Sunday Sermon, My "Station" in Life" my friend Eric Dierker suggested that I write a story about my time in the Railways.

"John I had forgotten that history of yours. I can't help it. Trains are romantic to me. Please tell us a story or 45 about working there. I even think people act differently at train stations. Just me I suppose."

That made me realise that although I was employed in the railways for 17 years I have never really written a 'train' inspired poem. Thank you, Eric, for the suggestion. So, here it is.

Off the Rails ~ Don't Race the Devil

The locomotive rattles by,

Its wheels hugging the rails.

No slowing down through crossings,

Don't let those boom-gates fail.

It pulls into the station,

Freight to collect and drop.

Air brakes restrict its progress,

Slowly screeching to a stop.

Many different carriages

For livestock, fuel, and goods,

Rushing by the landscape,

Through city, desert, woods.

The Driver and the Fireman

Guide the charging beast,

Steady eyes fixed straight ahead,

Controlling speed at least.


Some foolish individuals

May try to race the devil,

Not stopping for red flashing lights

At crossings known as "level."

They play a game of chicken

With rampaging tonnes of steel,

Putting lives at danger

Scant minutes for to steal.

The driver honks a warning

As he sees danger ahead.

The brakes scream as they skid on rail,

But freight trains can't stop dead.

Their pick up truck could beat the train,

So thought the likely lads,

But engines can stall now and then

And timing's often bad.


A crash of steel assails the ears,

The engineer stares cold,

As like some origami crane

The car crumples in folds.

To risk your life in games of chance,

Will ultimately fail,

Especially tag team with a train,

It's all just off the rails.

© 2019 John Hansen