Trains and Poetry with a Poem

Updated on February 13, 2018
Tim Truzy info4u profile image

Tim Truzy is a poet, short-story author, and he is currently working on several novels.

A modern diesel locomotive
A modern diesel locomotive | Source

Let’s Take a Train to our Childhood!

Trains have always been a subject of different genres – from the classic ballads to sci-fi movies – we take rides to far flung places where reality and fantasy become blurry and exciting. Some of our greatest adventures with these mechanical marvels begin at home. I recall receiving a small train for Christmas as a ten year old boy, laying the tracks across my bedroom, sending action figures on the train to save whatever imagined dangers the world was facing. I was ecstatic, peeping through the plastic tunnels and running my fingers over the synthetic hills. I bounced in glee, sending my train rumbling on its circular route. I cheered as the tiny horn signaled our next stop: the Arctic Circle, Australia, or even the Caribbean. It didn’t matter about the geographical difficulties; my train was magic to me.

As an adult, the enchantment with trains continued. I’ve rode the subways of Chicago and New York City, enjoying the rattling cars and the hurrying shuffling people. I glided on the subway in Washington, D.C., wondering if some political figure may be stepping onboard to save America from whatever perils we were facing. But my favorite train ride was boarding the Amtrak down to Savannah, Georgia and returning home. Yet, riding the subway in Atlanta left a burning fire in my soul to write a poem about the great “iron horses,” or trains.

Talking with some of the passengers and the conductors on those trips inspired this poem. If you enjoy this poem, please leave comments. Thank you for reading: “My Train of Thoughts.”

Did you play with toy trains as a child?

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An antique steam locomotive
An antique steam locomotive | Source

My Train of Thoughts

Agent promised boundless routes with this trip,

Inquired agent ticket to good Heaven,

“Maps intersect mountains and troughs all in between,”

He scolded, “Train last left at nine-eleven.”


My motion first flung me against the rails,

Wheels whipping metal rocky road shifting beat,

Roaring rumbling rapid speed excels,

Steam singing smoke riveted my seat.


Heavy burden light heart left far behind,

Signal me southern city you I know,

My love empty tracks embrace me lonely,

Cargo of passengers more towns to go.


Swamps sway by trees thumbing me good-bye,

Horn bellows jazzy jumping solo tune,

These tracks touch bridges broken and bloody,

Railways forged from men mourning still their tombs.

An 1850s railroad trestle
An 1850s railroad trestle | Source

She said, “Souls sleep in the ties, dear young man.”

I said, “In rest they find their cold vengeance.”

She smiled, “Metal and steel plain written.”

I said, “Their ghosts scroll a moving sentence.”


Boxers beside me growled with the box cars,

Teaching the conductor about the coach,

Tankers spilled chemicals into my eyes,

My tears in dining car flavored my roast.


Lines of stories towering to somewhere,

Spirits isolated on bench exhale,

Lines of glory powering overpass,

Spirits freed by combustion lonesome smell.


I know not the morning transport fleeing,

I care not what depot engine ceases,

I see not the darkest of the day time,

Locomotive rock my troubles to pieces.


Leave the hoboes along the no place rails,

Attach wings to their plight to surely fly,

Give them a ship to elsewhere to sail,

Bring birth from journey railroad won’t let die.

A collection of old railroad cars rust away
A collection of old railroad cars rust away | Source

Five Songs Featuring Trains

Without question, trains have inspired creativity in literature and music. We have all enjoyed some of these books and tunes, crossing various genres and all classes of people. Perhaps, trains make us want to sing and write poetry. Maybe that’s why stories and songs from different backgrounds reach all of society. Trains have a universal rhythm and message for all of us.

Indeed, I’ve put together a few such songs below and gave a little information about each. Notice: all of these songs come from different musical traditions in America. This is because it would be impossible to tell the complete story of the United States without trains. These songs explore loneliness, love, exploration, and excitement. These are by no means all of the songs about trains I could think of for this article. That list would be enormous, requiring a book to fill. However, enjoy this mere sample of tunes, most of which can be found on the internet to listen to:

  • Take the A-Train – A standard in many jazz bands, this pop piece was the signature for the Duke Ellington orchestra since first recorded in 1941. It was composed by Ellington’s pianist, Billy Strayhorn, and it has been performed and recorded by various artists. The topic of the song is the New York train system.
  • The City of New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie tells the story of the day in the life of a train in this 1972 recording. He tells the tale from the vantage point of the train which is called: The City of New Orleans. A variety of artists have also recorded this classic folk tune.
  • The Gambler – In 1978, this was one of the biggest country music hits. The artist Kenny Rogers sings about an incident in which the character in the song encounters a gambler aboard a train. The gambler provides memorable advice which seems to flow with the rhythm of the imagined train. The song was popular enough to inspire movies featuring Kenny Rogers.
  • Midnight Train to Georgia – A lady plans to join her lover aboard a train to Georgia after he failed to become successful in this classic song by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Released on a 1973 album, the rhythm and blues tune has so=smooth harmonies and catchy lyrics. Gladys Knight and the Pips created a beautiful love story featuring dedication and the power of trains.
  • Ballad of Casey Jones – This folk song tells the story of a train engineer who crashes his train in Mississippi in 1900; he was trying to rush because his train was running behind schedule. It was written by William Saunders, a fellow railroad worker, who never received payment for the song. The song was published by T. Lawrence Seibert and Eddie Newton in 1902.

A freight train leaves a major hub
A freight train leaves a major hub | Source

Would you take a cross country trip by train?

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They style of railroad depot typically found in the Southeast United States
They style of railroad depot typically found in the Southeast United States | Source

Comments

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    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 2 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks, Tim. Great Lincoln story.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 2 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Mark.

      My wife and I both grew up near communities where trains played a big part in their economic development. Now, I'm fortunate to live near train tracks, where every evening I get to hear the Amtrak making its way South from here.

      My favorite story of trains is the appearance of the Lincoln train - that train carrying President Lincoln's body home in a ghostly manner - we've talked with people in the mountains here, and they swear they've seen and heard that old locomotive.

      Legend has it: When the train appears, the nation's in for a great change.

      It's a great story and I like to keep track of old train legends.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Your comment is greatly valued.

      Sincerely,

      Much respect,

      Tim

    • Mark Tulin profile image

      Mark Tulin 2 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Beautiful train poem. I share your fascination for trains, but not nearly as knowledgeable. Thanks

    • profile image

      Tim Truzy 2 months ago

      Perhaps, one of my favorite trains was the one on a cartoon. It was from the School House Rock series. It was called: "Conjunction Junction." The bluesy sound and rhyming of that song encouraged me with English and furthered my love of trains. I take a ride down memory tracks whenever I can with that song.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 2 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you for reminding me that trains served an additional purpose in America as well. They helped the cultures connect - Native people, settlers, rich, poor - all had more opportunities to meet and prosper. A very wise observation. Thank you again.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      A very beautiful article about the trains and train journeys presented in a musical voice. It reminds me of my hundreds of train journeys passing through 2000 km distance in between my home place and my workplace. This is in addition to my local train journeys at Chennai during my childhood. These journeys are the connecting points for different cultures of people interacting socially at one place.

      Thanks for refreshing all those memories.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 2 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Manatita44. Riding trains can be uplifting. I enjoy riding them any time I can.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 months ago from london

      My Spiritual teacher was fascinated by trains in his youth. Much later on in life, he composed many songs about them and rode on quite a few. Another nice piece of poetry.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 3 months ago from U.S.A.

      The feeling is mutual, Sean. Thanks for high praise from people I consider talented and gifted writers.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 3 months ago from U.S.A.

      The great thing about that, Abwilliams, some old gospel songs use trains as symbols, like take that Old Gospel Train, or something like that. We may take one up there.

      Near me, in one of our parks is an old train which was once used in the coal mines of West Virginia. I ride that train around the park whenever it's a clear sunny day.

      Thanks, my friend.

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 3 months ago from Greece, Almyros

      Thank you, for your kind words, My Brother Tim! Thank you, it means a lot to me.

      But the most important thing is that you, with your story, have touched our Hearts. The comment of A B Williams says enough.

      I am honored to know you.

      God bless you.

      Sean

    • profile image

      A B Williams 3 months ago

      I am sad to say that the only train rides I have been on...have been around Disney World or Dollywood. Yep, that's me, the theme park train rider.

      I'd love to take a long journey aboard an authentic train, one of these days.

      It is on my bucket list and thanks to you Tim, it has just made its way up the list a notch or two.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 3 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you, Ms. Dora. Riding on a train can put your mind at ease. My wife and I plan to do a cross country trip at some point on the trains. One interesting thing which Amtrak does is have a writer/poet in residence (usually) for a nearly six week long trip across the continental U.S. It's a dream job for me someday. But it's fun to think about trains.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Like Sean who creates such beautiful works from the heart and soul, I look forward to reading your stories which also have those same traits.

      You guys keep me motivated.

      We are all little engines that can!

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image
      Author

      Tim Truzy 3 months ago from U.S.A.

      Sean, again, you have a gift with the langauge. I could not have said anything as precise or as beautiful. Thank you. God bless you.

      Sincerely,

      Tim

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 months ago from The Caribbean

      Train of thought is much more familiar to me than the trains my grandson has forced me to learn about. "Locomotive rock my troubles to pieces." That alone is worth the ride.

    • Sean Dragon profile image

      Ioannis Arvanitis 3 months ago from Greece, Almyros

      Well done my brother Tim, well done indeed! A wonderful poem and yet a lovely text! You sent me many years back...

      Thank you for this trip!

      A gift to you:

      "The train of Love Unites our different lives as it is traveling us to our common Soul" -Sean Dragon

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