“Train, Mommy!”

Last week Georgie was dying to see a train, and glimpsing the freight cars along I-480 just wasn’t cutting it. George suggested that we go park by The Station Restaurant in Berea.

In a previous incarnation, it was The Pufferbelly, which originally was the sandstone Union Depot for the CCC & St. Louis Railroad (known as the “Big Four”). Now you see CSX and Norfolk Southern trains — usually 100 pass within 24 hours. The edge of the parking lot is less than 10 feet from the first set of rails, so caution is required when visiting.

It was a great idea! Last week we saw 2 trains within the first five minutes — Georgie was in heaven! It was cold and rainy, so we stayed in the van to watch. Today we stopped again, as it was in the 50s and sunny, and the parking lot was packed with trainwatchers! Come to find out, it is a hobby for some enthusiasts. Taking photos, checking the timeliness of the trains, keeping logs on which engines and what freight they’re carrying, chatting with other ‘regulars’ about what they’ve seen and photographed… I felt like I was visiting a Star Trek convention at first.

We saw a train coming along the closest rails, and got out of the van to watch. A lady with a boy of about three suggested that we stand back, since the horn is quite loud when you’re that close. Boy, she was right — even I was surprised by the speed and sound of the train, and I made a mental note to bring George’s shooting earguards next time. Georgie’s eyes were as big as saucers and after it passed he said, “Mommy! Train! Oh, great!” I laughed, it warmed my heart that I was able to bring him such joy.

After the train passed, I went over to the lady and thanked her for the warning, she told me that she learned the hard way the first time they came to watch the trains. She and her husband are “rail fans” and enjoy watching the trains just as much as their son does — they come down to the Depot several times a month.

When I got home, I Googled ‘rail fan’ and found a ton of information, including the scanner frequencies that the railroads use to communicate from dispatch to the engineers! My mom bought me a scanner several years ago, and now I’ll be able to program the correct frequencies for Georgie to listen to. He’ll be so excited.

It’s so nice to see families who spend time together doing things that are fun — and FREE! How easy it is to get caught up in the fast pace of life without thinking about what matters most; the people you love.

My memories of childhood are of the things that were free (or close to it).

  • Camping in Niagara Falls, hiking around the Niagara River and watching the water rushing so fast it took my breath away… then finally seeing the falls, and knowing without a doubt that God exists.
  • “Caravan sledding” down the hill at our house on Heckman Road with Dad on the big sled, me on the smaller sled and Mandy tied to me on the inner tube.
  • Going to cut firewood with Dad in the woods.
  • Playing kickball at Grandpa Tuggle’s house and arguing the merits of “Ghost On First.”
  • When Mandy ate the mushroom and Mom gave her Syrup of Ipecac and she puked all over her high chair. (I know it wasn’t exactly supposed to be ‘entertainment’ but it was. And it qualifies as “free!”)
  • Mom letting us take over her sewing area in the basement to put on our shows. (Who needs real microphones when you have a bucket and a broom?)
  • Building forts with blankets.
  • Going to see the Shetland ponies.
  • Riding our bikes to get ice cream, or to the park in Uniontown.

I’m so glad that my parents took the time to do those things with us. We had fun when we went to Cedar Point, and to Geauga Lake and Sea World. But the things that make the greatest impression aren’t things — it’s the time you spend with them that tells them that you love them.

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