Magic on the tracks

08 May

steam train 2

I was listening to some Afrikaans songs tonight when “Trans Karoo” came on. Ah… memories…

Tchuk-tchuk- tchuck-tchuk, Clickety-clack… clickety clack…. one of the best lullabies a child can sleep to as the train rocks gently on the tracks. As I slept, I was concious of pulling into midnight middle-of-nowhere stations and the quiet fuss of loading up fresh coal and passengers. Come morning, the call of the stewardess, “Coffee, tea, Milo?” That is still used in our home. For once, I wasn’t interested in what was being served. I’d push up the window, resting forearms on the sill and leaning out as far as I could, I wanted to see the huge locomotive in front, gaze in awe at upcoming tunnels that secretly terrified me. Gran would get annoyed at the soot she’d have to clean off my clothes then. Looking back, I’d see the long red and beige train snaking behind.

steam train

The bathrooms were an adventure in themselves and the tiny metal washbasins. Going to the dining car was a journey of unbelievable excitement and trepidation. Crossing the concertina joins between carriages required a huge amount of courage and the comforting hand of an adult. White linen table cloths, linen serviettes and heavy silver cutlery. I can’t, for the life of me, remember the food. I think I had my nose pressed to the window. The train whistle blows, then Parrrp… parrrp… Khssshhhhhh…. we pull into the station. There’s the fuss of pulling cases down, checking nothing is left, the noisy compartment door crashing open. I look out the windows in the passage for the last time. The train empties out onto the smooth concrete platform. Train stations always seem to have ornate metal supports and rails, red brick or cream and grey buildings and pretty gardens.

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Posted by on May 8, 2010 in memories, south-africa


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