The Underground

Every now and then I hear it; a low, muted whistle; faint from under the floor boards.  Then, the sound of the hard working shifter, pushing and pulling rolling stock into place behind the locomotive, pulsing impatient steam as it waits to release the brake and hurl itself into the sunrise.  I open the door and pause at the top of my subway stairs.  A rush of warm wind hits me, breezing through my hair as a train passes underneath with a whoosh! followed by the cuchuck, cuchuck, cuchuck, cuchuck of the wheels as they fade into a nearby tunnel.  My Dad is calling to me from my cellar railroad.

Or, am I calling to him?  It’s  been many months since I posted on this blog.  Instead of Selling Dads Trains, I went back to school full-time, which is no easy feat in midlife.   I’m surrounded by 20-somethings whose life experience is very different; they are welcoming, yet I feel like an alien.  I don’t feel old; instead I feel incomprehensible, like the world of civics lessons, rotary-dial phones, 13 TV channels and carburators.   And steam locomotives, and fathers who worked as machinists.

These days, when the whistle gets loud enough or when I feel the rumbling underground, I go down the basement stairs, and immerse myself in my father’s world.  The trains carry my memories in boxcars and Pullman coaches; they know  where I came from and who I am.  My hands assemble a locomotive, or test a motor on a multi-meter.  I wonder how a New York Central caboose ended up in a box labeled “Baltimore & Ohio”.  Standing on my station platform,  I realize that I miss myself; a woman who can write a pretty good academic essay but finds resolution and joy in the simplicity of a basement full of railroad mysteries.



  7 comments for “The Underground

  1. lorraine botti
    February 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Wow. Beautifully written once again! Have missed reading these. How are you doing. The alien feeling you are experiencing reminds me of how I felt at Ogilvy.


  2. Alan Mende
    February 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Oh Mary, you are a great writer!


  3. February 8, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    Wow! Thanks Alan. Great to hear from you. Hope you’re doing well


  4. Rachel Kraut
    February 9, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Love your updates! And I was so excited to hear that you decided to do something for yourself and went back to school!! Miss you!! Rachel


    • February 10, 2017 at 2:09 am

      Thank you Rachel! Miss you too!


  5. Craig Ward
    June 9, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    I just had to re-read this one again. I love your writing. I’m taking a week off this week and will be working on some of your Dad’s models. They require a lot of attention to detail and you have to love doing it. Every time I look at them, I think of you. My wife and I had such a great time meeting you and your hubby last summer. Thanks again for being an inspiration. Hope school is doing well.



    • June 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      Hi Craig! Great to hear from you. It makes me happy to know that the trains my Dad owned are in such good hands. I’m sure they’ll look great when you’re done with them. Enjoy and warm regards,


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