Poems and quotes on trains

Jan 15, 2019Special Articles, Travelling

Travelling by train does something to you, it stimulates thoughts, and afterthoughts. Here is a selection of reflections others have made about trains, stations, and travelling.

 

Quotes about train travel (part 1)

At Goodreads you will find many quotes and excerpts, about most things in life. Here is a selection based on a search of the term “train”. 

 

…what thrills me about trains is not their size or their equipment but the fact that they are moving, that they embody a connection between unseen places. (Marianne Wiggins)

 

I lie down on many a station platform; I stand before many a soup kitchen; I squat on many a bench;–then at last the landscape becomes disturbing, mysterious, and familiar. It glides past the western windows with its villages, their thatched roofs like caps, pulled over the white-washed, half-timbered houses, its corn-fields, gleaming like mother-of-pearl in the slanting light, its orchards, its barns and old lime trees. The names of the stations begin to take on meaning and my heart trembles. The train stamps and stamps onward. I stand at the window and hold on to the frame. These names mark the boundaries of my youth. (Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front)

 

So when I watch trains, it makes me think about how much movement there is in the world. How every train has dozens of cars and every car has hundreds of parts, and all those parts and cars work day after day. And then there are all these other motions. People are born and die. Seasons change. Rivers flow to the sea. Earth circles the sun and the moon circles Earth. Everything whirring and spinning toward something. And I get to be part of it for a little while, the way I get to watch a train for a minute or two, and then it’s gone. (Jeff Zentner, The Serpent King)

 

Quotes about train travel (part 2)

The aristocrats, if such they could be called, generally hated the whole concept of the train on the basis that it would encourage the lower classes to move about and not always be available. (Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam)

 

It’s not getting from A to B. It’s not the beginning or the destination that counts. It’s the ride in between…This train is alive with things that should be seen and heard. It’s a living, breathing something — you just have to want to learn its rhythm. (David Baldacci, The Christmas Train)

 

The train is a small world moving through a larger world. (Elisha Cooper, Train)

 

It’s been my experience that most folk who ride trains could care less where they’re going. For them it’s the journey itself and the people they meet along the way. You see, at every stop this train makes, a little bit of America, a little bit of your country, gets on and says hello. That’s why trains are so popular at Christmas. People get on to meet their country over the holidays. They’re looking for some friendship, a warm body to talk to. People don’t rush on a train, because that’s not what trains are for. How do you put a dollar value on that? What accounting line does that go on? (David Baldacci, The Christmas Train)

 

This is Denmark. We are Danes. We keep our distance. We do not pick a seat close to strangers if other seats are available. We do not talk to strangers in the trains. (Steen Langstrup, Metro)

 
 

Hordaland - Bergen - KODE 3 - Rasmus Meyers samling - TH Kittelsen

H Kittelsen’s work on the troll’s meeting with a slamming train can be found at KODE 3 – Rasmus Meyer’s collection in Bergen. My photography. Click to see larger version.

 

Quotes about train travel (part 3)

Corner Seat:
Suspended in a moving night;
The face in the reflection train;
Looks at first sight as self-assured;
As your own face – But look again:
Windows between you and the world;
Keep out the cold, keep out the fright;
Then why does your reflection seem;
So lonely in the moving night? (Louis MacNeice)

 

Trains induce such terrible anxiety. They image the possibility of total and irrevocable failure. They are also dirty, rackety, packed with strangers, an object lesson in the foul contingency of life: the talkative fellow-traveller, the possibility of children. (Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince)

 

The station was crowded by the time the express pulled up. I felt then, as I do now, that there is no joy like the arrival of a train […] particularly a European train that will carry you south. (Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian)

 

Now he slept soundly through the nights, and often he dreamed of trains, and often of one particular train: He was on it; he could smell the coal smoke; a world went by. And then he was standing in that world as the sound of the train died away. A frail familiarity in these scenes hinted to him that they came from his childhood. Sometimes he woke to hear the sound of the Spokane International fading up the valley and realized he’d been hearing the locomotive as he dreamed. (Denis Johnson, Train Dreams)

 

Quotes about train travel (part 4)

The very old lady in black looked up at a notice over the window: TO STOP THE TRAIN PULL DOWN THE CHAIN. PENALTY FOR IMPROPER USE, FIVE POUNDS. She smiled the gentlest, sweetest smile. “All my life I have been afraid that one day the temptation would prove too much for me,” she said. “Don’t suppose there’s anyone who doesn’t feel like that, ma’am,” said the soldier, grinning. (Constance Savery, Enemy Brothers)

 

This was the moment when the 20th century really began, in all its viciousness and bloody-mindedness. Me, I had imagination in spades, though. I saw myself as a corpse, swept into this stream of fools against my will along with thousands, millions of other corpses, and I didn’t like it one little bit. The other guys, still waiting on the platform at the Gare de l’Est, already saw themselves throwing back a well-earned beer on Alexanderplatz. Only the mothers really knew. They knew the babies in their arms were tomorrow’s war orphans, and the cattle cars (8 horses, 40 men) were nothing but rail-mounted coffins joined end to end and headed for military cemeteries. (Jacques Tardi, Goddamn This War!)

 

The train may fall in love with a station, but it has to go and it goes! Don’t be like the train; stay at the station you fell in love, go nowhere! (Mehmet Murat ildan)

 

Trains are beautiful. They take people to places they’ve never been, faster than they could ever go themselves. Everyone who works on trains knows they have personalities, they’re like people. They have their own mysteries. (Sam Starbuck, The Dead Isle)

 

Quotes about train travel (part 5)

On the train: staring hypnotized at the blackness outside the window, feeling the incomparable rhythmic language of the wheels, clacking out nursery rhymes, summing up moments of the mind like the chant of a broken record: god is dead, god is dead. going, going, going. and the pure bliss of this, the erotic rocking of the coach. France splits open like a ripe fig in the mind; we are raping the land, we are not stopping. (Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)

 

Early youth is a baffling time. The present moment is nice but it does not last. Living in it is like waiting in a junction town for the morning limited; the junction may be interesting but some day you will have to leave it and you do not know where the limited will take you. Sooner or later you must move down an unknown road that leads beyond the range of the imagination, and the only certainty is that the trip has to be made. In this respect early youth is exactly like old age; it is a time of waiting before a big trip to an unknown destination. The chief difference is that youth waits for the morning limited and age waits for the night train. (Bruce Catton, Waiting for the Morning Train)

 

Blaise Cendrar

There are not only positive moods that emerge from train travelers. Here is Blaise Cendrar’s experience. This is a quote from “Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jeanne de France”.

 

Tell me, Blaise, are we very far from Montmartre?’
Worries
Forget your worries
All the stations full of cracks tilted along the way
The telegraph wires they hang from
The grimacing poles that gesticulate and strangle them
The world stretches lengthens and folds in like an accordion tormented by a sadistic hand
In the cracks of the sky the locomotives in anger
Flee
And in the holes,
The whirling wheels the mouths the voices
And the dogs of misfortune that bark at our heels
The demons are unleashed
Iron rails

Everything is off-key
The broun-roun-roun of the wheels
Shocks
Bounces
We are a storm under a deaf man’s skull…
‘Tell me, Blaise, are we very far from Montmartre?’
Hell yes, you’re getting on my nerves you know very well we’re far away
Overheated madness bellows in the locomotive
Plague, cholera rise up like burning embers on our way
We disappear in the war sucked into a tunnel
Hunger, the whore, clings to the stampeding clouds
And drops battle dung in piles of stinking corpses
Do like her, do your job
‘Tell me, Blaise, are we very far from Montmartre?

 

Jimi Hendrix

I must return to music. Hear My Train A Comin’ by Jimi Hendrix. I starts like this:

 

Well, I wait around the train station 
Waitin’ for that train 
Waitin’ for the train, yeah 
Take me home, yeah 
From this lonesome place 
Well, now a while lotta people put me down a lotta changes 
My girl had called me a disgrace

 

See and hear the rest on YouTube.

 

Music about trains

When it comes to train and music, check out the samples of music on this link and this link. They provide lists of hundreds of songs – mostly from American music genres. Here is a playlist from YouTube with almost 200 songs on trains.
 

 

Sandalsand’s train videos

My YouTube channel has a playlist of ten train travels in Norway, Myanmar, China, Mongolia and Russia (Trans-Siberian). This is it. Take a seat and relax.

 

 

Is that all?

The quotes are a good start, and I have not yet entered into longer texts. 

There might even come a list of recommended train films. Others have made lists before me, so please check out this one.

We have had about 200 years of train travel. Trains have opened new territories, linked people closer together, and opened up to new impulses. I find it a wonderful way of travelling.

There are two articles that I would recommend. The first is called “Iron Wheels (1) Exciting train journeys” and mentions five exciting train journeys around the world. The other is called “Iron Wheels (2) Special rails” and addresses other railing means. Sandalsand contains descriptions of train travels in more than 25 countries, in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. 

 

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