When I hear the words 'train' or 'train tracks', my mind and heart shoot me back to some of my earliest and only memories of living in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. My dad would tell me when he grew up, the train tracks split the town in two: Catholics on one side, Protestants and their public school on the other.
As a 4 or 5-year-old that kind of stuff didn't matter. What mattered to me was that some days being close to the train tracks it meant I was going to see my dad his Sleepy Eye Municipal Power Plant job for lunch. Sometimes we walked there and I would make sure to be extra careful walking over the tracks with with my K-mart velcro shoes. Sometimes my grandmother and I would bring him a roast beef with extra salt from Hardee's.
My grandma was great but when she took me to see my dad for lunch, she just didn't matter. When I entered the power plant right that stood on the other side of the train tracks, the loud, constant hums of multiple massive boilers filled my ears. But that didn't matter either. What mattered was that my dad was in that noisy building and his arms were ready for me to run into (even though my grandma always told me not to run). If Grandma Steffl timed our outing right, my dad would hoist me onto his shoulders so I could pull the noon whistle for all of the city of Sleepy Eye to hear. Those were the best and most simple days ever.
A few weeks ago, I went to a Minnstameet (Instagram meetup for nerds) hosted at the Minnesota Transportation Museum because... trains and history. Even after living in Saint Paul for for four years, I had no idea this place even existed. Inside the museum and out in the Jackson Street Roundhouse live real trains (and historic buses) people used to use for actual, vital transportation.
Walking through the trains and around the Roundhouse, you can see so many artifacts from what many call a 'more simple time.' Maybe it was in some ways --here's looking at you internet-- but in many ways it wasn't. A volunteer told us about how 'breakmen' would often have their torsos severed from working on the line rendering their wives and children destitute. Seeing the old luggage carts of suitcases without wheels (!) and archaic typewriters reminds me that those days were definitely complex.
I learned so many cool things at this place. Admission prices are next to nothing for a Sunday Saint Paul adventure. They even offer real train rides! How perfect would this be for fall color viewing?
Trains make me all nostalgic. What about you?
View more photos by clicking the thumbnails below!