Texas Liberal

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I Took A Walk Along Some Railroad Tracks—The Solid And The Abstract Give Substance To One Another

A few days ago, I took a walk along some railroad tracks here in Houston. Not wanting to be on the wrong side of the tracks, I walked in-between the tracks.

Here are facts about railroad tracks are built from howstuffworks.com

I wager though that if you live this close to the tracks, any side of the tracks is the wrong side.

The variations of sound you hear from a moving train are often used to illustrate the Doppler Effect.

On my walk, I encountered this rat skeleton.

The trains must run right over the skeleton.

Here are facts about rats from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Apparently they often live in the vicinity of railroad tracks.

Turning around to head back home–and staying noncommittal in-between the tracks– I could see at a distance the skyline of Houston.

Here are some details about the Houston Skyline.

Just about everyplace can be an interesting place.

Everything we need to see and think about the world around us is accessible with effort and imagination.

This is the case of the physical world of railroad tracks and rat skeletons, and the metaphorical world of being on the right or wrong side of the tracks.

The solid and the abstract give substance to one another.

(All photos copyright 2011 Neil Aquino.)

December 5, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. I note in your photo that one set of tracks is older than the other (if that orange is rust and not a trick of light). It’s rare in this day that additional train track is laid without replacing older.

    A young man who played football for my high school alma mater was killed earlier this year on train tracks. Details remain sketchy but there seems to have been no foul play involved. The team dedicated the rest of the season to his memory and advanced farther in the playoffs than they had since 1964.

    This young man was biracial, the only “black” member of the team in a town with a long history of racial strife — which it seems to be making great strides in overcoming.

    My maternal grandfather was a train conductor. He passed three weeks before I was born. I know little of him except that his favorite destination was the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. He gave my mother several silver dollars to give to me and my brother when we were older (in my case, born). My older brother put himself through college working on the KCS line that ran near our house during the summers — replacing track, ties, and stakes. Back-breaking work. I played on those same train tracks frequently as a child; picked black berries, marveled at half-rotted skeletons such as you photographed, listened to the trains rumble and whistle late at night in bed, wondered about their destinations, their cargo, the men sounding those whistles.

    When we moved just outside Loop 610 a few years ago we unwittingly moved near a rail line — just close enough to remind me of my childhood, just far enough away to remain unobtrusive — and was delighted by the sound of a train whistle waking me at 3 a.m. the first night we slept in the house. That still happens about once a week, and I don’t mind it one bit. (I’ve always been a fairly light sleeper anyway.)

    I could go on and on some more about trains, but since this a post about train tracks, I should stop.

    Comment by PDiddie | December 5, 2011

  2. […] at Texas Liberal took a walk along some railroad tracks in Houston. On this walk, Neil encountered both solid and metaphorical aspects of […]

    Pingback by Eye on Williamson » TPA Blog Round Up (December 5, 2011) | December 5, 2011

  3. Your father had a summer job as a teenager laying railroad tracks in Rhode Island. He wrote a column about it. When I was a kid, the trains ran day and night on the tracks beyond the woods in back of our yard. My sister and another girl (who later became a nun) used to try to jump onto the trains. Neither got hurt. They were lucky. The teenage son of our minister shot himself to death along those same tracks. Sometimes my dad would take me down to the train station where he’d get a haircut. We’d get orange juice and a donut. A family Sunday afternoon ride often meant going downtown to watch the trains come and go through Utica or to the Barge Canal to watch boats go through the locks (my dad would stand on the edge and I’d be afraid he’s fall in) or to the Oneida County Airport to watch the planes take off and land. I suspect my mother didn’t enjoy those little rides as much as my dad, my sisters and I did – though the older we got, the older the rides seemed. I’ve ridden the trains in this country and in Europe. It can be a wonderful way to travel, to see things and to meet people. I’ve always liked the sound of a train whistle. Even now, when one sounds once or twice a day or night near my house but not nearly as often as those days when I was a kid. Another time, another place.

    Comment by Newton | December 5, 2011

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