Monday, January 3, 2011

The Train Whistle

Music is everywhere. It is part of life, that is, if you hear music the way I hear it. I can hear music in the wind, the water, and the birds. Music just seems to float about like a little gift from above. Sometimes however, music can be found in the strangest of places, it can be inspired by the oddest of sounds. We’ve been learning about trains and the railway. It’s funny how, when you’re least expecting it, you learn something new. So anyways, I’m learning about the Texas Archive Wars and about the first train to pull into Austin on Christmas day, when we start reading about train whistles. I think, “Cool, that’s interesting,” as I listen and try to remember all of the important people who invented train whistles. Then all-of-a-sudden, I hear, “When passing through the local station in the Yorkshire town of Ilkley, drivers soon began to play the first line of the folk song, ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’ on their loco horns….” (Wikipedia) What can I say, I like folk songs and when I hear something about a folk song, it tends to spark my interest. The article went on to talk about how the train drivers would play the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which was Morse code for victory, when driving through town. (You know the song; dun, dun, dun DU-N!) It was rather fun trying to imagine what it must have been like to lie in bed, trying to fall asleep when Beethoven’s Symphony is blasted out from a train whistle.

The article presented a train of thought, which I had not considered before. They called it, “The Melancholy Nature of Train Whistles,” but I prefer to call it, “The Musicality of Trains.” I had really never thought about train whistles having any correlation to music, but they sure do. Different train whistles make different sounds, which in turn, can provoke different feelings. Some whistles sound like their crying or wailing and inspire slow sad sounding songs like the folk song, “Five Hundred Miles”, while others have that energizing blast which gives us songs like, “The Gospel Railroad.” Both ways seem to have good results, in my opinion. It’s almost funny to think about the fact that some people heard a train whistle and thought of sadness and loneliness. They thought of having to say goodbye and of friends, while others thought of heroes like Casey Jones and of hard work. (I’m thinking of songs like, “The Ballad of Casey Jones,” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”)

I can hear both the sadness and the happiness in a train whistle, but I’m one of those people that prefers to hear the happiness. I really like songs like, "The Gospel Railroad,"
"This Train is Bound For Glory" and "Jesus Is Your Ticket To Heaven."
They hold in them that hopeful, driving sound that tells you , this train is headed to a destination and if you’re getting on, then get on! and hang on for the ride. There will be curves and twists and steep mountains to climb, “Hey, I never said it was a cruise liner,” but, this train is bound for glory! It’s a great picture. (Make sure you click on the songs and read the lyrics.)

So I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You’ll probably never hear the sound of a train whistle the same way again, at least, I won’t.

In Christ and For His Kingdom,

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