Taking a commuter train, I am sure, is somewhat akin to riding the Greyhound. There is an unmistakable impression that follows–the “train people.” But there are a whole myriad of train people; there were the train people that caught the rails during the depression hooking a ride to wherever the train was going, and the train people who refuse to fly–taking the “smell the roses” route of transportation–and then there are commuters.
In America, a steam engine was installed in a vessel in 1807 that hauled passengers from Albany to New York. England opened their first steam powered rail line in 1825, France in 1830, and Germany in 1835. In New York, a fella named Beach tried to create a secret subway system in 1870, but was denied any extension to his successful 400′ line.
Subsequently, subway systems were built world-wide including London, Paris, and Madrid. New York City built a subway that eventually became one of the largest in the world. (I’ve ridden “the tube” in London [awesome] and traveled under the English Channel from London to France–unfathomable [pun intended]. Commuting to work by rail was born!)
We became one of the faceless crowd as we joined the group boarding the South Shore Line in Portage, Indiana, for the Millennium Station in downtown Chicago yesterday for the bargain price of $4 one way per person. (It was built between 1901 and 1908.) The line that operates between South Bend International Airport and downtown Chicago is now an electrically powered inter-urban commuter rail service operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.
There were people pulling carry-on bags we used to call luggage. There were students heavy laden with backpacks, shoppers, tourists, and people like us–out to enjoy a day in Chicago. The train, thankfully, was equipped with WiFi, but unfortunately didn’t keep everyone occupied, as we were treated to the lady on the way into Chicago on a non-stop conversation that no one in the car had a problem hearing. Likewise, a younger man on the way back had to involve us in this profanity filled, F-word laden conversation. At least the lady’s conversation included sage, age-driven advice. I didn’t learn a thing from the guy. ©2106 Virginia Williams