Overnight on the Train

The Boston cars were at the front of the train. We walked a couple hundred yards until a conductor pointed to metal stairs we could climb to enter our car. I remembered LILO from college, Last-In-Last-Out, a supply system. Cost accounting, perhaps? Dad and I found a seat quickly, thanks to the boarding call of seniors able to go through the boarding gate to the platform before the general public. It wasn’t luxurious. It wasn’t new. It didn’t have WiFi. It wasn’t for business people traveling from Boston to New York City. It was for lugging people 1,600 miles. It was a vinyl nest for 23 hours.

At 9:32 p.m. we pulled out of Union Station. Lights would stay on until 10 p.m. then they would be dimmed, except for the aisle lighting. I walked to the bathroom and, through seeing the various passenger sleeping configurations, I learned what a flight attendant would have helped us with. “Dad, push this lever and the foot rest comes down. There must be a lever to make the leg rest pop up, too – like a recliner.” Several passengers had pulled the leg rest up to be horizontal, aligned with the seat. If on her own, a person could create a small bed out of a two-seat-leg-rest up combination. I couldn’t envision the farmer or his daughter trying this maneuver. But the leg rest could potentially make sleeping more comfortable.

By 10 p.m. most people went out with the lights. I looked at Dad. He was wide awake trying to imagine what he was seeing as the dots of city lights and dark country swept by. Until 1 a.m. I played Solitaire and looked at Dad, looking out the window. Then with my travel pillow around my neck and the aisle lighting shining in my eyes, I catnapped, waking up occasionally to look at Dad, who was still looking out the window.

At 5 a.m., I woke up to see Dad, looking out the window. “Did you sleep?” Shaking of the head. His “good morning” was, “We are only in Ohio!?!? We’ll never make it to Boston by 9:30!” Oh, dear… “Dad, we don’t get into Boston until 9:30 tonight.” Dad looked at me a little bewildered, perhaps waiting to see if I was pulling his leg. I nodded, confirming arrival time.

Well, it was too late for him to sleep, for the choice to take the train meant Dad could see the countryside. And now that daylight was here, Dad looked out the window, giving his imagination a break as the sunrise illuminated what he was seeing.

(After Dad's two-week vacation with us in the Northeast, it was time to head home for An Early Iowa Christmas.)