How Long Is That Train?
I’ve often wondered sitting in my vehicle at the railroad crossing how long that train was. I’ve tried counting but I get distracted and lose my place after 20 or 30 cars. I’ve tried timing it but I forget to check the time when the train passes and it’s time to move on.
I did get an answer one afternoon a few years back. I was alone with my guitar in the school bus but I’ll get to that in a bit.
A few weeks ago I left the school yard with about 44 high school students. We were the last in a line of buses heading west on the FM road into the sunset. As the bus in front of mine crossed the railroad tracks I secured my bus with the parking brake, as we do at all railroad crossings. Just then I heard the bells as the arm with the red flashing lights descended across the road.
I told the kids to get comfortable because we might be there a while.
I pulled my little guitar out from under the dash and took it out of the case. As the train crossed our path I played that old signature opening riff to Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. I sang, “I hear that train a comin’ It’s rolling round the bend.” I sang through the verses and played the guitar solos as we watched the train go by. Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty cars? Who knows? Not me. I just kept playing that song until I got to that same riff that holds the song together like a pair of bookends. I hit the last chord as the last car passed us by. I received a round of applause. One boy said, “Hey, did you see that? The song and the train ended at the same time! How did you do that?”
I slipped the guitar back under the dash, released the brake, and continued on the route.
My question was answered some years ago when I played that same song at that same railroad crossing. Yes, the song began and ended with the train back then as it did now.
This time I had a few dozen witnesses.
So, how long is that train?
I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that train is as long as the Folsom Prison Blues.