The Meaning of Trains

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Trains, Trains, Trains, and More Trains


The first  steam train was allegedly invented in 1797.  Trains are a mode of transportation, for reaching faraway places, for relaxation and enjoyment, for reaching new and old places, simply for getting from one place to another.  They are for commercial use, for people use, for  transporting large equipment, and for reaching some otherwise unreachable places.  When we think about these vehicles we think about the “whooh, whooh” sounds that emanate from the engines as they announce their approach.  It reminds us of some joyful journeys that we enjoyed as children as we sat cuddled up to our parents, frequently enjoying some food that Mom prepared and unwrapped.  We remember the man with the uniform and the hat that we called the conductor, who answered our questions as he collected our tickets. We  go to  the food bar where we get a beverage or other comfort food.  We walk from one long “car” to another.  We need not sit still or cramped like we might in another mode of transportation.

Those folks who were children during the days when airplanes were not as common as they are today for modes of transportation, or those who prefer the leisurely way of train travel, appreciate what trains can do for us.

There are the cattle trains where animals were hauled from one place to another. This was a way that masses of animals could be transported together and the costs were less than hauling these creatures in less spacious forms of vehicles.

There are countries that have various types of trains as well as how punctual their trains are.  Our American trains, especially in some parts of our land, are often not on schedule. This makes it difficult for travelers to count on “take off” or arrival at a designated destination.  In Germany the trains are always on time.  They are not even minutes late.  They can be counted on, which makes it easier to reach destinations in a timely fashion. 

For those of  who remember the 1940’s, either because they were children, were holocaust survivors, escapees from Hitler, terrorists and mass murderers remember the cattle trains with horror.  Their memories and thoughts are of masses of humanity, Jewish people being herded into the cattle trains with Nazis taking their last possessions which they had clutched in their hands.   They were beaten with rifles and other instruments of torture as they painfully stepped into the death chambers called trains.  They could not move, once inside the putrid smelling “cars,” as one body was pressed against another.  They could not relieve themselves, as they attempted to hold their urine and feces as long as they could, as the smell of their excretions permeated the train, and as some of these innocent people collapsed on the other human beings that were their “travel companions.”

Let us use trains only for the good of people, as modes of transportation, as vehicles of moving goods from one place to another.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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