"The Polar Express"
The local cousins finally met the Wisconsin cousins. Lots of running and chasing among the group of young ladies, with the sounds that accompany the chasing. The family gets to renew old relationships among the three brothers (our wonderful sons) and each of their respective familys. This is a 'Christmas' family reunion. This evening two of the families meet at their home in the valley. The other son and his wife are visiting New York for the holidays before Christmas. We will see them on Christmas day when they return with stories of the adventure.
Last evening's Video, with the compliments of the Wisconsin son and his wife, was brought along to entertain all. "POLAR EXPRESS".. with that glorious "BALDWIN" Locomotive, pulling the train load of pajama clad youngsters, along with a few doubts about Santa Clause and his existance. The trip begins calmly enough with the youngsters getting familiar with each other. The Conductor with his talented 'ticket puncher' in hand, is definetly in charge...sort of. Each minute into the trip has a new adventure, to say the least. The excitement continously escalates dramatically, along the way. Magic seems to be inserted into the ride from time to time with the law of probability being very severely tested. I loved the Computer Animation (CCGI) throughout the entire film. 2004 seems a while back and knowing the time table for new technology being about 18 months, I can only wonder at where the next great film will be, technology wise. The beautiful "Baldwin" engine seems to perform superbly in all conditions. The Engineers notwithstanding. They eventually do seem to take control of the situation. The film has a way of making the viewer feel like they are part of the action. Now that is film making at it's best. No wonder it won Awards.
As a young child, I had the great fortune to witness the performance put on by, big steam powered locomotives similiar to the "Baldwin". Our home was about 1/4 th of a mile from the 'EJ&E'ry. (Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railway). The Northwestern railway crossed the EJ&E nearby at "Leithton" control tower, where I spent a great portion of my youthful hours. The 'Switchman' showed us how to control the trains, by pulling the big mechanical levers used to switch the rail sidings and taught us 'Morse Code'. He let us place the trains "Orders" in a y shaped frame for the passing trainmen to grab. He let us play with the hand powered trycycle 'inspection vehicle'. He was also a crack shot with a 22 rifle, shooting bottles we threw into the air. My best friend Freddy Wagner, had a father 'Fred', that was the section foreman in charge of the hard working track maintenance crew of "Gandy Dancers", "Gandys" for short. I played along the tracks from as long as I could recall, until I became of legal driving age. Now those experiences could never be replaced by any of todays Video Games. I heard the mournful steam whistle wail, and the heavy Thunder of the big steam freight locomotives at all hours. At night the sound became almost magical in itself. The old rail system with its comparetivly short lengths of rail, gave the famous "Clikity-Clak" sound of the past. Modern 'Ribbon rail ended all of that mesmerizing sound. Anyone that witnessed the loss of traction when the thousands of horsepower were applied a little too heavily to the huge 'driver wheels'. The "Thunder" and the resultant "wheel spin" with the sparks flying, I can never forget the thrill.
The troop trains of WWII were awesome with the soldiers loading and unloading their duffle bags, piled on tall wheeled carts along the loading platform. Station men pulled those big carts, 'to and fro' along the trains baggage cars. Being in the midwest, "Snowstorms and Blizzards" were a regular part of the night scene. the Steam pouring out of the valves and piston chambers, mingling with the chill gave the erie depiction of something powerful beyond immagination. The huge "Black Locomotives" were gone from my life way too soon. I should have been born about 50 years earlier to take in the full spectrum of those exciting times in the world. The "POLAR EXPRESS" will serve as a reminder to us all, of those wonderful decades. "The Age of Steam".