Reflections by Dot Cutter — November 2019
Throughout the first half of the twentieth century railroads provided much of the transportation needs of the nation. Freight trains moved manufactured goods and agricultural products from coastal areas into communities along major routes far from our shores. Feeder lines and spurs completed the complex distribution with numerous sidings interspersed across the states to accommodate passing trains. People utilized passenger trains, often with sleeper cars, for business as well as pleasure. Before the advent of the interstate highway system, families stayed connected via train service, and it was a delightfully relaxing interlude for busy people. Major cities sported beautiful train stations where a bustle of activity and services could be found. I grew up in one such city whose Union Station was an architectural beauty patterned after Grand Central Station, with its marble columns holding up a lofty ceiling in its large waiting room. It boasted several ticket windows, an information booth, a Western Union station, 15 pay telephones, 2 shoeshine stands, a USO center for greeting servicemen, a travel agency, a newspaper, magazine and film shop, a taxi stand office, Railway Express (which was a precursor to UPS), an expansive model railroad club that put on delightful shows, and a very good restaurant with a lovely dining room which locals frequented as well.
Passenger access to the platforms, of which there were eight servicing the 14 tracks, was via an underground tunnel system with stairways up to each platform. At both ends of the terminal was a complex network of switches and semaphores, routing trains to their designated platforms or onto through tracks for non-stop trains. Timing and precision for throwing those switches were essential in avoiding collisions or derailments. Additionally, there was a roundhouse and large freight yard which directed freight in and out of the city and into far flung parts of the state.
For decades it was a hub of activity with trains moving in and out around the clock. But as the interstate highway system took root and expanded, ridership on the trains decreased as more people found driving to be faster and more convenient. Trucking began to swallow up much of the freight business as well. The hub began to dwindle and become relatively insignificant. But of late there has been a resurgence of interest in rail travel across the nation. Local towns are looking to revitalize their small train stations to boost commuter ridership as well as seasonal scenic ventures. For some it’s a bit of nostalgia back to a simpler era; for others a new adventure. The hubs may again bustle with business.
For many of us, our lives continue in the fast lane. Technology has failed to produce a more relaxed people. Rather we are simply adept at cramming more activities into any given timeframe, so stress increases as we struggle to maintain our equilibrium amidst the demands of jobs, family, on-going educational requirements, and a plethora of outside activities for ourselves, our children, and grandchildren. No longer do we find that once respected, dependable mealtime that provided nearly everyone a breathing point in the day. So where is our “hub” that brings about the stability we so desperately need? Where do we seek our solace? Where are we recharged and/or redirected? Perhaps the better question is not where, but who is our provider? Apart from our relationship with Jesus Christ, our lives would be chaos and our destination unknown. With Jesus as our center or “hub,” we are certain of our final destination, if not always our routing and stops along the way. Our Bibles, prayer time, study groups, worship experiences, outreach and service opportunities all serve to keep us centered on the One and only Person who throws the switches to keep us on the right track. He is never asleep at the switch! Though we may occasionally miss our intended stop, He is faithful to bring us to His destination, and perhaps via a more productive and desirable route than we would have chosen. When we consult with Him daily as our “travel agent,” we receive top billing and a superb itinerary. No matter the dilemma we encounter, His assurance remains “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
Abundant blessings as we travel together,