Elliott and I had an interesting walk yesterday. We were nearing the section of our route where we turn away from the railroad tracks and begin our journey back home. It was shortly after 6:15 and right on cue, we could see the bright light of an oncoming train, undoubtedly the Amtrak that whistles past us each morning somewhere near this section.
As the train approached us, I noticed it looked bigger than usual. By the time it was upon us I could tell that it wasn’t the normal 6:15, but instead the auto train that runs between northern Virginia and Orlando. The train carries you and your vehicle up and down the southeastern seaboard. Elliott must have recognized the colors of the train or the unique shape of the engine because as it passed, he was saying “Amtrak, Amtrak.” That was the first time I had heard him differentiate between the cargo and passenger trains.
His chant was suddenly interrupted when something unusual appeared on the track. Out of nowhere the much shorter and quicker 6:15 train rolled up along side the auto train. I don’t think either of us saw it coming and it startled us. It was an amazing scene. I had never seen two trains running together in the same direction. I guess I had always assumed with only two sets of tracks running parallel to each other, if a train was running to the north on one set of the tracks the other track was left open for southbound traffic and visa versa. We watched them race away together until the smaller train stopped just ahead in town to pick up awaiting passengers.
It is fun walking with Elliott because I can ask the odd questions that pop in my mind without receiving odd looks in return that the questions probably deserve. Like when the passengers on those two trains looked out their windows and saw faces looking back and at least momentarily riding along with them only inches away, did they even consider the possibility that a train was coming from the other direction. I guess I had never thought it through, but somewhere sitting in a room full of computer screens and radar images is a tired train traffic controller. Did he happen to see two blips on a screen run side by side at the same time Elliott and I were standing there watching? And if so, did he at least scan ahead to make sure the coast was clear.
The trains continued on and were soon out of sight. We followed suit and made our turn for home. Elliott quickly turned his focus from trains to a deflated dog balloon that has been hanging from a mailbox for over a week now. The shape of the balloon lost all of its identity when the air escaped, but Elliott still says “Dog” when we pass it. Me on the other hand, I spent the rest of the walk marveling about the complexity of our world and thankful for each snapshot God chooses to share with me.