Inbound and Outbound – Boston’s North Station

As you can see from my last post, I haven’t contributed to my blog in a while. Why? Something got in the way…I found a JOB. Now instead of being able to post something new and worthy everyday while hanging around my house in my underwear, I have to pick my battles and find the exact right time when I have a few minutes to sit down and write. Once I find that time, I have to have something worth writing about. Thus, no posts since forever ago.

My new job is located in downtown Boston. I never imagined myself working downtown because I have always been a guy that likes to drive to and from work in my own vehicle. It affords me the luxury of being able to ramp up on the way in to work and decompress on the way home after a long day. Parking in Boston is expensive and very inconvenient. I work a block and a half from the TD Banknorth Garden where the Bruins and Celtics play, which is also the location of Boston’s North Station – the northern hub of where the commuter trains come into town and allow you to hook up with the subway. How convenient is that?

Riding the train to and from work every day is something new for me. I’ve been doing it for three months now. It is both everything I thought it would be and absolutely NOTHING I thought it would be all at the same time. Does that make sense? I have never been particularly intrigued by trains. I’ve never found the stories of hobo life all that fascinating and the thought of riding a train long distances makes me want to either fall asleep from boredom or immediately book a flight to my destination instead.

However, being a student of the human condition has naturally made riding the train an interesting and invaluable experience for me. Even after three months it doesn’t seem to get old. Even though I see the same people sitting in the same seats every day I still manage to be able to make it interesting inside my own head. I believe there is something romantic about taking the train. One can’t help but think back to a point in American history when the train was considered a marvel and a luxury only for the rich to experience. I think often of the way the railroads sliced through our country, begging adventurers westward and how it made the expansion of our country’s borders possible. The iron horse allowed us to reach to the Pacific and the great Northwest territories.

Immediately upon boarding the Fitchburg 406 Inbound to Boston on my very first day of work at my new job I knew I had to chronicle my journeys. As I said before, I see the same people usually sitting in the same seats every day. But these people are all interesting to me. Each has their own thing, their own way of presenting themselves to this tribal movement of the masses. Some have walls built around them, some expose more of themselves than you want to see, some read, some sleep, some stare out the window with an empty gaze and some yak away on their cell phone. Most of the time I like to turn the volume all the way up on my iPod and just close my eyes, taking the occasional sip from my morning coffee. But no matter how people choose to ride, they are each a piece of what makes up my train experience. We’re all in it together and although we rarely talk to each other, in some strange, unspoken way we all are forced to care for and about one another. It’s as if we are all packed into the same car driving to and from work every day.

Possibly the thing that strikes me most as being strange is how quiet it is on the train even when it’s packed to capacity. You would think that with all of us sharing the same ride day after day and waiting and getting off at the same train stops together we would at least exchange the smallest of pleasantries every now and then like a “good morning” or “have a good night”. But in most cases we play everything close to the vest and mind our own business. But that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t notice each other or have an interest in finding out more about our fellow travelers.

In the coming weeks I will paint two pictures for you. The first canvass will be Fitchburg 406 Inbound to Boston. This is the train I take to work every morning. The second canvass will be the Fitchburg 467 Outbound To Concord, the train that takes me home each afternoon. Both trains are completely different. The riders, attitudes, destinations, conductors, they’re all different and all worth telling you about.

The old days of trains and lore may be gone forever but something is still there today, something just as intriguing riding on those iron rails, rolling through the woods and steelscapes of my piece of Americana. I hope you’ll stop by and check out the stories I have from the modern day experiences I’m creating while riding along on the tracks of the Fitchburg line!

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