View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, April 08, 2004


On nights when the air is a little heavy with fog or rain, and that does happen from time to time in Denver, you can hear the train whistles especially clearly from downtown. The main stockyards for the area are still just north of downtown, and trains going through the city have to go through Union Station.

I love that sound. I took a train trip across Canada one time, and then back through the US, through Seattle and Chicago, and I loved it. I visited my parents one time in Orlando by train from DC. I took my electric typewriter, plugged it in in my roomette, and banged out a 20-page Russian history paper. Half the time when I went to New York (or elsewhere along the Northeast corridor, I went by train. Lately, I set up the laptop in the dining car and worked from there.

There are drawbacks. You can't stop the train to get just the right picture. You can't take a detour down that side road that looks so inviting. On the long hauls, if you want to visit a town, be prepared to stay the night. But on the whole, you get a views of things you don't get from the roads, either.

Now they're thinking of moving the main stockyards out to a town on the plains, past the small airport on I-70. They're doing it to make room for a commuter rail that still has to win voter approval, and will be part of a light rail/bus/commuter rail/God-only-knows what else, a hideously expensive monument to the fact that nobody every learns anything. These light rails have been run all over the country, and are always packed during rush hour, just the like roadways they're supposed to be an alternative to.

Sometimes I hear the whistle while I'm walking the dog in the morning. I'm liable to vote against this plan just to keep the whistle.

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