I like trains, me.
It still surprises me how often I come across people of all ages on my travels who are making their first ever journey by train. I suppose I’m lucky that I grew up in a small town with a station, and we often made the 30-minute train trip to Leicester to visit grandparents, and when I was old enough to travel alone I’d go shopping there with friends. Aaah, those old corridor carriages – remember them?
When I was very small, the main level crossing in town had those big old-fashioned gates, and when trains were due through the signalman would come out of his box and heave them shut.
I remember standing at the gates with Dad, watching trains go by and waving. Sometimes we’d climb the footbridge for a bird’s eye view – I still recall the thrill of feeling the bridge vibrate as a train passed under it! A few times we saw steam trains pass through – actually, it’s just occurred to me that he must have known when steam trains were due, and made a special trip to the crossing with me to see them!
Anyway, enough reminiscing!
There’s a wonderful phenomenon I’ve noticed of late. I first observed it at my local station, and I’m seeing it more and more all over the country. Maybe it’s always been going on, and I’d just not noticed it before, or maybe it is getting more popular. A group of tiny children with a couple of grown ups, waiting on a platform to watch trains go by and wave at them. Often the kiddies are wearing little hi-vis vests with the name of their nursery emblazoned upon it.
I love the idea of people taking wee ones out to wave at trains! I love the thought that if they get waved back at, it might create a happy little childhood memory for them. It might also encourage them to use trains themselves when they’re older – or to badger their parents into taking a train trip one day, if that’s not something they’d usually do. And from what I’ve observed from the grown-ups with them, it’s also a good, friendly, happy way to start teaching children about how to behave safely at stations and level crossings.
It’s just struck me that perhaps Network Rail should be getting involved with children at this tiny age, through nurseries and pre-schools, perhaps distributing teeny-tiny-child friendly booklets, or ones that can be read aloud with jolly pictures – like this one! – or even helping to arrange trips to stations, organising special events for teeny people…
But back to the waving, because it’s important. If you’re travelling on a train and you pass a waving child, always, always, wave back! I guarantee that if they see you, they’ll smile. And the grown-up with them will usually smile too. You should wave especially vigorously if you’re in a crappy mood, because it will make you smile when you see them see you, and smiles are excellent crappy-mood-busters!
Go on – give it a try!