Photo by James Wigderson

Train crossing at Whiterock Ave in Waukesha

My son Will, who grew up in Waukesha, put our city’s relationship with trains in perspective.

“If you’re not from Waukesha, being called ‘a train’ is a compliment,” my son explained. “It means you’re big, strong, powerful and hard working. You want to be known as a train.”

However, not in our city.

“In Waukesha, being called ‘a train’ is an insult,” he said. “It means you’re fat and slow and in the way.”

Everyone in our city experiences a train delay frequently. Waukesha children are taught at an early age not to approach moving trains or play on the train tracks. They also learn that, if they’re late anywhere, all they have to do is say, “train.”

But outside Waukesha, trains seem to be less intrusive in daily life. They even seem to be a welcome presence in some parts of the country, even revered as Gods. Probably the result of too many people growing up watching Thomas the Train without realizing that, if that railway had that safety record in real life, there would be more than confusion and delay. There would be countless crash investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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I recently made the mistake of pointing out on Twitter the difference in attitudes towards trains.

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