Ruminations on a locomotive ladder

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Friday, July 29, 2011

This morning, at about 8:30, I raised my left foot to engage the bottom step of a GP40 locomotive. Had the distance been another half-inch from ground to metal, I’m not sure I’d have made it. It had been for me a long but interesting night. But by now, after almost nine hours, I was spent. Totaled. Exhausted. Almost not reaching that bottom rung made me so aware of my mortality. Goodness gracious, I’m getting old.
If you’re 15 or 25 or 35 years old and practice football or pump iron for an hour every day, save your pity. I am living my dream. I just did an all-nighter on a local freight, and in due course, in the pages of Trains, you’ll read the results of my nocturnal labors while you slept.
I just want to say a few things, and let them linger. One is, you have no idea how much fun it is to be me right now. I’ve retired from my real job and really do nothing more than be around railroads and write about them. I can pick and choose what I write about, too. So I have some great experiences you would die to have and meet people, famous and not so well known, you would love to meet as well.
But today, almost unable to make that initial leap onto that GP40, I felt the push-back from my body. It said: Hello, Fred. I am Father Time, and I am waiting for you. I’ll let you get back on that locomotive today. Tomorrow and the next day, too. Maybe for a few more years. But there will come a day ….
Doesn’t scare me. I am comfortable with this. The lesson for me and for you is to do today the things that are important you. I’m not just talking trains. I am talking life. Whether it is telling your loved ones how much they matter to you, or booking on Amtrak or VIA Rail Canada those trips you’ve always said you would do makes no difference. It all has to do with making the most of the time you have. Just do it. Before you can’t make that step. — Fred W. Frailey

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