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The Golden Age Of The Electric Trains This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   We are no longer in the golden age of electric trains. They are now mostly packed away, save three small engines (including the two that are broken beyond repair), four passenger cars that don't match, and one caboose which has a light that only works when there isn't much humidity. The tracks of my tiny layout are long overdue for a cleaning, and the switches whine about their need for more oil and grease. Most of the houses are falling apart, and even the Plasticville Station wants repair.

But back in the days when the old table, with its buzzing electricity and smelly transformers, was still in action, trains up to twenty-five cars whizzed around in an intricate layout of loops and figure-eights at full throttle like bees in a honeycomb. Passenger trains hurried through cardboard tunnels in paper-mache mountains while long freight trains chugged from one industrial facility to the next. There was even an elevated train like the ones in New York which hustled over bridges between the fifteen-inch high skyscrapers.

The trouble started in Geneva, Switzerland when our family took the TGV to Paris. The route was pretty direct, which meant that the tracks were straight, and that allowed the TGV to reach speeds of nearly two hundred miles per hour. From then on I was fascinated by the TGV, and sought a model for the great table back in the States. And we found one in a gift shop in Paris, so I spent the rest of the trip in anticipation of testing the model of the fastest train in the world.

At first my father and I were worried that the model might run on a different electric current since it was from another country, but when we heard the wonderful purr of the tiny engine, we knew we were in for a thrill. I was enthralled by the amazing detailing on the model; it was a perfect copy of the real thing. My father always used to say, "The Europeans never do it by halves." And he was clearly right, for the miniature TGV was equipped with all sorts of extra features like folding antennas on the roof, interior and exterior lighting, even an extra switch which could double the output of the engine, making this the fastest train in Plasticville. As we conducted the train on its maiden voyage through the countryside, I was delighted how cleanly the train rounded the sharpest curves and how it never slowed on its way up peaceful Mt. Foamcore.

But my father would not let me turn on the speed-boosting switch. He said I might short-circuit the transformer or damage the engine, so he thought it best to leave the switch off. But I had been enthralled by the facility and grace with which our train moved through our layout, and I was anxious to see more. So one day when I was sick from school, I ventured into the attic where the huge train table lived. I took the TGV out of its box and placed it gently on the rails. I switched on the speed-booster, and turned on the transformer. The engine roared to life, and in no time the TGV was out of the station and rushing toward the industrial section of Plasticville. I quickly flipped a switch, and the TGV raced through green pastures filled with sleepy cows and bleating goats. The train seemed to snarl a challenge to the foothills surrounding Mt. Foamcore. It went faster still as it tore up the tracks in sharp ascent, rushing to the summit.

But Mt. Foamcore didn't like this bold, flashy train scaring the cows and goats into submission, nor did it like the snarl of the engine. So it launched the train off its peak, crashing it to the floor in an electrical shower of sparks and flashes. I stood by the transformer, fixated by the horrible destruction. I scooped it up tenderly in my arms, but the once-proud antennas were crumpled into a sorry coil, the lights were out, and the engine was smoking amidst a mass of melted wires and fuses. The body of the train was dented and broken. Several wheels were missing, and the plastic windows were shattered. There was nothing I could even do to begin fixing the wreckage. So I just sat and waited for my father to get home.

When my father saw what I had done, he was appalled. He said nothing, but took the train to his workshop, and locked the attic door. After a couple weeks he allowed me to go back to the great train table and use the trains that he had grown up with. He tried to fix the TGV, but nothing could be done to salvage it. Over time the other trains gradually became decrepit, and the tracks were no longer clean; eventually we put most of the layout into boxes. My father disassembled the huge table, and put Mt. Foamcore into a closet. I kept a small set of tracks, but after what had happened with the TGV, it wasn't as much fun, because I no longer dared to take the trains to high speeds or to round sharp curves. The end of the age of trains had come. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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nedyac said...
Sept. 11, 2013 at 11:54 am
i really liked the story and im a model train person and i have a barn in my farn that has a model train layout that goes on both floors of the barn
 
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