We are on family vacation to Indiana to vist my grandparents and also to visit the museums in Chicago. One of the nice things about where we are is there is a commuter rail that goes into the city. So in an efffort to lower our carbon footprint (not really, Aiden just really likes trains and wanted to ride one) we took the South Shore Line from Michigan City to Chicago.
I like trains, and haven’t been on one since I was a kid. They are a great place to people watch, and there is a large cast of characters on out particular train. We met the alt-ish couple that Aiden had no problem striking up a conversation with. He educated the dude and his epic biker mustache about Thomas the Tank Engine and amused his lady with five year old antics. I think that Aiden made the day of the conductor be he politely and a bit timidly asked “Excuse me, is this the train to Chicago?” The conductor got a chuckle from this, and well to be honest, I sent Aiden over becase I really I wasn’t sure if it was the right train.
We found our seats Aiden choosing the window seat so he can look at the other trains in the yard. The seats are covered in a pinkish leatherette with teal accents and brown backing. The car feels old but somehow futuristic at the same time. We depart a few minutes late and we make our way thru small town America. It is sad, so many run down and abonded houses and buisnesses. Factories that in better days supported these small towns now falling to ruins. This is most evident as the train rolls through Gary, IN. This city in it’s hayday was probably very nice, from the look of it ahead of it’s time, but progress lead to failure. So many abandoned places, it would be fun and interesting to photograph these places, maybe someday. (Photographer David Tribby has done this and the pictures are amazing, link to his Flickr pool)
New passangers board. There is the well dressed buisnesses man, hard to tell if he legit, or perhaps a Pimp. The hat makes it very hard to tell, it is a nice hat that either would wear. Also boarding is the group of fifty-something women all wearing costume store tirraras. Their story, well they may be celebrating someones birthday or up coming nuptuals with a day trip into the city, or the escaped the mental health clinic.
Next stop, we have a Chef board. Tall, shaved head, goatee and dark sunglasses. He is earing a white chef jacket, I can’t make out the name of the restaurant. He is packing knives in a canvas case. I can’t help but to think of Midnight Meat Train. Good thing it is 9:30 in the morning or I may have been freaked out.
The train travels by a steel mill or something. The smell of sulfur and Industry is aweful and Aiden is geting antsy. The trip has only been 40 minutes, bit for a Five year old this is a lifetime. Seems like the crazy ladys got into the sauce with breakfast, their wheezy giggles are making the Chef jumpy.
There are only a few more stops until we hit our station, but there are no displays inside the train to show where you are. There is an overhead speaker, but it seems to be on it’s last days. The voice, if you want to call it that sounds like Optimus Prime if he had a 10 pack a day habit. Neadless to say it is fairly useless. However we are able to make out the name of our stop and we arrive at our station without a problem.
After many hours of exploring the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum we made our return journey. The train out of Chicago is much fuller but much more subdued. There are the Tweens high on suger but even after 15 or so minutes the gentle rocking and steady click mellows them out. Aiden falls asleep in the first ten minutes sitting on Michlles lap. Instead if the enegry the promise of a new days adventure brings, this ride has a vibe of something different. People returning to their lackluster suburban an rural lives after a day of hustle and bustle in the city. I noticed the same vibe on the LIRR when we took it out of NYC once. Ah well, this funk will not get me down. We had a great adventure today, I hope Aiden remembers it fondly when he gets older, because really that is what it is all about.