The End of the Line

Lately I’ve been reading about high-speed rails, and steam engines, and trains of all kinds.  That got me itching to go out and check out the railroad, but I didn’t want to just walk down the street again.  My first idea was to try to find a rail yard around here, but I’m pretty sure if there was one, I would have found it by now.  I started wondering where the tracks go.  With a little help from Google maps, I tracked down the end of the line.

*****

My first attempt to go find them was aborted by a torrential downpour, but since I was in the car driving around anyway, I drove past where I expected  to park to see if it would work.  It’s a good thing I did, because there was a gate across the trail that leads to the tracks.

When the rain let up, I went back out and parked on the road where the tracks still run.  From this side, the end of the tracks is about a mile away, and the only way to get there is on the tracks themselves.  This would probably be a good time to let you know that it is very rare for a train to run on these tracks, in fact, in the five years I’ve been in Gainesville, I have never seen a train cross this road.  So I wasn’t terribly concerned that one would come roaring through, but it was still a possibility that stayed in the back of my mind.

As always, I love the railroad here.  Trees line the tracks, as they often do to buffer the sound from passing trains.  Of course, the trees aren’t enough to keep the noise completely silenced, but it’s amazing how quickly train sounds become white noise.  Most of the buildings lining the tracks aren’t residential anyway, but businesses that rely on rail for transportation.  Gravel yards, brick yards, and other industries keep this line in business.

It is still a working rail, although it looks abandoned in places.  Some of the ties are rotting through, and the rails are a bit banged up, but the engines do come through to service these industries.

*****

As I came around the bend, I noticed a bridge in front of me.  Yeah, it was a short bridge, but rather thrilling.  I had to go down the embankment a bit to see the structure.  Look at that cross-bracing!

Yes, I know, I’m a geek.

Walking over the bridge couldn’t really be described as scary, but it was just a little unsettling.  I know that trains can be heard for a long distance, but not being able to see around the curve made me think before I walked across.  If a train were to come barreling through, it would be pretty hard to run across on the ties, and I wouldn’t want to jump off.  There was no need to worry, though, because no train ever did appear.

*****

Not far past the bridge was a series of switches, which I always find amazingly beautiful.  The curves of the tracks as they come together are almost sculptural, and the design of the switches themselves is wonderfully minimalist.  The suggestion of freedom in all the choices as the rails come together and split apart is poetic, to say the least.

*****

As I fell in love with this section of the track, I felt raindrops falling.  I looked ahead toward the end of the line, and realized that it would be risky to keep going and have to walk the whole way back in the rain with my camera and no umbrella.  I looked back where I had been, and realized that one of the tracks leading off to the side ran across a street, so I followed it to see where it led.

And there I was, at the end of the line.

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