Highway 52 cuts a path through the small towns and farm fields that blend together as you drive from Minnesota to Iowa.
There’s a beauty in this landscape, especially in late winter when the fields are covered in thin blankets of snow. Open. Barren. Solitary. It’s a beauty that reveals itself as you climb each prairie swell and chase the edge of the Earth on the horizon.
As our rental car makes a rise on the highway on the drive toward Decorah, Iowa, my son and I spot the white building with the massive green roof miles away.
Portland is a train town. From its history as a 19th Century railroad outpost up to the present with its light rail and streetcars, steel wheels on tracks seem to have forever resonated in the The City of Roses.
One place where old meets new in Portland is the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, located on Portland’s eastside. To get there from downtown, take Portland’s sleek Eastside Streetcar over the Willamette River and get off at the stop at S.E. Caruthers, near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The train museum is a short walk away.
The center is housed in a cavernous roadhouse in the historic Brooklyn Yard. Inside is a rare working turntable, along with historic steam and diesel locomotives.
The star of the show is the Southern Pacific Daylight No. 4449, a bright orange and black locomotive built in 1941. It was retired in 1957 and donated to the museum. It is the only one of the Daylight locomotives still in working shape. It was completely restored in 1974 in time to bask in the glory again when the Daylight pulled the American Freedom Train around the U.S. to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial.
Ray Branbury said write a short story a week, reasoning that it is impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. When I came across his advice, it really resonated with me. So I am giving it a try, making an effort to steal some time and find a place to work on a short story any time I can.
One of those places is on the bus. It’s about a 40-minute ride each way between my home and the office downtown. I can usually get a seat. And if I am lucky I don’t have to sit next to someone talking on the cell phone or listening to their music so loud that I can hear droning and buzzing bleeding from their earbuds.