The Railroad

Both the Burlington Northern Santa Fé and the Union Pacific operate main lines through the Mojave Desert. Formerly used as a railroad stop, the town of Goffs and the MDHCA sit right at the BNSF line. At the nearby Route 66 level crossing we count some 80 trains a day. Despite the noise, the engines’ whistle signals have long become a familiar and comforting sound both to people living there and wildlife. At dusk and dawn the coyotes howl with the trains and at night men doze off with the periodical sound of the trains, long – long – short – long.

Burlington Northern Santa Fé meets Union Pacific.

I spent a good amount of time at the railroad tracks, and I started wondering what made up this certain nostalgia around trains and the romanticized role assigned to them. Why would you be rudely awakened by a honking car in front of your door whereas frequent train signals and a rumbling hundred thousands of tons gently rock you to sleep? However, I know I am not alone out there, I saw other people, mostly men, who had that same childish and longing view in their eyes, when one of these up to 9,000-foot-long monsters came climbing up the creosote slope, demanding its attention. By looking in these eyes, I could see the railroad running right through American history, as a symbol for physical vastness, industrial prowess, and unstoppable expansion.

The little red caboose in Goffs.

The railroad depot in Goffs.

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