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Edition #48, February 15, 2007

The Dreamer

Photographer: Mark Perry

                                                    Photo © 2006 by Mark Perry

The Dreamer...

For 23 years this CN conductor has been riding up and down the rails, 4300 miles a month. Doubling the road making 13 or 14 trips a month, 125 miles at a time. Day in and day out, he’s been a career railroader. Whether sitting at home by the phone waiting a midnight call or laying over in an away-from-home terminal bunkhouse, railroading has gotten into his blood. It certainly had to; no sane human being would want to do this for a career, would they? Sure the pay is great but when he calculates his take home pay as opposed to the amount of time he spends away from family, friends and other interests, it just didn’t add up to much did it? While his seniority now allows him to have vacation at Christmas, he doesn’t yet have enough whiskers to warrant summer holidays when his kids are out of school. Maybe next year...

Like many railroaders, his career choice has taken its toll. He hired on as a young kid still wet behind the ears. He was content with the plan to do the job for awhile and then look for something better in a few years time. But then he got married young and started a family, now he was hooped and had to stick around for a bit longer. Soon life was pretty good; the money flowed in between the lay offs. Living out of the suitcase in some fleabag motel in some distant terminal wasn‘t that bad as long as the kids had their hockey equipment and the wife was wearing a fur. Seniority grew; he got to stay home more and more. Company threats of terminal closures had to be ignored or it would have driven him batty. Rest booked between trips allowed time for the odd social event and fun with the kids in the new back yard swimming pool. Too bad the pool boy, the TV repair man and the vacuum cleaner salesman got to spend more time with the wife than he ever did. Soon the divorce lawyers carved up everything and he was starting all over.

Today standing beside an idling train in the yard, he looks east for his connection with an incoming crew. Now in a new marriage, he has become the dreamer. Every week he thinks up some new outlandish employment scheme that will finally get him off the railroad. He’s going to do this and that, honestly there has been some really wild idea’s come out of him but none of them ever pan out. He is always constantly pondering his future as a railroader. In a few weeks he will be marching on the picket line with his union embroiled in a bitter contract dispute with the company. If I were a betting man, I’d bet the farm and say he will retire an old broken down man on the left-hand seat of a noisy locomotive. He’ll be here for the duration and it will probably eat him up. Guaranteed though he’ll still be riding off all those miles every month, dreaming of better and grander things. Railroading will probably be the final calling for him, it has to be, it’s in his blood...

Mark Perry

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