Grit and Grace: The Nevada Northern Railway
A friend of mine once said, “I believe there are some things we are never meant to outgrow.” That appeals to me. It gives us not just permission, but a prescription, to occasionally tune out the static of our too-often stressful, jaded, cynical, wired-in, adult concerns, and instead experience something simple with the sense of wonder, of excitement, of fun, that we once did as a child.
For someone who was once a five year old boy, it’s hard to imagine a better prescription than getting up close to a locomotive—preferably, a steam locomotive. Once upon a time, a locomotive was the biggest, most powerful thing I could imagine. One hundred tons of gritty, dirty, huffing, puffing, moving iron and steel, shaking the earth as it passed, exerting a mighty effort to move its load on its way to somewhere far away.
My appreciation of trains is not limited to a trip back to square one of memory lane. The history-loving adult in me can appreciate the central role the railroads played in the American story—the settling of the west, the growth of industry, the maturing of our nation. Trains are something we as a nation have not outgrown.
And there is something for the more aesthetic impulse too. There is a magnificent, elegant grace to the image of a steam train moving through a snowy, rural landscape—the drivers moving in perfect, synchronized harmony, the cloud of steam rising in the cold winter air, and the sound of the whistle echoing against the mountains.
For me, these pictures are a celebration of all of these things—both the Grit and Grace of the steam railroad.