Friday, March 19, 2010

I Think I Can, I Think I Can...

 Like the Little Engine that Could, I THINK I can start a blog!
It seems like a huge venture, when I don't really know what I'm doing, but like any new adventure you just start out with some sort of planned destination, and hope that at some point, you will actually arrive there!
This book is a classic of children's literature and is still as popular today as it was when first published. As I have just learned since researching this blog, there is some controversy over exactly when it was first published as a story and even a mystery as to who is the original author!

This reminds me of one of my favourite records I used to listen to as a child, Sparky's Magic Piano and on the flipside was Sparky's Talking Train. I so enjoyed this little record that I was disappointed when our family moved, my mother made me give it up, so I lent it to my little niece and nephew (thinking naively that someday I might have it back!) Well, long story short...the little charmers destroyed it! --A fact that I never let my poor sister (their mother) forget! Fast forward years later, when I have my own little ones and I receive a Christmas package in the mail from my sister...I open it and discover the very same recording I had been lamenting losing all those years ago, but in cassette form now! It brought tears to my eyes, and was in fact, one of the best Christmas presents of my adult life. Unfortunately, my own children were slightly beyond the age of appreciating it, nevertheless it certainly brought me great pleasure to hear it again.
You can hear it too, if you are a child at heart or if you have a child you want to play it for:
Note: If this link doesn't work, try copying it and pasting it into your browser. Alternatively, it also can be found as a clip on Youtube.

You might ask, what besides a children's record would make you so fond of trains?
Well, train travel has been called romantic, but in my case the train really did help my romantic life!
My husband and Iway of the rail started dating in High School, but then I moved quite far away. We stayed in touch with letters and phone calls, but because part of my family remained in town I had a good reason to travel back for any extended holiday to see him, and as the train was the cheapest mode of travel, that was the way to go!

Even when he moved much closer to me, one of us was always taking the train to see the other, and we got to joking that "our song" was the little musical noise which always preceded the announcement of the coming train. "Wah-WAH-wah-wah-waaaahh! VIA Rail on route to....(and ending in the French) ...entre la gare".

Here's a great video of train clips to the music of "I'm a Train" by Albert Hammond, (a great '70s tune). The video is by MysticVideo.

Railroads played an important role in the history of the world, but nowhere more so than in North America, where it opened up the frontier to immigrants from other lands and changed forever the way of life of the native tribes of the interior plains. Much blood was spilled over control of the land that would provide the pathway for the long tracks that plowed their way across the continent A Mari Usque Ad Mare (From Sea to Sea).

Gordon Lightfoot's song "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" is such a classic it deserves a Blogpost all of its own, but as it is certainly one of my faves, I had to include it here.

This video is courtesy of anippygirl whose Youtube channel includes other train videos as well as great Canadian music. Also, she has Lightfoot's Steel Rail Blues, another fave train song!

There are lots of songs about trains, but I have to mention another one of my all-time faves: "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens. Regardless of anyone's opinion of him now, he still wrote a great hit song with a lovely optimistic sentiment:
Now I've been smiling lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

And lest you think my musical tastes stopped developing in the 1970s, here is a more current great band whose name just happens to be TRAIN!

I am sure there have been many artists throughout the last century or so that have painted scenes of trains or railroads, but it just so happens that one of my favourite artists, the Impressionist painter Claude Monet, has painted quite a few train scenes.

These pictures are entitled Top to Bottom: Train in the Snow, the Bridge, and St. Lazare Station, Paris. The last picture is only one of a series of this train station. I have picked, I think, the most vibrant version of the scene. (More about Monet another time, as he is definitely worthy of another post!)

Railroads and trains have been the inspiration for quite a few great movies and books.

One of my faves was a television series in the 1970's that was inspired by the books by Pierre Berton called "The National Dream" and "The Last Spike"
Pierre Berton / First Impressions / Toronto Arts Foundation / Sites / eZ Publish - Toronto Arts Foundation
Pierre Berton himself, is one of Canada's iconic personalities and also deserving of his own Blogpage!

Here are some other of my favourite movies with a "train theme":

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
A great western with Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda and a killer soundtrack! This movie gets into the dark side of the American mythology about the West with the Robber Barons of the railroad playing havoc with the good folk of the town, and the mysterious stranger antihero who stands up for the powerless.

Silver Streak (1976)
I saw this movie a very long time ago, so I hope it is still as funny as I remember it. It was the first movie pairing of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and they went on to make several other comedies together. This movie not only has almost all the action taking place on a train, but it ends with a spectacular train wreck...but don't worry -- it's a happy ending!
Part romantic comedy, part murder mystery, part thriller, it has a lot of witty dialogue and is certainly worth watching if it ever shows up on television. But you don't have to take my word for it, why not read some reviews from

Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

One of Dame Christie's most adapted literary works, but my favourite version (so far) was the Sidney Lumet version with Albert Finney. However, as I really prefer David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, I was delighted to learn that a remake of this movie has been done starring none other than my fave Poirot!
According to (Internet Movie Database) ITV has made a new season of the Hercule Poirot series and this one is episode 4. Has anyone seen it yet? Has it even aired yet? I am very excited!

There are only 2 more books/miniseries I am going to mention and they are both by my new favourite author, Elizabeth Gaskell. She is a new discovery of mine....(where HAD she been hiding all these years?) even though she was a contemporary of Charles Dickens! I find her writing much more accessible than his though. Enough said for now, the reason I mention her at all is that she definitely has a train theme running throughout two of her books.

Cranford, a series of short stories written for Dicken's literary magazine was published in book form in 1853. Adapted for television in 2007 and starring the magnificent Dame Judi Dench, this series and perhaps more so it's sequel Return to Cranford, paint a picture of a small British Victorian town before industrialization and the railroad intruded upon it, changing it forever. It is really very humourous, as well as quite touching.
When the matriarchs of Cranford (who are so against having the railway line cut through their little haven) are finally treated to a little jaunt in a passenger car, they decide to alter their opinions of Railway travel for the better.

And I have saved the best for last, so I hope there are still some readers left! Elizabeth Gaskell's masterpiece (in my opinion) and my most favourite adaptation in mini-series of any period drama that I have ever seen before!...North and South.

You may wonder, what this wonderful BBC production has to do with trains?
Well, let's see...only that it starts and ends on a train! The railway is used as an image to tie together the two disparate parts of England: the gentile, pastoral and cultured south and the energetic, industrial and independent north. It's about the clash of cultures, the rise of the working class, and the coming of age of a young, opinionated and slightly snobbish girl (played by Daniella Denby-Ashe) who learns to love the harsher ways of the north along with a certain cotton mill owner (played by Richard Armitage).
Many bloggers have had a lot to say about this movie, so rather than me repeat it all, here are a couple of links to their great reviews:
Click on the picture to make it bigger.
There now, I have nothing left to say. I'm just going to stare at this picture for awhile. Quite awhile!


Maria Grazia said...

Wow! This is a very good start, Phylly! This post is so original and rich, what do we have to expect for your next? Just great things! I wish you the best for this new venture and ...thanks for the link to my blog. Now,I'll stare at the last pic in silent admiration with you for a while and then go. But I'll be back!

Phylly3 said...

Thank you so much Maria Grazia. That means so much coming from you! Glad you dropped by!

Starheart said...

Hello! Fabulous that you've started blogging, and wow, you love trains too!!!!!!!!!!!
Ok, i have to qualify that, because I have some really hardcore train friends. There's one guy who works for the government train company, and when he goes on holidays he maps out his route by what train artifacts he's going to visit. He has pics of himself and *GASP* a signal box.

To me trains aren't just a mode of transport, they're a means of personal freedom. I didn't own a car until quite late and my knowledge of my home city revolves around whether there is a train station there. Ok, enough thesis.

mulubinba said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, phylly!! Lovely post ... and I was waiting for the reference to North and South with the train scene.

My husband's family are steam train fanatics and one uncle has the most wonderful model train set made completely from scratch. They exhibit all over the State. My son was obsessed with trains when he was little and we used to have to "stake out" certain railway bridges and stations in order to train watch. There is a fabulous steam engine called 3801 which used to pull the train from our city to Sydney before the elctric line was built. It still runs for tourists and we see many people waiting to watch it as it flies past. I rely on train travel to get to Sydney very often.

Looking forward to your next post.

Nat at RA FanBlog said...

An awesome first post! I love how you tied all of your favorite train-related subject together... and who can forget the famous "train scene?" :)
My 4 year old is OBSESSED with trains, so we chat about them every day while watching "Thomas the Train" and building his GeoTrax train set when we're not driving the long way home from the store to see if real trains are passing on our local tracks.

Phylly3 said...

Thanks so much for your comments Ragtag, Mulubinba and Nat! You are all my inspiration!

Charleybrown said...

I SO KNEW where this post was ending up when I saw you chose a train theme! :)
Great post! Ah, Gordon Lightfoot (did you see the Cdn Idols do his Railroad Trilogy?!), Pierre Burton & Monet - all worth mentioning! Love how you shared of your train rides with your hubby - sweet! I grew up fascinated with my dad's miniature railroad collection and have been a fan of trains since! I just posted about the Orient Express remake but haven't read or seen the original myself. Glad to have you aboard the Blogger train!!

Phylly3 said...

@Charleybrown -- great minds think alike, so they say! (Just saw your post!)
I haven't watched Can. Idols lately. That ep. must have been good! Thanks for visiting! Don't forget to take my poll!

Avalon said...

I am glad to see you finally started a blog and wow, what a terrific first post! (And you found a neat way to include RA). I am looking forward to your future posts. Have a good night.

Phylly3 said...

Thank you for visiting and for your kind comments, Avalon!

tyme_4_t said...

Great post Phylly3! Love the shout out to Gordon and Pierre! I grew up in a town where I would know what time it was when I heard the train whistle blow....
Looking forward to future posts and maybe you will inspire this bluenoser to start her own...