Archives For Trains

Seventeen craters and counting,

Shells fall, there’s no moving a train running hard.

Sulfur, smoke and coal,

Whistle blows; splinters and wood

There’s no dodging this incendiary hail storm

The only way through, is through.

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The crashing of oversized bullets fired from miles away

Vengeful gifts from an invisible enemy

Land unpredictably,

 One there, a few here,

*Sigh.*

A close call, I don’t know if I can take it all.

(Technology, war, me and these parallel tracks

This iron horse, heaving forward, as if jumping over cracks)

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I thought my nerves could take the shock, but I’m worn in every muscle

It’s hard to stay awake.

My mind and heart is racing, the Doc says my nerves are shot.

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The extremes of heat, cold and smell,

Vast empty wastelands; civilization all blown to hell

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If the shrapnel stays away,

And the train keeps its tracks,

If the boiler temp. is kept at bay

We’re sure to remain attached.

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Our biggest fear is derailment,

From that, there’s no coming back.

So, we do our best to work & pray,

To ask Jesus Christ for a miracle,

For Him to work alongside us, as we drip in sweat,

As we roll back and forth with each, and every tilt, of this beast’s rough sway.

The noise is growing quieter now,

It’s profane and peculiar,

Our train may have never left its tracks,

But hearts and minds have derailed,

Deranged metal has deranged men;

Lives gone off the rails;

All because a train cannot dodge the screaming descent of metal hail

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Though those years are far from me,

I still jump when there’s nothing there,

When a train whistles, I hold my breath;

Look to the right, left,

and then up in the air.

Awaiting the inevitable fusion,

Of locomotives, war and their violent union

Of metal meteors; fear of not making it back,

Of bombs and broken men, who gave their all, riding iron horses over broken tracks.

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Corporal Frederick William Petrie served in France with the A.I.F as an engineman (fireman) on locomotives, from 22nd Dec. 1916 to 7th Nov. 1918. He was 36 years old. On the 17th July 1917, Frederick was diagnosed with Neurasthenia (depression and emotional distress), which was commonly used as a diagnosis for “shell shock”. After meeting with British Commander of the Australian Imperial Forces in Europe, General William Birdwood, Frederick was placed on lighter duties.

According to reports, locomotive engineers during the war, were faced with rough conditions:

‘we were not fighting troops, but I may say that the whole of our sphere of operations was within range of the enemy’s artillery, and he paid particular attention to the railways, both with his heavy guns and aeroplane bombs. Even…the furthest back station of the 4th company was under fire from the 15in guns…With both planes and guns the enemy paid systematic attention to our main lines of rail, so you can realise that life in a railway unit was not altogether a picnic. The 5th Coy…had the worst of it…their section of line was continually exposed to bomb raids and gunfire, night and day, and their casualties were heavy…the amount of work behind a great army is tremendous. Despite the network of lines, I have seen 280 trains per day pass over a single section of line, and trains carry 1000-ton loads…the difficulties and odds against which they had to contend are seldom realised.’
(Lt. R.J Burchell 5th coy, The West Australian, June 1919)

Source:


(©RL2018)

Photo credit:  Samuel Zeller on Unsplash 

G.K. Chesterton noted that ‘an adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose.'[i]

The homeschool journey is no exception.

Field trips are by far the most interesting and adventurous aspects of all our educational activities. Whether its teaching kids or living life, God-given opportunities exist at almost every turn. All we need to do is tune into them. The world around us is vast. Knowing where to begin is daunting, but actively giving the Holy Spirit a role in our Homeschooling has the potential transform it.

Locomotion

Of course, in the long sustained fog of this epoch – fast, instant and time-poor – noticing God-given opportunities can be difficult. External expectations line up outside and beat on our door. They place stress on our internal expectations. Routine loses flexibility, meeting a schedule winds up meaning the worship of one.

Balancing this external and internal dichotomy becomes a grind, it runs us down and becomes a chore. Sometimes this has a paralysing or stifling effect. It hinders our ability to discover, wonder and let-go just enough so that God has room to surprise us.

This week our homeschool crew was blessed to participate in some living history. Lachlan Valley Railways brought one of their working locomotives and carriages to town. We’ve been doing this every time they visit our area. This year, however, we almost missed out because it wasn’t advertised as loudly as it has been in the past.

Train

On a random nature walk, we heard the whistle and saw the black smoke. So, we booked some tickets, organised some other family to come along for the ride, and found ourselves traveling in a different direction to the one we had planned.

IMG_4237

 

God is worthy of invitation. The presence of the Holy Spirit transforms the adventure. It’s Jesus Christ meeting the effort we put into our work, calling us to walk, rely and live. All we need to do is make room, acknowledge and be prepared to be moved beyond ourselves. Handing over our worry over external pressures, meeting inflexible schedules and pride.

Some of the learning outcomes covered by this hands-on history lesson: transportation, steam power, train safety, technology, fossil fuels, God’s grace and fun.

The adventure chooses us.

Veni, Creator Spiritus.


Notes:

[i] G. K. Chesterton Heretics Catholic Way Publishing (p. 101).

Lachlan Valley Railway