Trains, Engines and Railroad Books for Kids

I heard the ni-night train just now. The ni-night train is 10-11 pm train that has run along US 31 in Michigan's West Coast, through Muskegon, Grand Haven, Holland and I don't know where. Maybe to Chicago? The train runs past Columbus Grand Haven, for as long as I can remember. At 12, I lived at 617Columbus St. The ni-night train passed by on tracks only two-doors down. As a young mom, I heard the ni-night train from our mobile home in Spring Lake, Michigan, about seven miles away. Now I live on Columbus St. again at 1135. I can hear the ni-night train very clearly, especially on clear nights with a full moon.

What's the ni-night train? That's what we named the CSX 11pm run, about 20 years ago. Our first born was about two months old. When she heard the nighttime train go by, we called it the ni-night train (that's infant for 'the good night train'). From about three months on, we read her 'Goodnight, Moon' every night. We also read The Little Engine that Could' (Platt and Munk). If she was awake or still nursing at 10 or 11pm she'd hear the ni-night train and typically would comment on it, in her baby way. We explained that this was the ni-night train. He went through all the towns to see if little children were tucked safely in bed and were comfy. That's the ni-night train's job we explained.

Later when our second child, a son was born, he loved a book called The Rattle-Rattle Train (a vintage Wonder book from around 1950). The Rattle-Rattle Train must work very hard to get to the roundhouse by dark. The reader must help the Rattle Rattle Train by saying 'rattledy-clack' and waking sleepy bridge keepers and getting uphill. I can still hear our now 18 year-old whispering 'rattledy-pwack, rattly-pwack' (his way of saying 'rattley-clack') with utmost sincerity and concern.He too kept tabs on the ni-night train to see that he was doing his job and watching over children.

Our younger two children loved the ni-night train. When our third born was a baby, I taught night school. I would come home to find dad asleep in the recliner with baby son spread eagle on dad's chest sound asleep. As I suckled my infant son on last time before putting him to bed, we'd greet the ni-night train or sing lullabies about trains. He learned his colors from Donald Crews Caldecott winner Freight Train.

Our youngest child, a daughter, was ill for weeks with pnemonia at eighteen months old. We spent many long nights sleeping in the rocker because she would cough and vomit if she lay down. We rocked and nursed and sang and listened for our friend the ni-night train. He or she got us through a long rough time.

My husband loved trains since he was a toddler and Grandpa, an engineer, put him up on a huge engine. His favorite book was The Big Book of Real Trains, reprinted many time and illustrated by George Zaffo. Dad's copy was printed in 1953. We loved Bill Peet's magical tale of The Caboose that got Loose. Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express, by Margaret Wetterer, is a beautiful story about a girl who risked her life to save the train. We all loved this story.

I don't know who has worked the ni-night train over the years. Probably many a good soul has run the ni-ni train. I sure would like to thank them for that.

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