Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Right Side of the Tracks

     If they decide to run me out of town on a rail I'll be OK with that. I've always wanted to take a train trip. But I do have one last request. I'ld like to leave from Fort Edward. That way I'll be able to enjoy one of The Stations sandwiches before I go.

     You know those franchised, cookie cutter fast food joints you see everywhere? The ones lined up cheek to jowl along traffic clogged highways? Well, The Station Deli is their opposite. For one thing, it's located in an 1900 D&H railroad station that's on the national register of historic places. It's a steep gabled, slate roofed building with high ceilings and burnished woodwork. Imagine looking at the creased and weathered face of an aged veteran or a great grandmother. You know there's depth and character and stories there. This building is like that. It's seen a lot, it has tales to tell.

     Inside you'll get creative sandwiches with whimsical names like The All-Aboard and The Choo-Choo. But you can really get whatever you want because each meal is made to order from a selection of high quality meats and cheeses on telera, ciabatta or maybe wheat or rye - your choice. On a recent rainy day of running errands I swung down East Street for a chicken and cranberry sandwich with a pickle, chips and salad. I sat outside, on the platform beneath the overhang, reading and munching while feeling the pull of the tracks stretching off into the distance.

     Canadian Pacific freights roll thru here but the route also sees a few Amtrak passenger trains. From Fort Edward you can go north to Montreal, south to New York City or east to Rutland, Vermont. The Station doesn't sell tickets so you should probably get them online or onboard. My reading of the schedule indicates you could catch the train here around 12:30 pm (after a Deli lunch!), ride north thru Washington County and along Lake Champlain before disembarking in Ticonderoga, Port Henry or maybe Westport. Then, hopefully, hitching onto the southbound back to Fort Edward for a half-day excursion. Other than that, plan on spending a night in one of the big cities, or Vermont, depending on which direction you head.

     You'll be traversing a small section of a long valley that extends north to south along the eastern edge of North America. It's the result of plate tectonics and the bumping and tearing the margin of the continent has endured over billions of years. Faults developed, blocks of crust dropped and then were filled with relatively soft sedimentary rocks such as shale and limestone. These were eroded by rivers and glaciers until a valley formed.
     Today the Hudson flows south thru part of the Great Valley and Lake Champlain fills it to the north. A train ride from Fort Edward will take you over a low divide between the two drainages, skirting the edge of the Adirondacks and then hugging the shore of the big lake towards Canada.
     This has been "the way" since the last glacier melted and its icy lakes drained. The Paleoindians may have hunted woolly mammoths here 12000 years ago and by the time Europeans arrived this valley divided the territories of the Iroquoian and Abenaki peoples. A long period of warfare followed with Indians, rangers and uniformed armies stalking the forests and floating the waterways. After the fighting came roads, canals and the railroad.
     Ever since we left Africa several million years ago humans have been characterized by the urge to wander and explore. Movement is in our genes and earlier this year we pushed our boundaries out to the edge of the solar system when the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto. It took nine and a half years of travel across many billions of miles but our restless curiosity got us there.

     Visit The Station and you can't help wonder what lies down the tracks, how exciting it would be to climb on the train and find out. Some cow-less day that's what I'm going to do. Until then I'll be the guy sitting on the platform with my Deli sandwich and a faraway look in my eyes.

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