Bentonville, Virginia

I suppose you get used to it: the dishes rattling in the cupboard, the thundering locomotive, the diesel fumes invading the front porch, the clack of wheels on steel rail, the wait in the driveway for a train to pass.

Life along the tracks. It may be hard for railfans to appreciate that if you live this close to trains, the railroad becomes commonplace, or perhaps a nuisance. The early morning noise, your favorite TV show drowned out by a train—the railroad is an inescapable part of your day to day life.

Track houses fascinate me. When I was a boy in the 1950s, my uncle’s house sat on top of a cut above the Norfolk & Western tracks along the James river. In those days, steam locomotives were still common on the N&W and the sound of an approaching train would make me drop whatever I was doing and race to the edge of the bank to watch. As the train passed below, steam and smoke billowed up practically in my face, and I could just see the top of the locomotive through the brush. It was exciting and wonderful. My uncle lived in that house for nearly fifty years and paid no attention to a passing train.

I sometimes wonder what it is like to live so close to the tracks, but I am not sure I want to find out.

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And, by the way, living by the tracks may be inconvenient and noisy, but it could be worse. From 1956—“The railroad runs through the middle of the house.”

Edd FullerPhotographs and text Copyright 2019

15 thoughts on “Track Houses

  1. Edd, brings back great memories. Grandpa’s house in Garfield NJ was a few hundred feet from the Erie back in the 1950’s and one of the Thanksgiving Day memories was hearing the train whistle in the distance, yelling TRAIN and running with my siblings to the front porch windows to watch a huge Erie steam engine roar past, whistle sounding continuously for the many grade crossings, towing a seemingly endless line of freight cars, and of course the caboose. Those were the days…

    1. Bob, isn’t it interesting how the railroad brings back so many memories. I feel fortunate to have had at least a taste of steam railroading when I was a boy.

  2. Edd, great set of photos of a subject that I find interesting as well. My initial interest came from seeing Edward Hopper’s painting of House by the Railroad. Since I saw it, I’ve been paying attention to similar relationships of the house next to the tracks and photographing them often.

    1. Eric, Hopper is certainly a touchstone is so many ways–I am always inspired by his work. Would love to see some of your “track house” photos.

    1. I camped once next to a rail yard where they were making up trains, and the cars banged all night. I didn’t enjoy it.

  3. Edd I almost bought a house in East Haven Ct. next to the track though it would be great but there was problems with it. Today I can hear the engineer blowing the horn passing through our station to warn stupid people not to stay close to the edge of the platform. Constant reminder for me where I came from. Great pictures and story.

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