Monday, March 17, 2014

For the love of trains and the love of family

At  9 o’clock on an unseasonably cold, damp, late Sept. night the Rondinelli brothers. Danny and Joey, and I are sitting on the porch of a B&B in Cresson Pennsylvania, a small town in the west central part of the state, watching freight trains roll by in the chilling darkness.  We are yards away from the triple track mainline of the Norfolk & Southern RR where at least 3 trains an hour roll by - any less and the innkeeper will refund 50% of your room charge.  In the several hours we been sitting here there were more like 10-12 trains per hour.   Fortified by the Jim Beam in our plastic cups, which Danny so graciously kept full, we were actually enjoying ourselves, in spite of the miserable weather.

Danny and Joey are true rail-fans, and like many others, have been making an annual pilgrimage to the Station Inn, a former boarding house for railroad workers, converted to no nonsense Bed and Breakfast serving the boys who have never outgrown their love of trains.  I am a retired model railroader and do not consider myself a railroad aficionada, but I enjoy spending time with my cousins, so I agreed to meet them in Cresson on my drive to Maryland from Paducah.  I arrived early in the afternoon as we had planned.  When it was obvious the cousins were going to be late, I checked into the room they had reserved, a single room with a bath and 3 small cots.  I immediately laid claim on what I considered the best of the three, and went downstairs to wait.  A light rein was falling with unseasonably cold temperatures, and unfortunately the cloths I packed were not up to the task.  A brief walk around the neighborhood revealed several tap rooms, a small food market, and a liquor store, all rather depressing.  I returned to the Inn and watched the trains rumble by while I waited for the Rondinelli boys.  I quickly realized that all of trains soon began looking like the one that came before.  The only difference was the direction they were traveling and whether there were one, two, or three locomotives doing the work.  Of course the serious train watchers knew better; they would listen to the communications between the engineers and the traffic controllers on special radios, in addition to the monitor the Inn provided over a loud speaker.  This was some serious stuff to them.

Late in the afternoon the brothers arrived – I don’t remember the reason they gave for being so late but I don’t think it impressed me.  They checked in and we set out to find dinner.  We stopped at the first taproom we saw, ordered drinks and asked to see the menu.  The drinks were satisfactory, but the menu came nowhere close to meeting our high culinary standards.  After two drinks we moved on and had a similar experience at the next stop, 2 drinks, nixed the menu, and moved on.  On our third stop we found the mother lode.  We enjoyed an elegant dinner of hot wings, Jalapeno Pepper Poppers, fried clams, and deep-fried mushrooms, Cauliflower, and cheese, all washed down with assorted adult beverages.  We had our standards and we proudly stuck to them.

Fortunately, all of this took place within 2-3 blocks of our B&B, so driving was unnecessary.   We made our way back to the Inn, stopping at the local spirits shop where Danny purchased an economy size bottle of Jim Beam.  Thus fortified, we bundled up and made our way to the porch for some very serious train watching.  What we do for family!

The highlight of our stay was the Inn’s famous breakfast of pancake and eggs.  The reputation of their breakfast is well deserved.

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