Skip to content

Three Things: Train Whistle Edition

2011 July 25

I lived, for a time, in a small Midwestern town with a railroad running through it. The train whistles on quiet nights were one of my favorite things about living there, at once melancholy and comforting. Like a late-night bell toll, those far-off whistles break into a gentle reverie as if to say, “I am here, too! You are not alone, awake in the dark.”

It is perhaps, then, no wonder that when I discovered The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows a while ago in the strange depths that is Tumblr, the very first (and possibly the shortest) entry caught my attention:

n. the half-forlorn, half-escapist ache of a train whistle calling in the distance at night.

There are many other lovely imaginary words and definitions to be found in the (local!) blog—indeed, it was very hard to choose between them—but for this week’s Three Things, it is that train, off in the distance. I have for you this week not three images of trains (that felt too easy), but three pieces in which I can imagine the distant hail of a locomotive.

Don’t forget to listen for that whistle.


Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea, 1948. Tempera. Private collection.


Alfred Stieglitz, A Snapshot: Paris, 1911. Photograph.


Comments are closed.