A Sense of History -- The Town Railroad Depot: A Station
with A Past
Landmarks have to be places of relevance and have to be selected within the framework. Let us take a case in point: the old Yorktown Heights Railroad Station of the Old Putnam Line. Why save it? What distinguishes it? It symbolizes, at least in my book of history: a force that created Yorktown Heights as a place. The railroad did provide a center of life. Nostalgia might be easily resorted to and the building could become a symbol only of the "dear dead days beyond recall." It can and does mean much more.
Lone spur that the "Put" was, it connected hamlet with hamlet. It served as a backbone of a community enterprise; it magnetized activity. It was, pun or not, a point of departure for the community; and one of arrival. It related people to time. It meant people, work, and camaraderie.
The surety of the tracks was there. They led somewhere. The rail line provided ties that bind.
What a change when the rails came up. The roadbed looked forlorn and a kind of link was gone. Things fell apart at the center. The asphalt maze and concrete spread have spilled over and through the town.
But perhaps with concerted action - a new day might come. One of revitalization of the town spirit. The station may revive as a symbol, at an appropriate site of a former railroad station with in Yorktown, so that it may be visited and enjoyed. The people of today seeing a piece of track and a semaphore, might just understand a bit more what the place was about. The toad beds might even provide walkways through the green places instead of standing as it does now as a mid-town, bod down wee-nursery. The place where the tracks once were might become a recovered trench for present use and latter day memory rather than serving as a giant trough for garbage and catchall for rubbish.
What then is the prognosis for preservation? Well, what does the community prescribe. A dose of pride; an antidote of its health, the recuperation of the town is inevitable. Else-apathy becomes incurable. I repeat in the another metaphor: "Chaos or community?"
No wonder, in bittersweet laugh and cry vein, one Yorktowner penned this ambivalence:
Our Town's Station: Passed (Tense?)
Stationary outpost of a past that lasts,
Where trains no longer chug to halt,
Setting mid an asphalt "junk-shun."
You've changed your soot,
But catch the spray from oily birds instead,
UR fated, perhaps
To be renovated
Your way, but stay, sentinel.
Commute silently with passersby
Who deplore the mess that sprawls
Around your walls,
You look like something
Out of a one-story book,
Read, told, and forgotten,
Sitting on a trackless road,
Leading to nowhere and return,
Signaling no place, no speed.
You're a toy house
That even the "choo choos" spurned
There-among the remnants of...
You give the semblance of...
A castaway playhouse marooned
Since your active sentence has been commuted,
And your timetables have been muted,
Among historic sites, you may be sorted.
One of your kind, you'll be transported
If your ties have been removed
Why rail that your bed now is grooved?
You house sound memories
Without any re-Morse code
To dit-dah the comings on the Road.
Perhaps on some moonlit night
When the air is cold and clear,
And shadows play games,
"Old Put" will chug in
With a full load and a steam hiss
That can't be missed,
And the engine bell will toll
An "ALL ABOARRD."
Renewed, restored, landmarked you'll be
For all to see.
Prime, in any day or clime,
Ever silent, you'll be in time!
Source: The Yorktowner, December 19, 1968
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