It’s Friday morning and I’m here, at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, awaiting the arrival of my son. It was a very restless night last night as I was on edge, thinking that he’d decide to make his appearance in the still of the night. He didn’t and I spent a few hours watching episodes of NCIS. On one of the episodes, I came across an actress from my childhood. She was the voice of Keesha on The Magic School Bus and she starred in a new version of the Ghostwriter story. But it was her very first role that I remember most. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Shining Time Station TV series.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across Shining Time Station in the Summer of 1992. I came across a tiny train conductor telling a story about train engines that had faces and could talk. I stopped in and looked.
What it meant to me then? In the moment, the 7-year-old version of myself was very intrigued. It was my first exposure to Thomas the Tank Engine…as well as my first exposure to George Carlin, who was playing the tiny conductor—also known as Mr. Conductor. I liked how the kids—Lutrell’s Kara as well as Becky and Dan, played by Danielle Marcot and Ari Madger, respectively—played in the station, the stories and train knowledge I learned from Billy Twofeathers, and how Tito Swing did his thing in The Jukebox Band. I especially loved the stories about train life on the Island of Sodor. Shining Time Station got me very intrigued about trains in general.
What it means to me now? I haven’t seen an episode of the show since at least 1996, if I remember correctly. It’s been well over 20 years but the show still has meaning. I came to realize that when I lived in Japan and South Korea, where the respective train stations in my neighborhoods (Fussa and Seojeong-ri) had familiar characters that were friendly and taught me a lot about not only the stations but of the train system and the surrounding neighborhood. As I live in the National Capital Region with WMATA and MARC Commuter Rail as my rail transit options, I don’t feel that sense of warmth I had abroad, which was likened to what I saw in so many episodes of Shining Time Station.