RDP Tuesday Prompt: Orange

cRailway workers 06.08 (1)

I remember in the Mao Tse Tung days in China when all the workers wore the same clothing, blue serge trousers and jackets in the same style and we in the West felt sorry for them all, having no choice to wear anything else. We even laughed at them. Are we any different? I have noticed that the working colours of the West Europeans have now become orange. If you have a tool in your hand, even a wheelbarrow, then wear orange, and even better with a silver stripe somewhere. It has become the worker’s uniform.

We have a local railway and they are always doing something to it. It functions quite well, but somehow people must be given a job to do. I have noticed that there are always three men working together, dressed in orange of course. One actually works, the second gives instructions and the third looks on to make sure the job is done properly. What a wonderful organisation. Perhaps they were only wearing orange to match the blinds on the hotel rooms behind them.

Bipperlisi 19.07 (5)

Even the repair wagons for the workers are orange. This has really become the workers colour, or is it camouflage. There might be a worker leaning on the wagon taking a break, but you will not see him, because he is wearing the same shade of orange. And if he is eating an orange, then you will never find him.

Railway works 10.09 (1)

I took this photo yesterday on my way to town: note the orange trouser legs. I believe this man was removing the dirt from the rails: an autumn cleaning session.

Yes, orange is the new worker’s colour.

RDP Tuesday Prompt: Orange

RDP #26: Navigate


Crossing roads used to be so easy. You have a yellow stripe, the so-called zebra crossing, and that is where you do it: no problem. At least it never used to be a problem before I had a wheelchair.  as far as the traffic is concerned, that is the less of the worries. Car drivers, motobikes and bicycles are very well mannered. If they see a wheelchair coming they begin to stop before you even cross the road.  This is wonderful, although there are times when I do not enjoy being the centre of attention when performing this part of the journey.

When the local government re-constructed this part of our neighbouring road they did a wonderful job. The cars had a smooth surface to ride on, the barriers for the train were placed perfectly, so what could possibly happen. They forgot perhaps that not everyone walks across the road. I approach this particular crossing with care. The first bone shaking bump is going down the kerb. Of course the car is patiently waiting and watching, being careful of the wheelchair rider. And so I approach the bit in the middle for a rest under the eyes of the watchful car drivers. The first part of going down the kerb is not so bad, because it is a little sloped. Unforunately they forgot to repeat the slope in the island in the middle.

With luck you reach the island safe, and now have the eyes of the motorists on you on both sides of the road. Honestly speaking I would prefer to just wheel round this island in the middle to get to the bump upwards on the next pavement on the other side. Of course you do not, it is not allowed, you have left the safety of the crossing and if you get killed in an accident on the way across the road it is your own fault and no-one pays for the funeral, except for your own family, although at that point you do not really care.  And so you battle with more shakes and rock and roll to get to the other side.

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Just a few minutes along the road there is the next crossing. This is my favourite and less death defying. You wheel along the path at the side of the rail tracks, usually on your own, with perhaps an occasional biker on the way and get to the part where you cross the road. There are no unexpected bumps at the kerb, even the island in the middle is easy peasy and crossing the rails is accompanied with just a gentle stir, no shaking. It is perfect for a beginner in a wheelchair. You reach the other side with no embarrassing thoughts about “are they looking at me” because even the car drivers do not have an impulse to set up a speed record on this part. We are all taking it easy, and sometimes everyone stops for the train crossing. When I complete this part I am already on my way on the entrance path to the local cemetery, so what could be better.

Bipperlisi Railway 16.06 (1)

It is all a question of navigation. Yes, I am the perfect wheelchair driver and even have it all documented on my computer drive in my photo album.

RDP #26: Navigate

Daily Prompt: Graceful like a fairy elefant at the railway station

M - Solothurn Station

What is graceful about this golden oldie waiting for a train seated on a bench. People waiting at railway stations are never graceful. They are either standing in an uncomfortable place, swaying from one foot to the other, and watching the hand on the station clock making a jump after every minute. I like to get to the station with enough time to spare. Sitting at home waiting to go is one of the worst time consuming things I can think of. I am ready, everything organised and definitely do not feel graceful, more clumsy. My money is in my handbag, check to see if the tickets are ready and now everything is fine. Oh, just a minute, I have to pay a visit to a certain place before going, you never know. Perhaps the toilets might be occupied at the station, and they are not the best toilets in any case.

Do I really have the tickets? I know I printed them yesterday fromt the computer to save time. I used to get them at the station, but there are always people waiting, and you might miss the train, so online is the best thing if it is working. Once I went on line and was told the app was not working. The next morning the app was still undergoing repairs, so off to the station early which was not such a graceful action and with no time to spare.

At last I am at the station, although Mr. Swiss found I have plenty of time, at least twenty minutes: 20 minutes? We have to get to the station and perhaps there is a traffic jam, there might be an accidet. I could already hear the horns of the ambulance and police car approaching. Mr. Swiss tells me no rush, we have plenty of time and he hears nothing of course, just a figment of my imagination.

At last we arrive at the station and the train has not yet arrived, but who cares. I am now here and that is the main thing. I sit on an empty bench with the grace of a golden oldie that has nothing better to do with her time and observe. I see a mouse rushing to and fro on the railway lines and fish in my bag for my camera to take a photo. Mr. Swiss dissappears and he decides to visit the shop for something and I am now left on my own. What if the train arrives in the meanwhile? If I wait for Mr. Swiss to return from his important assignment at the shop, I will miss the train and I need him to help me board the train. Climbing train carriage steps are not a speciality of mine. They are too high and my feet are too big for their length. I can feel a wind blowing, the train is appraoching. No, I was wrong, it was one of those goods trains with the over 50 wagons. The mouse on the railway lines disappears into a space between the rails and even the pigeons decided to move to a safer place.

Pigeons and Sparrows at Solothurn Main Station
I take a quick look at my watch, just another two minutes. Where was Mr. Swiss. I can see him sauntering towards me, no rush, everything under control.

“You have plenty of time” he says “the train announcemtent has not yet been made”. Of course train announcements are always made when the train is passing through the next station as a warning.

And then the train suddenly appears, pushing the air in front of it, and causing panic because no-one heard the announcement. It seems that announcements are no longer made, it is a waste of voice probably, and the train stops. I have a first class ticket, so have to search for the carriage with the yellow stripe for first class. These carriages never stop where they should, although there is a sign hanging above pointing out this is the place to wait for first class.

Mr. Swiss helps me onto the train, I find an empty seat, and plonk my 86 kilo into the seat. Of course I ask first of all if it is free. You always ask in Swiss trains, even if there are four empty seats and only one other passenger that occupies it. It is the graceful way to do things.

The train moves off, I made it, perhaps not gracefully but I did it.

Daily Prompt: Graceful like a fairy elefant at the railway station

The Bridge

Jack Bruckman climbed into the cabin of his Locomotive. He felt a little bit sad. Although he was now old enough to be retired, he just loved his job. It was a family thing. His grandfather Hermann Bruckman came to the States at the beginning of the twentieth century from Germany with the family and helped to build the railway. He was even sadder as it was many years ago that grandfather Hermann drew his last breath and he was now laying at peace in the local cemetery. Grandad Hermann told him a lot about the early days.

“You know Jack, when I arrived in the States there was no railway like today. The main cities were connected and there were even stations in the smaller towns, but the folks had to wait until the train arrived; there was no regular service for the small towns. Just take a look at the local River and see the iron bridge connecting the two sides. I helped to build that bridge and if it wasn’t for that bridge I would never had met your grandma.”

And then Hermann would tell him the story of their meeting.

“There I was, a young man in my prime, but just about speaking enough of the language to order a beer. They organised a canteen at the camp where we workers were staying. We came from all over the world. The locals did not like us, they said we were taking the work away from them, but that just wasn’t true. There was enough work for everyone, but the Americans had their farms and professions like being doctors and lawyers. They just left us emigrants to get on with the handwork at that time.

So where was I? (granddad tended to drift off the subject now and again). Ah yes, the canteen, well there was a very pretty young lady helping to serve out the food and drink at midday. She was the prettiest little thing I had ever seen and she always had a smile for us men. I had the feeling she had a special smile for me, so I took my courage in my hands one day. There was a dance at the local town at the time and I asked.

“Miss, my name is Hermann Bruckmann and  I was wondering, if you haven’t got anything else to do on Saturday evening, if you would accompany me to the dance.”

“Well, I will have to think that over. I sure don’t have anything going, and if my dad says it’s ok, I would be pleased to come with you. I will tell you tomorrow.”

“She told me her name was Amy Rogers.

Well you can imagine Jack how a young man like me was just happy to know she was willing and it seemed her dad said yes, as the next day she told me everything was fine and I could meet her in town. She didn’t tell me that she had kept it from Pa Rogers about me being one of the emigrants. That wasn’t too bad, but her three brothers were at the dance as well. Cutting a long story short, we had a little fight. No-one really won the fight. There were three of them against me but I held my man. We all had our cuts and bruises, but it seems the brothers found I was a good fighting man and I was invited to dinner the next Sunday after a week. I sure was a bit nervous, but it was a good family. They had a farm and knew what hard work meant. The Rogers family were known as being an honest upright family in the area and the father of the family even worked on the railroad himself as one of the American pioneers in the business. So that was how your grandpa met his wife and your grandmother, bless her departed soul, was the most wonderful woman I ever met.”

“I remember grandma” said Jack “She used to make the best apple pie I have ever eaten” and that was how Jack got to know a bit of family history. Jack’s father was the first locomotive driver in the family and Jack followed in his father’s footsteps.

Although he was now approaching retirement, he still had a week before his last day’s work. The railroad had aged with time, and a lot was being rebuilt. The old iron bridge was being replaced by a new bridge had already been built further down the river. Next week it was going to be used for the first time. No longer in iron, but in the modern concrete with a designer form that won some sort of architect’s competition. It was not that Jack did not appreciate the modern buildings, but he just hung onto the old iron bridge. Soon the train was filled with its passengers travelling to the next largest town. It was a two hour journey, but that did not bother Jack. All being well, he would be at his destination by lunch time and after lunch speeding back home in the locomotive again.

He loved this route. After an hour he would be approaching the old iron bridge, the one that his grandfather’s hands helped to build. As he neared, the bridge, mist descended upon the railway from the river. This was nothing out of the ordinary. It was autumn and the cold nights were a cause for the heavy morning mists. Visibility was almost down to zero but he knew the way. Every rivet and wooden plank was etched in his mind. Suddenly he was surprised; he saw a red signal light on the tracks just before entering the bridge. He pulled the breaks on the train, but felt a bit uncertain. In his complete life as locomotive driver this had never happened. He then saw a figure approaching, walking along the tracks. It was still misty but the figure was swinging an old petroleum lamp in his hand.

As he got nearer Jack stuck his head out of the window.

“Is something wrong?” he asked.

The figure turned towards Jack, although Jack only roughly saw him through the distance. It was the figure of a young man.

“The bridge has a problem. You have to wait here. It’s not safe” said a voice from the distance.

“I don’t understand” answered Jack “it was ok yesterday. What’s the exact problem?”.

The man in the distance spoke.

“Seems that over the many years the bridge has been used, the rivets had got a bit loose and some of the railway tracks are not so certain any more. You can’t drive any further than this point.”

Now Jack had to make a decision. He had never had or even seen a signal in this place before and this man that was giving him the news seemed to be a bit strange. Jack climbed down from the cabin of the locomotive to have a look himself.

“I wouldn’t walk too far out onto the bridge” said the voice “it is not safe any more”, but Jack decided to have a look for himself. The people in the carriages were getting a bit restless and the car attendant, Joe, was already standing at the entrance to the train looking in Jack’s direction with a look as if to say “What’s going on?”

Jack called back to Joe “seems that there is a problem with the bridge – I will have a quick look.”

So Jack walked down the lines towards the bridge. Everything seemed to be fine; he then got to the beginnings of the track over the river and noticed that underfoot the wooden planks were a bit shaky. He put his foot out for the next step and realised that his foot was hanging in the air. Suddenly he felt a tight grip on his shoulders and was pulled back. He turned round but saw no-one there. One thing was obvious the old bridge had seen its last train and was no longer able to take another train and whoever or whatever had gripped him had saved him from falling into the river.

Jack hurried back to the train and spoke to the car attendant, Joe.

“It seems the bridge is broken there is no connection to the other side. A few more yards and the train would have been at the bottom of the river. I have that man a lot to thank for.”

“What man Jack?” answered Joe.

“Didn’t you see him? He came out of the mist waving one of those old paraffin lamps and made me stop the train. He told me there was a problem with the bridge.”

“I thought you were talking to yourself Jack, I didn’t see anyone. I saw you went onto the bridge, but if you say it has collapsed, then it looks like you have saved our lives.”

Then something came to Jack’s mind.

“Well something saved my life as I would have walked on had it not been for someone who pulled me back. We have another problem. The 11.15 train will soon be arriving at the bridge from the other side. We will have to send a report”.

Jack and Joe made their way to the radio set that all trains have in case of emergency.

“Hello central” said Joe. “We have a problem. The old iron bridge has collapsed and someone will have to stop the 11.15 train as it will be driving over soon. Perhaps you can operate the red signal sign to stop it.”

“Ok Jack”, came the answer “but we don’t know what you mean by the red signal. We have not had one of those in the last fifty years. They were all replaced by radio. We will radio the 11.15 to let them know.”

Gradually the mist was disappearing and vision was getting better. Jack now saw what had happened. The tracks on the middle of the bridge had disappeared into the river below. Indeed as Jack was looking two made their way downwards meeting the river with a splash at the bottom. It was then that Jack saw the 11.15 approaching the bridge and was hoping that Central managed to warn them in time. Indeed, with only a few feet to spare the 11.15 came to a halt, all breaks screeching which could be heard for miles around.

Bus transport was organised for the passengers of the trains on both sides of the river and they were transported further down the river to the traffic bridge, Joe joined them in the bus and he was applauded and received with congratulations, after all he was the hero of the day and had saved everyone’s life.

Joe, the car attendant was sitting next to Jack.

“So tell me Jack, who had you seen at that bridge. Admittedly the sight was bad because of the mist, but whoever it was managed to save us all.”

“I don’t know who it was” said Jack “everything seemed to happen so fast. It was a young man that appeared out of the mist and he told me not to drive any further. I think it was him that saved my life by pulling me back just as I wanted to take a step further on the bridge.”

The bus was now pulling away from the bridge and Jack looked back. He could have sworn he saw his grandfather standing in a group of other men dressed similarly in the old railway uniforms all waving as they pulled away but Jack decided to keep that for himself.

A week later the new railway bridge was opened to the public and as a special treat Jack was allowed to sit in the locomotive which was pulling the new train. It was Jack’s last ride in the driver’s cabin of a train, but he decided it was good to end his working life in this way.

A week later he visited his grandfather’s grave. His wife asked him why he said “Thank you grandpa” at the grave, but he pretended he did not hear her.