The Round House and it’s Ghosts

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I am a round house. A very practical building. My outsides are round, or appear so with 22 sides. Train engines and sometimes cars are repaired within my shelter. The trains get in by way of a turntable an because I was a big round house there were more than one turntable.

The turntable was much like anyone who has seen or owned a record player can imagine is a platform that turns on itself.

The roundhouse in Uster, Switzerland. Photo by Audrius Meskauskas

A train engine is large, bulky and not so good at backing up. So various ideas for turning a train around on the tracks had to be worked out.

Very modern trains are set up with reversible engines some in the middle some have engines at both ends and the back one can help the front one by assisting in a sort of push.

But still in some cases a train comes to the end of the line or its destination and needs to go back or change direction. They pull the engine up onto the platform and begin turning the whole thing disconnected from the cars or cargo and hook it back up and the train goes the other way.

Some older cable cars still use these.

But I’ve been going on about what happens outside. Me? I am a shelter, the round house, I can be warmed up but steam engines usually brought their own heat with them. The turn table aims the train toward one of my bays. I am not a full circle, that would work but it was just as practical to make me semi enclosed.

The bays are like spokes in a wheel. They radiate. The cars or engines are coasted inside after being lined up on the right tracks and the men begin to do mechanical repairs. When things are done the engines can be reversed scooted back outside and reconnected or just wait there until called upon.

I have a few spirits that abide in me. Both rail road workers and believe it or not, neither of the men were killed here. None of them died at the switch. Neither man reached the end of the tracks.

They roam on and off, they are like warm breathes of air. A glowing when the light is just right. Some of the workers talk of them, most think the ghosts are made up. Still other have tried to name the men. Both have been given the honor of engineers caught up in engine number this or that.

In truth, Bob, Bob was just a guy, he worked here as a mechanic for a few years then went further into the city where he worked on automobiles, big trucks. He married, had a bunch of children and owned some land with a brownstone on top of it. He was a happy sort of guy.

He isn’t here because he died here, but I already said that. He was out by the turntable one day when a worker got his foot caught. Two other workers who couldn’t see him began to turn the wheels and then Bob shouted from the roots of his toes. The men looked up and stopped in time to save the man’s foot and possibly his life.

Bob drops by after his death, old age it was, he drops by because that is what dead people do. They visit old places and this was the place Bob felt most useful in all of his life. Shouting was the best thing he ever did. The feeling of saving the man was far and away more energizing and empowering than meeting his children on their birth beds. This is where Bob had the time of his life.

The other fellow? He wasn’t an engineer either.

This other guy is calling himself George. He is very confused. Neither ghost is here constantly but on at least three occasions they met up at the same time.

Bob tried to comfort George the first time. He waited patiently, listening to George’s confusion. Being messed up or mixed up during life often continues in the afterlife. George is no exception to this opinion. He is probably more confused as time goes on.

He is looking for something and he can not recall what it is. It may be a feeling, that is what draws Bob here, it might be an item but unless it is holding my walls and rails together he won’t be finding it here. All the tools and cars and people have been changed.

I get the feeling when I listen to George that he is a recent departure. When contemplating the ratio of life and not life the non being far out paces the being part. Unless we sit and argue just what being means.

Bob has dropped in a lot over maybe a hundred years but George showed up less than twenty years ago. He talks to things that are not here and never were. Bob thinks he might have been an idiot or an insane person who is here simply because the size of my building is comforting. He figures if the poor man spent all of his days locked inside he wouldn’t know what the outside looked like.

I don’t know what I look like, I have never had the luxury of distance so Bob may be right.

When Bob comes back I think I’ll ask him to describe my outsides. I never gave it much thought.

The waiting is hard though. Like I said, Bob is an old regular but it’s still difficult to predict when his mind will wonder back to me. And George, when I try to help him, he shuffles me into the other constant voices that travel in his mind.

They still use me, not so often, but once in a while. The turn table isn’t necessary like it once was, they’ve made run arounds and more tracks and switches than I can count. The controls go both ways inside the same engine making turning unnecessary.

I heard a fellow say I’d make a great museum if someone wanted to clean me up, fix some restrooms and sell tickets.

I think I would like that. I think I would.

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Round House

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By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.