Margaret Button: An ode to trains, tunnels of all kinds

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It's tough to live in North Adams and not be aware of the trains that rumble through the city multiple times a day.

When I was growing up, passenger trains were already a thing of the past in North Adams. My dad, however, worked for a shipping company that relied on freight brought in and taken out of the city by train. The company was located in a building near the freight yard, about where the American Legion's north parking lot is today. I spent many hours in the freight yard with my dad, watching the trains go by and watching the "switcher" shuttle freight cars around the yard. To this day, I wave at the engineers as a train rolls past me at a crossing. I used to wave at the crews in the cabooses, but cabooses, alas, are no more.

There is nothing like the sound of a train in the middle of the night. I live near one road crossing and within a half-mile of another. In the silence of the night, I can lie in bed and hear the train whistle warning issued by the engineer as the train nears the crossings — two long blasts, a short blast and another long blast. In the summer, when the windows are open, I can hear the thump-thump of the wheels on the freight cars as they go over the crossing. I can also hear the more distant whistle as the train approaches the second crossing. And what I find amazing is the fact that, if it's very humid or raining, the sounds of the trains are more amplified.

I'll now confess ... I love sitting at a crossing watching a train go by (isn't some of the graffiti on the freight cars amazing?). I also have been known to park briefly under overpasses — always keeping an eye out for traffic — to listen to the rhythm of the wheels clanking on the rails.

In honor of trains and our beloved Hoosac Tunnel, I offer up a classic dessert — a rich chocolate cake that makes it's own molten core of gooey chocolate ...




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1 3/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups margarine or butter, softened

6 eggs

2 cups powdered sugar

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2 1/4 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour

2 cups chopped pecans

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa


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3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk


For the cake: Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan or 10-inch tube pan.

In large bowl, beat sugar and margarine until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add powdered sugar; blend well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. By hand, stir in flour, pecans and cocoa until well blended.

Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Bake 58 to 62 minutes. Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1 hour; invert onto serving plate. Cool completely. Makes 16 servings. This cake will have a gooey center if done correctly.

For the glaze: In small bowl, blend powdered sugar, cocoa and enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered. Makes about 1 cup.


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