The whistle blew, a cheery sound in the crisp air. Even the steam from the pipe crystallized into gray mist that blended with the distant mountain peaks. The world around lay white and silent, the train with its crimson cars and bright window frames a brilliant spot of color.
Inside the warm cars passengers laughed and talked, excited to be sharing the experience of travelling to see family and friends for Christmas. Many carried gifts wrapped in bright fabrics or butcher paper and tied together with brilliant ribbons or twine. Children escaped their distracted mothers and ran up and down the aisles, shrieking with laughter.
Suddenly the train slowed, then stopped. Worried passengers lifted windows to peer out, oblivious to the frigid air that poured into the compartments. Some complained with offended vehemence when the conductor passed through with a hurried explanation that a tree had fallen across the track. Would everyone please be patient while the engineers cleared the track? It would be a bit of a wait, but they would be underway again as soon as possible, never fear.
A couple of strapping young fellows rushed boisterously out into the snow to volunteer their services with an ax and make themselves generally underfoot. Some of the women took advantage of the halt to relieve muscles cramped from long hours on wooden benches that vibrated with the motion of the wheels. They trudged up and down the snowy tracks, wrapped tightly in voluminous cloaks while their irrepressible children dashed about soaking their clothes in snowdrifts and forgetting hats and scarves in the general excitement.
The whistle blew sharply, calling for a mad scramble back into the cars before a puff and a rattle set them moving again. “William!” A voice drifted through the steam as it rose above the icy trees. The small boy leaped to his feet and clattered from the room, tossing a glance over his shoulder at the train waiting on its track under the tree before shutting the door on the Christmas wonders to come.