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CBSRMT Episode Information
Title:
The Train Stops
Plot:
The train used to stop at the small town of Dandridge. Now the town doctor relates a story about two strangers who only himself and his daughter have met. She tells her father that she has fallen in love with a man who stops in town daily on the 5:16 train. No one else has seen him and he continues to stop in, even when the train doesn't.
Episode:
0509
Air Dates:
First Run - August 23, 1976
Repeat - November 10, 1976
Writer:
Listen:
Rating:
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18 Responses to Episode 0509


Another odd psychological tale from writer Elspeth Eric. Set in a small town that is connected to the rest of the world by a train, a widowed father discovers that his daughter has become infatuated with a mysterious man who regularly comes through town on the train. Whether or not this episode includes supernatural elements is entirely up to the interpretation of the listener. Genre: Drama

It's hard to believe Norman "Mr. telephone book"" Rose did this little gem from Elspeth Eric...then again, maybe not, as his aforementioned movie appearance apparently took place 3 years before Rose joined the RMT. (I think he matured and wised up by the time Himan Brown recruited him. ) I'm almost also tempted to call him "I suppose" Rose, because he's always saying "I suppose" in other RMT episodes I've heard. As a train buff I found some additional cause for solemnity in this very good play by Ms. Eric and performance by Mr. Rose, who plays a doctor in a small town who's raised a daughter by himself since his wife died years ago. (Interestingly, my own then-12-year-old daughter was the one who told me about this particular RMT.) It's interesting to me how trains can be compared to people. They're usually a unique combination of cars that's never duplicated quite the same way again, and they are planned, they have a point of origination, a journey and a destination, whereupon they stop, or "die", if you will. The town is gradually losing all the passenger trains which stopped there. However, the daughter has fallen in love with a mysterious man whom she can't or won't introduce her father to. The man always takes one particular train (according to the daughter) though the town's soon-to-be-retired stationmaster cannot ever recall seeing him arrive or depart from it. Rose's character is further perplexed by a mysterious woman who says his daughter will never be able to marry the mysterious passenger, because he belongs to her (the woman). I can't say the issue of either mysterious person was fully resolved to my satisfaction in the story, but the execution of it, and Rose's dialogue as a father, was extremely touching. I recommend a listen this one from Ms. Eric.

A father raising his daughter on his own after his wife died in the child's infancy, struggles to understand and provide for her emotional needs as she embarks on a strange relationship with a gentleman who comes to town occasionally on the 5:16pm train. She is totally devoted to him despite the appearance of another woman claiming she has claims on the man.

This is an Elspeth Eric play, and I'll tell you why I personally like it so much. There's not much action, not much (though some) supernatural element to it, not much suspense, though some. But I love Eric's lines about fathers and daughters, and thought that she was indeed insightful in the way she wrote Norman Rose's character's monologue. At one point he, a widower raising a nearly grown daughter whose eye is on a mysterious stranger who visits the town daily on a certain train, says something to the effect of "There's really no perfect man a father sees for his daughter, because in his heart HE thinks he's the pefect man for her." (My daughter and I recently got a chuckle out of that one with me saying "Honey, I don't know if I'd WANT you marrying a guy like me.) I also love trains, and I think this captures the (inevitable, IMO, with the rise of autos and planes) decline of passenger train traffic quite well. Great choice. (BTW, a funny train story today as well. I took a drive back from church across the line through Westville and Watts, OK, where I could drive by the main line of the Kansas City Southern railroad. At the latter town a train hauling some interesting cargo (machinery) had stopped, and I stopped to get a better glimpse. As I was standing alongside my car (in coat and tie) a fellow obviously from the train crew walked up to me and made small talk. Very nice guy...he told me he wondered if I was the RAILROAD PRESIDENT checking up on them. I told him I'm big, but not THAT big.

This was such a sad story, from start to finish. while not a typical RMT thriller by any means, it was certainly a typical Elspeth Eric jaunt into psychology. The only word I can find to describe this episode is "peculiar." Every character in this situation has something "peculiar" with it. The train conductor which everything around him seems to happen with no control or feedback from him... he's sort of a silent observer - until the end when he comes to the father. The strange man whom we never hear from, but whose presence is so powerful over the girl... just what was it that he was ill from? hmmm... The strange woman, the wife who appears and disappears at random. Who was she exactly? I kept thinking that she was actually a future version of the young girl. The father. He seemed to have no particular control over his daughter's well-being... most parents, it seems to me, would be able to somehow be able to connect better with their child and retain more of a responsiveness from them. The idea of control not being a "controlling" nature, but only in the normal, parental way. He gave off a sense of helplessness, an administrative parent, not a firm, sensible one. Then there's the young girl herself. Beyond peculiar. I felt sorry for her, but at the same time she drove me a little bananas. Maybe it was the character, maybe it was the actress... maybe both. She gave off a sense of disconnectedness, a person who questions every question. Perhaps she was in some trance-like state, but if this episode was testament to her personality, then i'd have to say she was a bit too self-centered. But again, it was a sad show. The train being phased out of that stop gives indication of the dimishing relevancy of trains over the last centure; the conductor man who was seemingly losing himself as well into irrelevancy; the strange woman, potentially losing her husband; the father potentially losing his (or his paternal control over) daughter; the strange man dying; and lastly the young woman retiring into her wreckless trance only to give her life up for the ideal of love. i really sank into this episode, and while i didn't love the actual story, i cannot deny how well written and performed it was. The emotion and character strength of Elspeth Eric either hit or miss, and this episode hit very hard. i gave the show a 5. not a typical RMT and not what you might typically expect... it drew me in and held me all the way through, and to be honest, the ending choked me up a little. excellent pick! thank you!

I liked this show, it had that twilight zone feel to it, halfway between drama and horror/scifi. There are interesting remarks about a man raising a daughter on his own (not a very common scenario especially in retrospect) and also this (1976) was when the railroads were really on the ropes. Amtrak didn't really have an identity yet, basically the passenger trains had been "wrecked" and many railroads in general were going into bankruptcy. Norman Rose always brings gravity to his roles, especially those involving narration. The bit at the end about the Doctor's wife was a bit far-flung, worked well enough with the rest of the story but could have been omitted and the story focused on the alienation of his daughter. But for me this show is a winner because of the trains and the supernatural aspects.

Quote: "A father knows how to love a daughter, oh, he knows that very well. But...when it comes to her life, her happiness, picking the right man he doesn't know a thing. I suppose maybe because in his heart he thinks he's the really right man...and of course, that's not possible. So he'd like "Mr. second best" to be the best of all those others." The actual words of Norman Rose's character in "The train stops" "I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old Dad, She was a pearl and the only girl that Daddy ever had. A good old-fashioned girl with heart so true, One who loves nobody else but you. I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old Dad." Lyrics from "I want a girl" I'm not good at describing the exact differences between metaphor and allegory and so forth, so I'll just say this. Though I don't think there was anything oedipal or (sexually at least though perhaps emotionally on the daughter's part) inappropriate going on, after I listened to "The train stops" again on Friday I'm convinced that the daughter was in love with her father, and that in her own flawed Elspeth Eric way the author was showing us a story of a series of love stories that could never be on this earth. Love story #1, Rose's wife dies (in childbirth?) He was a widower who for whatever reason (probably deep love for his wife, and I've known of such people) could or more likely would never remarry. Now, granted, if one isn't wise and prayerful on such things, one could marry a woman who becomes a stepmonster to one's children. (See Rose, Norman in his RMT performance of the excellent show "The white wolf" where he marries a werewolf woman.) But in his and his daughter's case, I think that the daughter NEEDED a womanly presence in her life as a counterbalance of sorts...to BE a second "Mom" and to be a wife for the grieving (and very kind-hearted) doctor...to help her stepdaughter grow up and not be dependent upon her father (and vice versa...didn't she assume many "wifely" duties of cooking and cleaning for her Dad) because: Love story #2 - It's quite common that (whether one is always conscious of it or not) one marries someone like their Mom or Dad...they find they're attracted to someone with qualities they liked in their opposite sex parent. However, look at Rose's characters comments above. Deep down he wanted his daughter to marry someone like him. (Though on the surface he was aware that was impossible.) Conversely his daughter, on the surface, felt she was going to get away and elope with the mysterious man on the train. The mysterious woman visitor (apparently Rose's character's wife, perhaps in a perfect yet not immediately recognizeable body, like Christ was to His follower Mary after His resurrection?) says the mysterious man is hers, though she has no "rights over him" (I think that's how she said it)? Who else could the mysterious man be then but her husband, Rose's character (or his doppelganger)...she as a deceased woman would indeed have no legal rights over him. And what about the strange ring the dead daughter was found clutching, the one apparently just like her Mom's wedding ring? What else could it have been BUT that ring? I think when all was said and done the daughter wanted someone not only just like her Dad, but her Dad himself...and no other. Yet she knew that was impossible, and the strain of the unobtainable relationship killed her. Conversely, her Dad's secret wish that she marry not HIM but someone LIKE him, was manifested in a way that he would never have wanted. I think the train was a metaphor for the love described above that could never be fully possessed...as trains come and go. However, at least when the train stopped there was contact, acknowledgement and hope within the town. When the train was going to be rescheduled to go right through the town it would essentially have no relationship, no contact at all. And that was essentially (again, I think) the end of the daughter's raison d'etre, her reason to live. You wonder at the end of the play when Rose's character says "the train never stops" if he, too, were never going to love a woman again, for reasons of perpetual grief. One hopes not. What made this play was Rose's character's dialogue, and Rose himself, who was married 60 years and the father of three daughters, who did a great job of putting himself in the other man's shoes. (As a good actor must do.) That and the trains, which I can't get enough of... Excellent show choice,

I have no problem with your interpretation whatsoever. I think this episode works in the way that poetry works--it's suggestive rather than literal, and the listener must bring something of him/herself to it. My view on it is sort of allegorical/mythical, whereas yours might be called psychosexual. What's interesting is how differently we're looking at the story...yet we both find it powerful and meaningful. What more can one ask for from any radio play, or poem, or indeed any work of art? This discussion just reinforces my belief that "The Train Stops" is a wonderful, memorable piece of writing--and your response helps give me new ways of looking at it. Thanks!

my impression of it is that (and I'm just guessing, mind you) this little mousy girl feels so trapped that she really believes she only has the one opportunity to escape--to try to find the strength to reach for a destiny other than her aimless life in that little town. When she fails, the failure seems permanent (as failure often does to young people). She sees no other way out and *wills* herself to die--in a sense, committing suicide. This would certainly square with the intense emotional pain she's in throughout the play. The dead mother character bothered me for a while until I decided that she was simply trying to save her daughter from her likely (or inevitable?) fate by saying that the man was "hers"--trying to tell Mary (through Dad) to be satisfied with the life she had, as she knew that only catastrophe awaited if Mary tried to go forward with The Man. (How did Mom know that? Well...she *is* dead, after all!) But yes, allegory, symbolism, definitely. At least I hope so. I dearly love this episode...It would be nice if it made some kind of sense!

I really appreciate your interpretation of this episode. I heard this show for the first time a few months ago and found it perplexing, but listened to it with "fresh ears" this week and did find it a meaningful, if rather strange and troubling, episode. I hear you suggesting that much of the story is allegory and symbolism and that approach adds a lot of weight to a story that otherwise might have too many loose ends. It would perhaps have been helpful to have more of the back story on the relationship between the doctor and Mary, rather than to just be told that they lack a strong connection. I was confused as to the plot element of having Mary refuse to tell her father anything about the "man" -- not even his name, but if we are not to see him as a literal person, this seems less important. If the girl indeed felt trapped and needed an "opportunity" to allow her to get out of the town, I am still a little puzzled as to why the writer thought death was the only option. On a side note, I thought the music worked especially well in this episode for setting the odd, almost dream-like mood.

Texas those are really cool posters. I just ran across some old train schedules in a box of old family papers. My folks used to ride the super chief. I was a big HO model enthusiast as a teenager but it got swept away in the same wave of youth as RMT did at the time. About ten years ago I was able to travel in europe for a month on vacation, it was trains, trains, trains, had a one-month eurail pass. coolest thing about trains is, they put you right downtown, instead of 20 miles outside the city.

I'm taking the Capitol Limited to Washington, D.C. next weekend. I got a first class accomodation and am really psyched about going. I'm not what you'd call a train enthusiast, but I do enjoy riding Amtrak. I get lots of reading and listening done.

RMT friends, I'd forgotten about this show but...if anyone chooses to listen to "The train stops", I'd suggest then a listen to 750613 - "Stairway to oblivion". The show involves a train, a stationmaster in a remote town, and a spunky DAUGHTER (played by Ann Shepherd, whose voice I've always loved) who, after her father dies goes to take care of her uncle...kind of a mirror image of "The train stops".

Sorry folks, but this one didn't do much for me. I found it to be slow moving, melodramatic and even sappy. The story failed to really capitalize on what could have been even the least bit of suspense. Some may argue that it is subtle and nuanced, but I just say it's boring. I know this is stark criticism for a program we all love, but with 1400 shows, there's bound to be some clinkers and this one of them. Thanks,

The chief. and... The 20th century limited Both mentioned by E.G. at the beginning of the show. Powerful line: "A man shouldn't bring up a girl alone". Someone back in the 70s realized single parents (and Dads) who care don't have it that easy.

I'm the "generous presenter" of "The Train Stops," and I'd like to offer a few words as to why I proposed it. I don't know if I would say that this episode is my all-time favorite--it's too atypical of the series to be called that--but it's the only one that has ever genuinely moved me. I've felt lots of different emotions while listening to CBSRMT (amusement, tension, occasional boredom), but this is the only one of the 100 or so I've heard that packed an actual emotional wallop. It helps, of course, to be fascinated by trains. Like Mary, I grew up in a time long past the heydey of trains, yet I was always attracted to them. When I was a child I could hear the Southern Pacific freights going by in the distance at night as I was drifting off to sleep. And for my 12th birthday, my mother took me on my first actual train ride, up the California coast. I agree absolutely with Texas, that a lot of the power here comes from the usually perceptive writing about fathers and daughters, who calls it "such a sad story, from start to finish." Everyone in this tale is tired, lost, used-up, helpless. Dr. Barnes has no idea how to deal with his daughter and appears to have little human contact with anyone else other than the station master (and, one assumes, his own patients). Ben has outlived his time--a station master whose station is gone. And Mary is an 18-year-old girl with no apparent direction or future. The possibility of her going to college or getting a job is never even mentioned; she dismisses the idea of marrying any of the boys in town. The best she can do, it seems, is serve dinner to her father, at least until she meets the mysterious man. Having heard this episode numerous times, let me say what I think is happening in it. I believe that the man on the train suggests Opportunity. Like many of Elspeth Eric's characters, Mary is wrapped up in a psychological dilemma, in this case trying to visualize a future beyond the little town she's in. Yet she has no apparent job skills, no obvious passions (other than the 5:16 train), no notable talents. In every way throughout the episode she appears depressed, even despairing. She complains of tiredness, illness; her father calls her "troubled" and "haunted." In short, I believe she's trapped, and doesn't know how to escape. The man (whether a hallucination or an actual manifestation) is her way out...If only she can commit herself to him. At one point he even promises her a ring, the ultimate symbol of his commitment to her. And yet, ultimately, she is unable to ever actually board that train, unable to say yes to the idea of leaving the town forever. Later she tries to make up for her mistake, and stop the train with her own body--but it's too late. The "man," Opportunity, is dying/has died, and now all that's left is another kind of trip out with another man--Death, whom she "marries" with the ring that should have been her ticket to a new life. The one element I think doesn't quite work here is the mysterious woman, apparently intended to be the dead mother. Here again, as in so many CBSRMTs, I sense a bit of padding going on. She really doesn't add anything, and doesn't affect the situation in any way; still, she's a haunting presence (literally and figuratively), and does enhance the emotion Dr. Barnes feels at the conclusion, left alone, "a very old man," with both his wife and daughter having come to tragically early ends. I trust you all will let me know if you think my interpretation is completely off-base.... To me, this script is the great culmination of all those unsuccessful psycho-babble scripts Eric foisted on the series. This is the one where, finally, all the elements come together just right to create the kind of lyrical, suggestive, beautiful story she'd been trying to write all along. The production is lovely--Norman Rose couldn't be better as the father, and the mournful music, along with the sound effects (the wind, the train whistle) all add up to an episode that is, to my mind, one of the very best CBSRMTs. I'm glad others seem to like it too.

The point of this comment section is to express your reaction, criticism, or appeasement of these programs. your feedback is vital to lending a realistic and true perspective to the show for everyone. while you say your crit was stark, i think you nailed it. the show was a bit boring and sappy... i hadn't thought that way prior to your post; but after reading it, i laughed and thought to myself, "yeah, he's right!" i found some redeeming qualities in the program, especially regarding the trains and the period where they were becoming obsolete. also, production quality (acting, sound effects, etc) always play a factor for me in the show. when something stands out i try to make note of it, good or bad. for me, your words come much appreciated. thanks for sharing your feedback and your honest criticism!

for several years i worked for a company that was 50 minutes away... that meant, the typical commute was 1.5 hours each way, driving. i often spent more than three hours of each day in a car with nothing more to do than watch the other cars or listen to music. then... they opened up a commuter line right near my work. i began taking the train which was almost always just under one hour each way. i got to read, listen to music, talk to other people, and (gulp!) even snooze once in a while. then, i had to walk about five minutes to get to work... exercise! while it wasn't much fun in the rain or snow, i will always consider that change in my commuting routine as wonderful. it made the commute not only bearable, but something to look forward to. now that i'm in a different role, well... i miss the train. i miss it a lot! especially the snoozing!

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