The Little Engine That Thought it Could

The little engine story is more than 100 years old and it is the ultimate narrative in optimism and perseverance. I can’t imagine anyone not knowing the story but, just in case, here’s a quick synopsis. A stranded train needs help getting over a huge hill. A little steam engine is the only one to offer help but it might have taken on a job too big to handle. It is optimistic and huffs and puffs while pulling the train up the hill. For motivation it says “I think I can, I think I can” an awful lot. In the end he makes it to the top . So proud of himself the whole way down the other side he chants “I knew I could, I knew I could!” I love happy endings.

My Little Engine Story

I think we all have lived a version of the story, here’s my tale about a train and determination. One day in June, Ben, Ben’s mother and I planned to take a day trip to the Rothorn. The Rothorn is a mountain in the Bernese Oberland 2350m above sea level with a beautiful panoramic view. We thought it would be a nice outing and decided to take our dog with us, too. There was still some snow up there and our puppy had never seen snow. We planned to take the normal train from Berne and then catch the special steam train in Brienz for the hour ride up the mountain. We would then enjoy the magnificent view and June snow for a couple of hours and return home. That was the plan, anyway.

Everything started out perfectly, it was a beautiful day, we caught the train in Berne and found seats. Shortly after the train left the station it was announced over the intercom that we would be taking a different route. Okay, we could do that. Then a little later an announcement came on that at the next stop we would have to leave the train to catch another one. Not quite what we had planned, but we had plenty of time and we were flexible.

When the train pulled into the station we were to change trains at, we couldn’t believe our eyes. There were so many people standing on the platform that we almost couldn’t get off the train. The helpers reassured us that everything would be moving again shortly. We found a place for Ben’s mom to sit as far away from the crowd as possible. We also made sure our pup didn’t get trampled. We’re nice like that.

How Time Flies

Because we had distanced ourselves from the crowd, we weren’t right up front elbowing and shoving to get on the next available train. So, we had to wait around 2 hours. Finally we were able to get on a train that brought us to yet another completely filled station. Our excess time was slowly whittling away. We began asking ourselves if we could get to the station in time for the last train up the mountain. And even more, could we get back down? We also wanted to know where all these stranded people wanted to go. Surely not the Rothorn!

We were in the middle of our own real-life little-engine-that-thought-it-could story. At some point we lost all perspective. We just thought “this is what we set out to do, this is what we will do”. We were in too deep to just give up. “I think we can, I think we can.”

Finally we arrived at the station where the steam engine started from. The last train up the mountain was getting ready to leave. Well, at least it hadn’t already left. Needless to say we were practically alone in the train. Obviously the millions and millions of people we had encountered that day were not heading for the Rothorn.

The Top of the Mountain

After a lovely hour long trip up the mountain we arrived at last. While we walked up to the restaurant, our puppy got to play in her first snow. Too cute, really. But she did have to hurry. When we got to the top we did a quick 360° turn, said our oohs and ahhhs and took in the beauty.

Then we went into the restaurant and ordered some coffee, in my case tea, and cake. The weather was perfect and It had been a busy day on the mountain and at the restaurant. Business had been so good, in fact that there was only one piece of cake left. We took that and split it three ways and drank our drinks as quickly as possible. After all, the last train up the mountain was also the last train down and was getting ready to leave. We had spent a remarkable 10 minutes at the top of the mountain and it was time to catch the last train to descend.

The whole way down I thought smiling to myself, “I knew we could, I knew we could…”

When we got home we saw on the evening news that there had been some kind of an electrical overload on the train line. They said there was pure chaos on the route. Duh. We could have told you that.

The Swiss train Company reimbursed us for the ride that should have taken 1 hour but took 7. We weren’t reimbursed for the steam train ride, after all, we did catch that. We decided not to use our reimbursement to go to the Rothorn again. No, we had so much fun the first time we figured we couldn’t top that. We used the tickets for a different trip.

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