Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Do So Many Autistic People Love Trains?

In honor of National Train Day, which is this coming Saturday May 11th, the day before Mother’s Day, I’m going to answer one of my most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).  I’m doing this theme now to give everyone a head’s up because National Train Day is only six years old now and not so well known yet.  You don’t want to miss it, because your local train station probably has wonderful free events going on (click here to see if there are Facebook invites).  So this is also a Public Service Announcement (PSA).

Why do so many Autistic people love trains?

To answer this question, I can speak from the personal standpoint, and also as someone who is well educated and knows a great many other Autistic people who have filled in gaps in my own education.

I have ridden a large number of Amtrak lines and discussed most others in graphic detail with Autistic colleagues as well as having been a passenger on large lines in Belgium, Germany, France, England, Canada and Scotland.  As for commuter trains, I have taken a variety of such in the aforementioned countries, in addition to the USA, including the debut of MAX in Portland, OR, as well as BART, the Metra and Metro, the T, the L, and the good old NYC Subway.  This list is nowhere near exhaustive, but I still do not want to leave out the fabulous EuroStar.

One last thing I will tell you here that I have not written before is that in the 'eighties, I also rode in some boxcars on one of the Union Pacific lines.  I have since found out that the “Piper” we would have to pay upon arrival at some particular bridge we never actually came to cross is not a charming colloquial expression for Conductor on a freight train.   Sorry about that, Union Pacific.  I love you forever.

For all the trains I have ridden, I have watched and discussed many, many more.

And thus can give you my answer:

We love trains because they are excellent, and also awesome.

Happy National Train Day, and Happy Mother’s Day!



  1. What about trains makes them excellent and awesome? Seriously, I'd love to know. I rely on public transportation, but to me, it's just a way to go somewhere. :)

    Happy National Train Day and Mother's Day!

  2. I don't get why other autistics love trains. So please do explain.

  3. So we had to look up events right away. They are, sad to say, model train setups here. We were hoping for more of the real thing. BUT we still get to ride our real trains!

    Why are they awesome? Why is your favorite color your favorite? According to my son, steam trains are better than diesel trains. They have black smoke AND steam that whooshes out loudly. They have a bell AND a whistle. Sometimes the whistle sounds low and spooky, sometimes high and loud.

  4. I'm Autistic and trains confuse me. I like my car and GPS because it just tells me where to go, but I would much prefer if the car drove itself. That said, I do wish the US had a better, faster, cheaper train system.

  5. Oh, I don't actually know the answer, other than awesomeness, and excellence! But I suspect that a lot of people love trains, all sorts of people, and it's a measurement coincidence. Autistic people are not afraid to Announce about what we Love, so it makes it look like more of us care than do people in the general population. However, why would model trains and subsidized mass transit exist if others didn't agree? After all, according to authorities, we are a minority of only a little over one per cent of the population. Another facet of the population who is not afraid to announce what they love, and is not a minority in terms of numbers, is kids. Kids know that trains are awesome and excellent.

  6. Also of course it is perfectly natural and to be expected that many Autistic people do not love trains. This is why my piece was sort of tongue in cheek, because honestly, it really is a question people ask me very, very often. And really, the best answer I know is the answer I first gave, because in the world of my brain, it's The Truth. Love to All!!

  7. I don't know. My son volunteers at a train museum, has talked since 4th grade about inventing a steam locomotive that runs on some hydrogen/oxygen fuel mix and talked to a chemical engineer from Oak Ridge Laboratories about it. We have an O scale train set up in our family room. He saved money to buy UP stock. I reallllly wish I knew!

    He got a Brio set when he was 3 for christmas, and there has been no looking back. Thomas the Tank Engine was his favorite show.

    They are huge (trains), and maybe they mimic the internal engine within, he has always run high. I've often wondered if the industrial revolution could be accounted for by autistic-type thought, by engineers whose thoughts were of machines.

    I had to see this blogpost, it was announced in the archives where I could see it, when another post (pronouns) led me to your blog. You are very kind to say trains are excellent!

  8. For the commenters asking "but why?!"

    It is an unscientific, anecdotal, but really, really frequent observation of mine that *a lot* of autistic people are very, very wanderlusty. In kids they pathologize it as "wandering behavior." But so many of us that I know, just love GOING SOMEWHERE. And I suspect that deep down, love of trains has something to do with that. They're like the ultimate romantic symbol of GOING SOMEWHERE.

    But my first answer is the same as Ibby's. They are excellent, and also awesome.