February 19

I was touched by the boyhood memories of listening to passing trains that Jonathan Yardley shared in “Of rails, rail barons and ‘railfans,’ ” his Feb. 16 Book World review of Tom Zoellner’s “Train.” The sound of a train whistle carried me through some challenging periods of my youth, including my college years, when I lived with my grandmother in an old railroad flat two blocks from tracks running along the Allegheny River.

Grandma, whose formal education ended after sixth grade, was sending me to Duquesne University on her life savings. From the time I was a child, she said to me, “You have to be educated. A woman can’t pull herself up by her bootstraps like a man.” I will never forget sitting at the card table that was my desk near the space heater (the house did not have central heat) and studying. When the train whistle shrilled from the back window and the whole house shook, it sounded like opportunity to me. I raced like a train down its track.

Carol Morgan, Washington