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The train fire


Jérôme lived in a modest house in a remote village in Chamonix valley. The walls in his room were filled with pictures of a life spent on the mountains, in search of adventure. Now 82, he spent most of his time near the fireplace reading books and admiring at the snow clad mountains from his window.


In the summer of 1907, like every summer, Jérôme packed his bag to visit his son, daughter-in-law and his eight year old grandson Eugène who lived in the North of France. Eugène would wait for his grandfather at the train station every year and his excitement never went unrewarded. Jérôme came in not just with gifts but also with a wealth of stories from his life of adventure as a ski instructor. Every night after dinner Jérôme would narrate a story, which Eugène could visualise the next day as if he had been there himself.


This time Jérôme had a new story to tell – a story about a train fire that he saw while skiing in the Chamonix valley. He recounted how in one of the winters he saw a goods train passing over a bridge suddenly caught fire and how he saw the driver jump out of the train to save his life. It was weeks before anyone could remove the train to clear up the tracks. The driver, Jérôme recounted, made his way to the next station walking three days and nights on the tracks in freezing cold. Eugène listened to the story spellbound. Just the mention of a

train could get him excited; one on fire was enough to keep him awake the whole night.


By the time Jérôme’s trip came to end, Eugène had made his grandfather narrate the story a million times. Jérôme could see the admiration in his grandson’s eyes for a man who had witnessed the great train fire. Clearly Jérôme was as much besotted by his grandson’s innocence as Eugène in awe of him. Reaching back home in Chamonix, Jérôme took up another journey; this time to the nearby towns and after a hard search he found a postcard that could tell the great train fire story to his grandson many times over, till he meets him again next summer.


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