Time is a train, makes the future the past. Standing in the station, your face pressed up against the glass. -- U2, Zoo Station from Achtung Baby
Trains are images used in songs, in films, in poems and songs. There is just something fascinated about this symbol, something that conveys a variety of meanings and sets a certain mood. Perhaps it's because there isn't as much anxiety about train travel as there is with air travel. We feel safer on trains, and there is something quite spectacular about settling into our seats and watching the world pass leisurely by outside our windows.
As with most symbols, the meaning of dreams of train can be found by comparing the dream image with its counterpart in waking life. Carl Jung was a proponent of "amplifying" dream symbols which is somewhat different from associating dream symbols. Dream amplification involves taking the symbol and describing it as one would to a person who has never heard of the symbol before.
To do this, one lists everything one can about the symbol. So for a train, one might say it is a powerful mode of public transportation, it is generally used for long journeys, it runs on tracks, it is guided by engineers, it has cars, it is a slower mode of transportation than an airplane and it stays on the ground.
Using these ideas, the train as a dream symbol can mean a number of things. It could symbolize a journey--a journey which may be symbolic itself, such as journeying into regions in the psyche that are unexplored or journeying into a new relationship. It could also point to a journey into a new facet of life, a new destiny.
As a mode of transportation that is not controlled by the dreamer (unless, of course the dreamer is an engineer) the train might symbolize a powerful force that is guiding you but one over which you feel you have no control. If the train crashes, this might symbolize a force that is less than beneficent. In this country train travel is not as common as it is in other countries such as Europe, so the train might also symbolize some powerful, set way of doing something that may be outdated.
The idea of the powerful outside force can also be seen in the symbol of the train as a mass transit vehicle. Many people are on trains which may suggest that the dream is simply doing as those around her do. In this way, a train dream might mean that one is conforming to the images those around her have or is going where those around her want her to go rather than doing what she believes is best. Alternatively, the train might also be a play on words since trains run on tracks. The symbolism here might be one of encouragement. The dream might be saying, "You are on the right track."
Dream association may be a key to unlocking the meaning of your dream train. What do you think of when you think of a train? Do you think of it as something outdated, or do you enjoy and prefer train travel? If you are European, you may travel by train quite frequently which may give the train a quite different meaning. I personally have quite strong and fond associations with trains having travelled on them in Europe and taking them whenever possible in the States. Train dreams for me then, are likely to have a very positive meaning unless of course the train derails!
A train derailment dream might be attempting to convey the idea that something one felt was safe isn't. This type of dream could be an anxiety dream, a dream reflecting fear of one's environment. It could also be a dream warning that if something powerful isn't stopped soon, there will be serious consequences ahead. Missing a train may convey a similar idea--the dreamer is missing out on a big opportunity. Conversely, waiting for a train may convey the idea that the dreamer is waiting on something big to happen, some twist of fate that she is helpless to control.
Some people find trains "sexy" and it has been stated that the train entering the tunnel is a classic symbol of sex. The movie "Risky Business" made great use of the train as a sexual symbol. If you associate trains with sex, a train in your dream might indeed be standing in for some kind of sexual desire.
Look carefully at the train in your dream and compare it to your associations with trains in waking life and you should be able to find out where the train is taking your psyche.
As always, sleep well and dream out loud!
*~Aisling Ireland~* is an ordained Spiritual Counselor providing dream interpretation and Tarot readings. To make an appointment check out her website at: web.mac.com/aisling.ireland
Below are two great books on dreams and dream symbolism--I own them both. "Man and His Symbols" is probably the most accessible and informative book you can find on C.G Jung's ideas on dream interpretation.