Everyone likes train stations. Airports? Airports are horrible—they're just big white cubes that stink of Cinnabon. But train stations are romantic, full of wooden benches, and echoing with the "chugga-chugga-chugga" of an arriving train.
The main meeting point in A Long Way from Chicago is the train station, where the kids get off to go see their Grandma Dowdel. At the beginning, she comes to meet them, but later, they just hop off the train and head on over to her house:
When we got down off the train, Grandma was there on the platform. After our first visit she'd never met us at the train, figuring we could find our own way. But here she was, under her webby old black umbrella to shade her from the sun. (6.1)
The train station represents a way that the characters welcome each other and show affection and love. Even though Grandma Dowdel acts like she doesn't like Effie Wilcox, she's still at the train station to see her off—and to welcome her home later on.
The book ends with Joey passing through the train station in his grandmother's town and seeing her outside, waving furiously at him even though it's the middle of the night and she can't see him:
Grandma was there, watching through the watches of the night for the train to pass through. She couldn't know what car I was in, but her hand was up, and she was waving—waving big at all the cars, hoping I'd see.
And I waved back. I waved long after the window filled with darkness and long distance. (8.6-8.7)
Even after all the time that has passed, and despite the fact that Joey doesn't "need" his grandma to see him off as he goes to training before serving in World War II, the fact that she waves at him as he passes through on the train shows just how much she loves him—even if she doesn't say it in that many words.
No, we're not crying. We were cutting onions, okay? We were cutting onions and watching Titanic at the same time.