Friday, August 7, 2015

On the Track to Adventure

Thought for the day:  Warning: the light at the end of the tunnel might be an oncoming train. 


[source: morguefile]
We saw plenty of trains last Saturday, but thank goodness, not a single one of them was coming at us through a tunnel. They were all sitting still, and on display at the Southeastern Railway Museum, which also happened to be hosting a bunch of antique trucks and tractors that day. AND we could climb up and walk through most of those old trains! Cool, huh? There's something romantic about the notion of traveling by train. Not the bazillion miles per hour bullet trains of today, but the old, slower-moving, steam-spewing trains with the fellow in the back waving a lantern from the caboose.

Since y'all couldn't join us that day, how about the next best thing... pictures? With, um , just a few words thrown in by me, of course...

There were quite a few steam locomotives there, but I won't bore you by showing you pictures of all of them. I'll just bore you by showing you a picture of one of them. This is the General II, which looks identical to the more famous General of Civil War fame, which is located at another museum in Kennesaw, Georgia.

The time will come when people will travel in stages moved by steam engine from one city to another, almost as fast as birds can fly, fifteen or twenty miles per hour...  [Oliver Evans, 1800] I wonder what this pioneer of steam engines would think about today's much-faster-than-a-bird speeds of travel.


There were also a number of steam-powered tractors there. Those things are HUGE!








This is an overview of one of the kitchens on a military train used from approximately the twenties until the forties.

What was that old saying from the Civil War? Something about the Army traveling on its stomach... 

And the other one... something about military food being the real spoils of war...?

Okay, so maybe the emphasis in cooking for the troops was more on quantity than quality. This 16-burner coal stove could sure handle the quantity part quite well. Can you imagine how hot it must have been in that train car when the cooking was going full steam ahead?


Yeah, these signs about humping always crack me up, too. (I wonder if there are also signs that say something like, Please hump here.)

In case you're wondering what it means to hump in railroad lingo, that's when an engine pushes a car, or block of cars, up a man-made hill... which is called a hump... so at the top, gravity can take over. The car(s) then go down the other side of the hill, and are easily shunted to the proper track and/or resting place.

Although that hump sign doesn't have anything to do with what consenting adults can do aboard a train, there have been a number of laws over the years aimed at regulating human behavior while riding the rails. For example, in Wisconsin, it was once illegal for people to kiss on a train, and in Seattle, Washington, if a woman dared to sit on a man's lap without placing a pillow between them, she would automatically face six months in the slammer. A bit harsh, don't you think? But this was even worse: in Alabama, putting salt on a train track was once punishable by death! Rhode Island was a bit more merciful; throwing pickle juice at a trolley was only a misdemeanor. In Chicago, Illinois, a law prohibited eating in a place that was on fire, but after considerable discussion, an amendment was added to that law in 1912, making it permissible to eat while in a steam train's dining car. Ready for my favorite? In Texas, an old law dictated that when two trains met at a railroad crossing, each had to come to a full stop, and neither could proceed until the other one had gone. (Huh?)

[source: morguefile]
Time for a joke:

Two somewhat inebriated fellas were having a very difficult time walking uphill on a railroad track.

Between huffs and puffs, the first one said, "This is the longest staircase I've ever seen."

The other replied, "The stairs aren't too bad, but I really hate these low banisters!"


I especially enjoyed going through some of the old Pullman cars. Tell you what, for their day, that must have seemed like luxurious travel. Some of the compartments were fairly spacious. The seats converted into beds, and some of the compartments even had a sink and commode. For family travel, some had an adjoining room with additional beds, usually bunked.


But as I gazed into these compartments with my imagination in overdrive, I couldn't help but remember a story I read some years back:

Mr. Pullman received a letter of complaint from a train passenger regarding a horrific infestation of bed bugs. In return, the passenger received a very nice letter of apology, thanking the man for letting them know about it, and assuring him that the matter would be taken care of immediately. Unfortunately, also in the envelope with that letter of apology was a hand-written note from Pullman to his secretary, advising her to send this SOB the bed bug letter. 


This is a 1915 Harvester, a 4-cylinder, 19 1/2 horsepower, Model F, one-ton truck. It is one of only ninety-nine trucks manufactured by the International Harvester Company in Chicago that year. Notice anything unusual about it? The radiator is located behind the engine.

Those of you who work crossword puzzles have probably come across the old Reo vehicles a time or two. Well, this is a 1912 Reo truck. Trucks like this were often referred to as High Wheelers because of those large wagon-like wheels. No wonder trucks of that vintage were called horseless carriages. 


This early fire truck makes it pretty obvious how much of a challenge it used to be to put out any large fires. Looking at the fire hoses and pump assembly, it was a very physically challenging job, as well.




Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.  [Will Rogers]


Okay, I don't know if this blog post is on the right track or not, but I'm not gonna just sit here. Time to go. That's right.

                                                             This is... THE END.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.




57 comments:

  1. A couple of years ago I was able to take a trip on a steam train. Filthy, slow and wasteful. And complete magic.
    I was fascinated to notice a billy on the engine - so the driver could have a cuppa on the way.
    Loved the bed bug joke, and suspect there is a lot of truth in it.

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    1. Thank goodness! When I started to read your comment, I was disappointed when you said that part about the train being filthy, slow, and wasteful. I was thinking... but, but but... And then you said it was complete magic. :-)

      I'm pretty sure the bed bug story IS a true one.

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  2. Hi Susan - it was the staircase that amused me ... crazy thoughts - the low banister! Stupid laws - I can concur with your tag there .. honestly ... pickles, salt, vinegar ...

    But beautiful engines ... and so well crafted ... those were the days. Puffing billies ... they were around as I grew up ... and are good days out now .. cheers Hilary

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    1. The joke about the "staircase" cracked me up, too. I could just imagine those two guys hunched over while walking down the tracks.

      Cheers back atcha!

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  3. There is no better transport, no better history and no better way to examine the enigmas of the universe than by train. I have long been a supporter and aficionado of the train museum in California's capital. Enjoyed your post immensely.

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    1. Dude! I'm so glad to hear you're a fan of old trains, too.

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  4. What a fascinating post - I confess to childish giggling at the thought of humping cars ...

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    1. Oh, good. I'm glad I'm not the only adolescent giggler around here. :)

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  5. That Texas train aw is just plain silly and I have to ask, was the throwing of pickle juice such a huge problem that the ensuing law had to be written?

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    1. Yeah, that Texas law makes absolutely no sense at all. Makes me wonder what the lawmakers were drinking when they passed it.

      I wondered the same thing about the pickle juice...

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  6. It is interesting to see how it looks inside and to imagine how they've used them before. I love that part of acts punishable by the law :)

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    1. I agree. Half the fun of walking through old trains is imagining what they were like in the past, and thinking about all the people who rode them.

      Those laws? Really stupid, aren't they?

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    2. They are and it gives us a good laugh :)

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  7. So that's where the term hump came from. Crazy laws on the books at that last one from Texas, huh?
    Would love to travel cross country on a train, but the bed bug story just made me rethink that idea. Creepy crawlers, no thanks. Speaking of, you should have seen the fit I took yesterday. I looked down and saw a spider sitting on my chest. I immediately grabbed the beast with a tissue I had in my hand and then went nuts. My husband came to my rescue. The tissue in my hand, the one I was crushing with all my might while practically screaming at the top of my lungs - except there was no sound, I couldn't talk or scream. Looking at it now it's hilarious, but at that moment I freaked. Literally!

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    1. Um, trains don't have bed bugs on them any more. :) (I hope...)

      HA! I take it you reeeeeeally don't like spiders. Sounds like you were having an "arachnoleptic fit." Better than having a caterpallor. That's the color you turn when you find half a grub in the apple you're eating. :)

      Happy weekend! (Literally!)

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  8. Susan I love trains... I used to take the train back and forth from Ontario to Halifax a lot in the 1980's ... I loved it, it was relaxing and I adored seeing the country that way. We have less and less trains these days which is sad.

    I laughed about all the old rules on the books... it's so strange some of the laws that were enacted... crazy to say the least...

    Have a great weekend xox ♡

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    1. How cool that you used to be a frequent train traveler. It would be a whole different feeling from traveling by car or bus. Maybe some day... (Better make it soon!)

      Happy weekend!

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  9. lol good you explained the humping, I would have presumed rednecks or people let their dogs hump the trains otherwise

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  10. I love trains and your old ones are so different from the ones we have in the UK. I think it should be the man who is thrown into the slammer but that's a personal opinion!!

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    1. Well, I guess you know I'm gonna have to research what old UK trains looked like now. :)

      Doesn't seem quite fair, does it? I suppose women were held to a higher standard.

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  11. I always liked taking the train into Philly. Just the whoosh and flourishes, the chug chug. I'd say you took us on quite a journey with this post - through the tunnel and around the bend. Thanks

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    1. Yep, Smarticus is always telling me my thinking is "around the bend..." :)

      Happy weekend!

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  12. Another fascinating post. I like trains but haven't been on one since Lincoln was President. Actually the last time I rode on a train I was five. We went from New Jersey to Boston to visit friends.

    The "Do Not Hump Cars" sign alarmed me at first - thanks for explaining it. I've never humped a car - - not even when I was drunk.
    Wow! I could sure use that steam-powered tractor here in the wilderness.
    And I could use that sixteen-burner stove, but can you imagine how much coal it would take to keep it going??

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    1. A train ride from New Jersey to Boston must have been pretty exciting for a five-year-old. (I'd still find it exciting!)

      I'm glad to hear you never humped a car, cowboy. Some sports cars have such nice sleek lines...

      It'd take a LOT of coal to keep that stove going. More than I ever want to shovel again.

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  13. I've heard that "bed bug letter" story before. Everything I've heard about Pullman makes him out to be a terrible man! His family buried him in a lead-lined coffin completely surrounded by a concrete vault because they were that afraid of his grave being vandalized!

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    1. What... no cage around his grave? Maybe there should have been.

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  14. Dontcha just love history. I'm such a cheap date. A perfect date for me would be a trip to see some old relics of the past, (no I don't mean family) and a nice meal. Demands for fur coats and diamonds, would come later.

    That beautiful 16-burner coal stove, makes the Aga cooker look like a barbecue! Fascinating as always Susan.

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    1. Yes, I do love history.After all, as my grandchildren would happily tell you, I've lived so much of it...!

      I loved that stove, but I sure wouldn't want to be the poor slob stuck with the job of feeding it coal.

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  15. There is something romantic about train travel. Well, not in reality, but in theory.

    I traveled via Amtrak from NY to GA in the 90s. Turns out it's much more comfortable than bus travel (and takes about the same amount of time). I'd travel by train again if need be...

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    1. You're right.The reality probably isn't nearly as romantic as it is in my imagination.

      Wow, NY to GA is a pretty long trip. If you'd be willing to do it again, it must have been enjoyable. (sigh) Maybe some day...

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  16. I love trains and I miss that we don't have them here like in Europe. With school kids taking public transportation to school (no yellow school buses there), I used to ride the train to school for eight years. Great for doing homework!

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    1. I didn't realize students actually took trains to school in Europe. How cool! How long did it take you? If it was a longish trip, you must have had to get up reeeeeeally early. I either walked to school or took a bus, and I had to get up before six. That was plenty early enough for me.

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    2. Kids still take trains to school today if they go to a school in another town. I remember getting up around six, had to ride my bike to the train station (15 minutes or so), train ride to the town with my high school (30 minutes or so), and then the walk from that train station to the high school (another 25 minutes or so). I guess it's a good thing kids have a lot of energy!

      (And of course, all of this was done in the snow, uphill both ways...:-) )

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    3. That was quite a lot to go through to get to school. It's a wonder you weren't all too pooped to pop by the time you got there. My walk to elementary school was only about a mile, (if I took the shortcut across the creek that I was never, ever supposed to take, it was a tad shorter in distance, but longer in time because I found it absolutely necessary to stop there and fool around) and junior high and high school were both considerably farther away, so I rode the school bus most days, and walked other days just because I liked to walk.

      And yes, of course, it was always snowing, and uphill both ways. :)

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  17. How fascinating. I vaguely remember seeing a steam engine in a museum long ago. They really took off. I enjoy train rides. The fastest I've been on is the Eurostar.

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    1. Steam engines didn't move nearly as quickly as more modern trains like your Eurostar, but riding on any of them would be quite an adventure.

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  18. Neat photos and interesting information. It must have been fun to travel in those old Pullman cars.

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    1. I think it would have been a lot of fun, too. (Without the bed bugs!)

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  19. I love trains. When I lived in England, I took them every weekend. I traveled to Scotland, Wales, and other parts of England. Trains were always comfortable, relaxing, and relatively efficient.

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    1. It's good to hear that you still love trains. Too often, when people do something on a regular basis like you did, they stop appreciating and enjoying it. Sounds like trains took you on some wonderful adventures.

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  20. You and your hubby sure go to some fun places! I'd love to travel by train across country.

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    1. We're willing to go just about anyplace, and we try to squeeze as much fun as we can out of wherever we go. We figure, with the right attitude, every day is an adventure, and every place can be fun. (Yeah, we do set the bar kinda low... :) )

      Me, too! A cross-country train trip would be a REAL adventure.

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  21. We've both always wanted to take a trip by train. In fact, a year back they were holding this contest where the sponsors would pay for 2 writers to take a trip cross country on a train, so they could just write the whole time. We didn't win, but that's still something we want to try one day. I bet it's writing paradise. Well, unless you're getting humped or you accidentally spill salt on the track and get put to death...

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    1. That cross-country writing train ride does sound like writing paradise, but if it were me, I'd better not sit next to the window, because I'd be more interested in watching the countryside go by than in putting my thoughts down on paper.

      Now, now... no humping allowed! Oh, be a rebel. Toss some cayenne on the tracks. (For a hot time...?)

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  22. Great post, although having lived in Duluth for some years, I’m embarrassed to admit I never visited the Southeastern Railway Museum. Kept passing it on the way to Costco, thinking, I have to check that out. Weird how things work. I lived in Seattle for 12 years and never made it up in the Space Needle either.

    I once took the Verde Canyon Railroad Wilderness Train with a friend. Spectacular. I also traveled England by rail. So comfortable and easy. Made me appreciate the convenience of a small country. :)

    Loved the bed bug story!

    VR Barkowski

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    1. Hmmm, so I'm thinking you didn't go to Stone Mountain Park while you were here, either. I'm guessing you just took it for granite. :)

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  23. This looks like a cool place *adds it to to go list* I really dig trains. There's just something... nostalgic about it? Plus, I hate planes and can read on a train while I can't in a car.

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    1. As neat as I think it is to look out the window of an airplane at the little bitty stuff on the ground below, I think it'd be a lot neater to move more slowly past stuff on a train and really get to see the scenery. (Without having to drive!)

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  24. I've always been fascinated by steam travel. There's just something so different about it.

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    1. Yeah, there's definitely something unique about steam travel. Dirtier, slower, noisier, and MUCH more romantic. :)

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  25. Fascinating pictures! I really enjoyed the joke. I didn't realize they had steam-powered tractors before.

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    1. If you can believe it, there have even been steam-powered airplane engines!

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