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Discussion in 'The Golden Era' started by Blackthorn, Jul 25, 2014.
There's something very Rube Goldberg-ish about those locomotives.
Most of my uncles and a few other relatives on my mother's side worked for the railroad and none of them ever suggested they say anything romantic about any aspect of it. For many of those years and those are the years I remember, the locomotives were electric (they were usually called "motors") and were big, boxy things with no style or aesthetic appeal. They were about as streamlined as a shoebox. But I imagine they required a lot less maintenance than steam locomotives, which I can just barely remember. The trains were nearly all freight trains, pulling long lines of coal hoppers through the hills of southern West Virginia.
Railroading was once cutting edge technology, a bit like being the Silicon Valley or Internet of its day. Also, it required a lot of hands on expertise to run a train which meant a workforce that took pride in their skills and being part of the era's cutting edge technology.
Additionally, the steam engine was an impressive beast - for many, it was the largest and most complex piece of technology they'd ever seen. You could see and feel its power. And the pay was, job for job, very good in railroading.
All of that added up to an impressive aura to railroading in the second half of the 1800s and well into the 1900s. An offshoot of that was the romanticizing of railroading both at the time - the literature and testimonials of the period support this - and in retrospect (heck, many of us here feel it).
The switch to diesels and electric (which required less manpower and less specialized skills to run) after WWII - concomitant with the decline of railroading overall as planes and the interstate highway took prominence in transportation - undermined the pride and romanticizing of working in railroading. It's hard to have an upbeat view, positive energy and emotional commitment to an industry in decline. You can see and feel that as well in the period literature as a sort of ennui and remorse replaced the earlier enthusiasm - those in it, knew its best days were behind it.
I think there has always been a certain amount of romanticism attached to most forms of transportation, even now. There are a lot of elements that kill those aspects, to be sure, but it's still there. It's isn't necessarily about the vehicle but more about the journey itself. But sometimes the vehicle can be fascinating, like the steam locomotives. I'd also include riverboats, float planes, sea planes and stage coaches. Tramp steamers, too, and there's a thread about them.
They're all about going somewhere and sometimes that means leaving home, the first big adventure in life.
from Shorpy, "Circa 1910. "Los Angeles & San Diego Beach Railway -- Gasoline motor car running from San Diego to La Jolla, California."
It looks like paved roads were low on the list of priorities. In one of the W.C. Fields movies, "The Bank Dick," I think it was, Fields boasted at how many paved blocks the town had. The town was Lompoc, California, a real town where it was filmed. That's what you call civic pride.
Some wonderful old subway eye candy:
Mind the gap!
This is my model of the Broadway Limited consist of April, 1953.
CTS - very, very nice. I admit that once my time machine is perfected, I'm going to take a ride on the 20th Century Limited first, but the Broadway Limited and Santa Fe Super Chief are tied for second.
You can still take a ride on the Orient Express, if you have the fare (and a trifle to spare).
In the movie "Obsession," a story about a man who is going to get even with another man for messing around with his wife, there is a discussion between him and a police detective about trains, since the main character has a model railroad hobby. The actor is Robert Newton, better known for playing Long John Silver.
For the Holidays (darn it, now I'm doing it, for Christmas), the NYC Subway is running a string of historic subway cars on one line each Sunday durning the season. And, yes, super girlfriend and I were there bright and early to ride. Hope you enjoy the pictures (there's a special surprise for Lizzie at the end). Sorry, but the system seems to be forcing me to break this into several posts.
And some of the vintage advertising this one chosen specially for Lizzie as I believe it was one of her favorites:
I also have a great video of the historic subway train, but it is 44MBs and the FL limit is 19.6. However, others have posted longer videos (like ChiTownScions cool one above) - is there something I can do to "compress" the video so that I can post it here?
I've played around on my Mac, but nothing I've done has worked so far - any thoughts? Thank you
I'm jealous. The only vintage streetcar I've ever been in (I'm sure some of the cars on the Boston T must qualify as "vintage," but you know what I mean) was the one on diplay at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. And it didn't go anywhere. Not even to the Hill District.
I can remember cars like that on the T in the early seventies -- wicker seats, rattling metal wheels, the whole bit. Riding the subway today is like a palace car by comparison.