A Streamliner to Kelly Lake.
I occasionally indulge in some daydreaming . . . often that involves thinking about some of the train rides I took many decades ago. I remember—I was probably nine or ten at the time—traveling with my family to Wisconsin where my mother’s parents had a summer house on a lake.
I don’t remember much about the house except that the facilities were primitive by today’s standards. How primitive? There was a privy out behind the house and, as far as I know, it was used by everyone—my grandmother and grandfather included.
At any rate, we traveled there from Connecticut by train—from Hartford to Springfield and from there, I suppose, to Chicago where we connected with a train up into Wisconsin and whatever stop was closest to Kelly Lake. I do remember that because it wasn’t just any train; it was a ”streamliner”. My definition of that term in those days being an entire consist with the same livery—more specifically something other than the traditional dark green that seems to have been the standard for sleepers and coaches of the time.
I’m sure the train had a name, although I don’t remember it. What I do remember is the men’s lounge at one end of our sleeper. It fascinated me. I had no idea it was possible to create a facility like that on a train. It was equipped with several sinks, each with hot and cold water faucets and a large mirror, and three enclosed toilet stalls. I remember entering the lounge and seeing several men at the sinks, shaving. There was a haze of cigar smoke in the room—smoking was permitted in those days, of course.
Today’s generation is shocked to learn that those toilets emptied directly onto the tracks, which was and, truthfully, still is the best and most practical solution to the issue of how best to dispose of human waste from a passenger train. That simple and foolproof system remained the accepted norm well into the 1970s. However, thanks to a couple of guys in a rowboat, fishing under a railroad bridge somewhere in Florida as a train passed above them . . . Ah, well, you knew that, right?
In this incredible, modern society, we’ve all become accustomed to scientific and medical breakthroughs, so It’s almost impossible for us to imagine the impact that the coming of the railroad had on the lives of ordinary people 150 years ago. Consider this: until the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad began running passenger trains, no human being had ever traveled faster than a horse could run. I’ve always found that thought to be quite profound.