We’ve totally lost of glamour of train travel. And it was glamorous, for a while. In the late 20’s, trains were fast losing their market share due to the automobile, so they all got competitive. Instead of being simply a conveyance that got you from point A to point B, the Pullman became a luxurious way to travel, the engines “streamlined”, with elegant cars to sleep in and elegant cars to eat in and others to drink in and the porter to bring you anything you wanted if you didn’t feel up to getting it yourself (much to Emily’s dismay.) The rails were smooth, so that you noiselessly and quickly travelled along. Here’s some pictures of sleeping car arrangements.
The top bunk folds into the wall, the bottom one becomes the seat, in this case with a table that folds down. (I don’t remember hearing anything about that in Emily and Charles’ car, but the varieties of arrangements were endless.) The hall, off which the compartments branches. looks a little like a prison. I’m sure Emily thought so!
Let’s think about the porter for a minute. Without him, a trip would have been impossible, for not only did he make up your bed, when the time came, but he provided lots of other services, aside from hauling your luggage in and out. He’d iron your clothes, baby-sit your children, deliver trays of food, shine your shoes, and endure your racial slurs, if it was your practice to use them, with a smile, for your tips were crucial. If he complained, either about the treatment of the conditions of his work, he was fired. He worked 400 hours a month and was paid $66.Ten years later, in 1939, when Steven took the train from Port Huron to Boston, then took the Old Colony to Waterford, he’d have been well looked after by the train crew, who’d have assumed responsibility for him.
Not long after that came World War Two. Gasoline and tires were rationed, and it didn’t take long for trains to become overloaded with vacationers, soldiers on furlough, and families traveling to visit loved ones at military bases. Reservations for spots in Pullman sleeping cars were so hard to come by that scalpers made a fortune buying and reselling them. They were never as elegant after that, I think. The war had worn them out, and when it was over, you could buy a new car and there was plenty of gas. The trains lost the competitive edge, but you can still reserve a sleeping car, and there’s still a separate place to consume alcoholic beverages.