Traveling by train in the 20s and 30s

So, when we were up in Oklahoma we got to go through their train car they have in the museum.  It’s open a couple of times a year and we got lucky and were there during that time.


Now our guide was rather………. okay, there’s no nice way to say it, he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.  I’ll provide you a mini-rant when I get to the point I was no longer able to remain silent.


Now this whole train car is a private car, and was made my the company’s executives.  This is the equivalent of the lounge car where you can seat about 10 people.  This couch transforms into a bunk bed.  The back moves up to become the top bunk. 



In the back is a speedometer “so the fat cats who were riding in it could tell if the drivers were slacking off and not doing their job, at which point they would be fired right away.”


Yeah……….  I think he might have literally said that.


There was also a call button, which I did not get a picture of.  I will not treat you to the nonsense he explained to us about how they porters were supposed to respond.



Here’s a bedroom.  This particular car had 3 bedrooms in addition to the lounge.  The lounge was able to sleep 4.  Each of the bedrooms was able to sleep 2, which made for beds for 10 passengers and then 2 crew beds.


During the day the room looks like this, there are two roomy chairs and a table in between.  The ceiling above is slightly sloped because that is the bunk bed that pulls down for people to sleep on.



Unfortunately with the holly on the top bunk it’s a little hard to see what it was like.  But, the top bunk pulls down, and those two chairs slide together to make a bed.  It’s rather like RV beds now.


At this point I was biting my tongue really hard not to correct him as he attempted to explain traveling by rail.


Ummm……  I’ve traveled by train, and it had very little to do with what he said.



The dining car was set up with a full course meal, and our guide said the cooks would have to be ready to serve a full course meal at the drop of a hat.


My experience with trains is you have an assigned time to come for your meal and you come then and are presented with several options.  Now this is a private car, so it may be different, but I don’t know of any chef who is able to create a multi-course meal at the drop of a hat.


I might mention our guide was a college student who probably doesn’t cook anything more complicated than Ramen.



And now we come to the part where I totally lost it and corrected him POLITELY.  I was polite.


He said, “The owner of the car was very proud of hiring ex-slaves who had just recently been freed from slavery.  He required them to memorize this whole thing on the rules of ettiquette.  It was very hard for them because it was a lot to memorize.”


REALLY!  REALLY!?!?!  Okay, how many ways can this be wrong?


1.  It was build in 1929.  The slaves were freed in 1865.  RECENTLY FREED?  At most we’re talking about their grandchildren.


2.  Illiterate, I might give you, but the literacy rate was not as bad as he was making it out to be.


3.  Pre-literate cultures are very good at memorizing things.  That is the whole reason we still have the Iliad and the Odyssey.  They MEMORIZED them.  You know the whole hundred page poem.


Okay, end of my rant.  I can feel my heart rate rising in annoyance.


All of that being said, it was fun to tour the train.  I just wish we hadn’t gotten the substitute tour guide, but the older man who was in full conductor costume.

5 thoughts on “Traveling by train in the 20s and 30s

  1. LOL…I had to read the rant part to hubby…we got a good laugh from it. The train was beautiful, however and it sounded like a great field trip despite the “guide.” Thanks for sharing it all with us.

  2. I laughed and laughed as I was imagining your tour guide referring to himself – illiterate with a bit too much to memorize. The train itself is really cool. I guess at that time traveling by train was a bit like cruising today.

  3. That is too bad that your guide was not well informed (understatement!). What a lost opportunity for him as well as the visitors. It does make a funny story though.

    When we visited the Sacramento Train Museum recently, we had an elderly gentleman who had actually worked on a train in his younger days. I am doubly thankful for his thoroughness now.

  4. Those old trains really were quite glamorous – if you got to travel in one of these fancy cars. The other cars weren't glamorous at all =)

    Shame you couldn't get the INFORMED guide!

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