Riding More Rails…

Last week’s blog, “All Aboard!” sparked some fond memories of train trips of yore. Streetlight would like to share a couple such reminiscences.


 

The Southerner
The Southerner

I was what they call a train “dead head” which means I could ride trains for free because my attorney father was employed by the Southern Railroad Association. I was a freshman in college (1957) riding the train alone from Columbia, SC to Boulder, CO where I was joining three friends to set off on a six week drive discovering the West.

I had a Pullman room, those wonderful rooms that had a pull down bed, sink and toilet and chair by the window. I spent the first few hours posing by the window, trying to look complicated and mysterious—I can still picture my reflection in the window. Tiring of my window act, I went into the dining room. Now sitting alone at a table, I was trying to look inconspicuous.

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As I was leaving, one of the waiters said hello and asked how I was. I’m sure, now, that he was just trying to amuse himself. Then he terrified me. He invited me to come back “later” and “help fill the sugar bowls.” Speechless, I ran out—but out of the wrong door. Then I was stuck. I couldn’t go back into the diner of course…but how was I to get to my Pullman seat? Some adventure this.

After hours sitting in a seat that didn’t belong to me, I got up the courage to run back through the diner to the utter delight of all the waiters who gave me a little hand. Safe at last and happy to be in my room—not even tempted to pose at the window. I still love and miss old trains.

Theodora Hill, co-founder and Director of Traditional Tented Safaris, Inc., now lives on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Ga.


 

Grand-Central-Terminal-new-york-via-mylusciouslifeTrain travel is especially dear to my heart. For many years my father, mother, sister and I would board The Southerner in early evening headed from New York city to Meridian, Mississippi for the summer. I was a little girl when I’d get train fever in the spring just dreaming about those two days on the train and what it meant for my immediate future.

Our berths were pulled down and shoes placed in the little locker to be shined for the morning and I was always trying to stay awake till we made Washington DC. There I peeked from our Pullman windows, thrilled by the yellow glare of the lights and the porters moving slowly along the platform with their baggage.

sleep-1We played games on the perfect little table that lifted up once the porter had made our beds and turned our compartment into a proper sitting room. What fun to have both Mommy and Daddy playing Parchesi or Old Maid or learning how to play Solitaire…or reading for long stretches.

Then, too, the trip involved eating. Those wonderful walks to the dining car, jumping from one car to the other as the train joggled us along. Sitting at the table with cloth napkins and little bouquets of flowers at every meal. Watching the waiters pour coffee from little silver pots for my parents. So elegant and one could play fairy princess with out anyone noticing…well I think my parents did. So much delightful fantasy for an 8 year old girl.

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There were no time constraints…minutes, hours passed in pure pleasure and as I’d look out the window the landscape become more lush, the air more humid all whispering to me that summer was beginning.

We’d hit Chattanooga, Tenn. the next day around 10 or so. One of my aunts and her family were always there to meet us and visit while the train rested, loading up on whatever trains load up on. We finally kissed cousins good bye to make the final journey to Meridian. Just about mid evening there we were and meeting us was Grandmother Martin, several aunts and cousins and I just smiled. FREEDOM for the summer.

— Lucy Martin Gianino, now a grown up, accomplished actress, still lives in New York and loves traveling on trains.

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