Friday, August 1, 2014

All Aboard!

Santa Fe Engine
Throughout most of the 20th century train travel was as ubiquitous as air travel is now ~ and many times a lot more comfortable! As a fan of the old Thin Man movies, I’ve always been enamored of train travel and have enjoyed most of the train trips I’ve taken. In days gone by getting onto the train meant a trip to the train station for tickets, to drop off luggage or simply to see people off on their journey. We think of train travel as romantic, adventurous, and in some cases very luxurious. There were dining cars, sleepers, and if you were really well-heeled, your own private compartment with a bathroom and perhaps a sitting room. If you were among the rest of the riders, you shared riding compartments and a washroom. In Galveston you can experience the delight of a typical train station, wander through restored train cars, and take a short ride on a train. Walking into the Galveston Railroad Train Museum train station is a step back in time. All around are manikins in period costume and in action poses. My favorites are the two children teasing each other and the photographer.
Train Station Statues

Mail Car (left); Sitting Room (right)
Outside the station are train cars and engines, some open to visit, others available for volunteers to put back into working order. As a child I had always wanted to ride in the caboose, and had even wanted one as a bedroom once they were retired from the trains. After seeing what was actually inside, I’m glad my parents never got one for me. The sitting rooms, compartments, and sleeper compartments were open for viewing, as was the mail car. In this car postal employees sorted 360 pieces of mail per hour, putting those that were first class in the cubby holes and dumping the rest into bags separated by particular area. The most entertaining facet of these train cars was the clever method for hiding toilets. What appears to be a small table actually covers the john, a fact that grossed out two young ladies who were visiting the museum.
Private compartment (left); Hidden toilet (right)
Screams of ‘Ewww’ erupted when they lifted the table top. From private compartments to dining cars, the museum houses many of the furnishings that went with train travel. Fine dining in the dining car or in your own stateroom included linen table cloths, hand-painted china and silver place settings, much of which was decorated with train company designs. Seeing all of the trappings for tony train travel makes me wish this was still available in the US.

Table setting (left); Galley (right)
Sculpture is one of the art forms that I really enjoy. Galveston has an entire section of town that is adorned with sculptures, but rather than being in bronze or marble, they are carved from oak trees that were damaged by Hurricane Ike. It was great fun to drive along these residential streets trying to spot the sculptures. Some houses had several, some sculptures were sequestered behind fences, and others were right on the street. The sculpture that was the most fun was at a park. It depicted storybook creatures including Humpty Dumpty. There are many sculptures to visit, so you may want to pick your top ten, then take a break. The other Near-Normal travelers were very happy to stop for some adult libations before returning to this outdoor culture.
Toto and Tin Man (left); Frog (center); Story time (right)

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