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This story and illustrations are from—
Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly—August, 1882

 

THE COMFORTS AND DISCOMFORTS OF TRAVEL.

BY N. ROBINSON,

TRAVELING IS rendered so comfortable nowadays that the slightest twinges of discomfort call forth "howling commentaries on the text." Palace-cars by day—veritable boudoirs on wheels—and sleeping-cars by night, have rendered locomotion in this country so luxurious that distance has ceased to appall and season to dismay. Our palatial steamers, too, contribute their quota; while the baggage system removes the last, though not the least, cause for anxiety from the mind of the sybaritic traveler.

Traveling has, indeed, arrived at very high condition of perfection, and each day witnesses some additional rivet to our comforts. Our dining-cars, their bills of fare—worthy of Delmonico or the Brunswick—render the dreaded rush to the dreadful buffet unnecessary, while the connoisseur in wine can have his champagne iced to as many degrees below zero as may suit his critical palate, or his claret warmed to blood or fever heat if he will. The system of ordering luncheon by telegraph, too, is in keeping with this too too rapid age. It is satisfactory to be enabled at, say Philadelphia, to select a piquant luncheon from the menu, and to feel that it awaits your arrival at Wilmington—hot or cold, as your Right Royal Highness may have been pleased to command it.

Steamboat travel, especially river end lake, is about as luxurious a mode of locomotion as can be by any possibility conceived. The spacious saloons, the superb surroundings, the gilding, the mirrors, the carvings, the carpets, the series of decks (with their awnings in Summer), the restaurant, the staterooms! Everything that ingenuity can suggest is pressed into the service to render a trip by boat an episode to be immensely enjoyed, and as gratefully remembered.  

With the ocean steamer comes the terrible monster, seasickness. Gildings and mirrors and tapestries go for naught in the presence of this dreaded and remorseless fiend. Like love, it levels all ranks low, and lays the sceptre by the shepherd’s crook—or, in less poetical language, the votive offering to Neptune of the millionaire beside that of the bumble and impecunious emigrant. To those who do not suffer, the ocean steamer is a floating palace, with lackeys and retainers in the shape of sunkissed stewards. Electric-bells and saltwater-baths, fresh fruit and new-laid eggs, are but so many items. Passengers growl because a daily paper is denied them, and use full-flavored language if the bill-of-fare is minus a single luxury for which they may have a momentary craving.

Traveling nowadays is as much a necessity as stopping at home used to be in the year one. Everybody travels—everybody has been somewhere; and people who have only migrated, as in the "Vicar of Wakefield," from the blue bedroom to the brown, hang their heads for very shame that they have done so very little in the way of locomotion.

Traveling has been made so easy that it requires very little effort to set the wheels going. Packing one’s impedimenta is now the severest portion of the entire move. Once packed, the express does the rest. The fever of travel comes upon society at stated periods; and travel, society must and will at any cost. This fever assumes graver symptoms as the seasons roll over, and the trip to the White Mountains in time extends to the Yosemite Valley, or the spin over to Paris to a dash into the Danubian Provinces. The thirst of travel needs to be slaked, and native wine seldom possesses the necessary properties—the rush is over the pond.

Of course, shore are still left a few dignified, old-fashioned Old World people who on a certain day, at a certain hour, move from the town to the country-house or who make an annual excursion to visit a relative or friend. This good old conservatism is being rapidly squeezed out through the medium of the excursion-train and the excursion-steamer.

All the world goes upon excursion trips, and no one returns without a fault to find or a grumble to growl. Breathes there a man or woman who ever yet came back after a day’s cheep junketing without a dismal catalogue of complaints ? Take the excursion steamers. You arrive, though you rise with the lark, to find the best places always occupied. Feelings of dire ill-will permeate your bosom as you perceive half a dozen deck-chairs appropriated by two persons, the feet of the lady on one extra, her impedimenta upon another, while her male companion, with a diabolical artfulness, engrosses a couple more, loading the unwary to believe that he is but holding these forts for temporarily absent friends. The crush on board the excursion-boat is the next feature—pitiful in hideous discomfort. Ladies weighing 300 pounds and upward are very good-natured and very amiable They patronize steamboat excursions to an alarming extent. "You see," a confiding and intelligent deckhand once observed to me, "they get on a couple o’ chairs and sit facie’ the breeze, en’ fens themselves all the time, and nobody interferes with them nor nothin’. They’re happy as clams at high water."

Children are in mundane Paradise on the excursion steamer, and, wild with innocent joy, romp and push and tear round till their elders wish them—at home. Then there are the bores: the man who will talk politics, or the prosy female who will discuss Sunday-school; the gentleman who has just returned from Europe, and the lady whose height of earthly ambition is to get there; the party who knows every inch of the river or bay, and the nervous individual who informs you of the exact place wherein to find the "best" life-preservers, and speaks despondingly in reference to the dilapidated condition of the boilers.

The effect of the sun playing down upon your umbrella, assuming that you are provided with one, begets a tortuous thirst. The ice-water has given out; the lager beer is an infamy; the coffee–execrable; the tea–poison. Champagne is expensive, and the red or the Rhine wine in the most friendly relations with vinegar. You have brought your basket, and feel peckish. You proceed to open this treasury of edibles and to expose its toothsome contents. A hundred pair of wolfish eyes are watching your every movement; one child nudges another, and the electric whisper goes round. You are the centre of envious glances; your immediate neighbors cordially detest you, and if an occasion arrives for rendering you uncomfortable, depend upon it that it will be utilized.

The food vended on board the excursion-steamer is of the worst possible description, the caterers having not one, but both eyes directed toward profit. Feverish from thirst and fatigue, your eyelids aching, you return to the place from whence you came, and register an inward vow never to be found on the deck of an excursion-steamer again—a row broken with commendable regularity.

How favorably the ordinary passenger-boat compares with its cousin, the excursion! Everything is in order. The employee polite and anxious, the viands excellent, the time kept to the minute, the stateroom a model of cleanliness if not of comfort. Take, for example, and as a type, the day-boat from New York to Albany—one of the most delightful and picturesque trips in the wide world. You go on board at 8:30, and make one in the eight or nine hundred travelers who are en route to the Catskills, Saratoga, Lake George, and heaven only knows where besides. A joyous, bustling, expectant, excited, well-bred, fashionable crowd buzzes about the decks. Old ladies, young ladies, middle-aged ladies, and ladies of no particular age at all, attired in traveling costumes of every conceivable sort, shape, size and description, sit, stand, recline, lounge and lay upstairs and down-stairs (if such unnautical expression be permitted), in blues braided with white, whites bound in blue, browns trimmed with black, and blacks scalloped with brown. Some carry nickel-bound bags, and embroidered wraps like miniature bolster-cases; others are provided with quaint early English pockets, deftly marked with their monograms, and containing gossamer handkerchiefs fit but to brush an enormous butterfly from the upturned nose of the Bleeping beauty in the wood. Some wear linen dusters from chin to heel, until they look as though attired for a sack-race Rae. Hats shades of Gainsborough and Greuze I such grace, such elegance, such sweep, such chic, such liveliness, such head-caressers! Rakish little dogs, some of them with the leaf touching the bridge of the nose, or stuck on the side with the bewitching abandon of Peg Woffington; others worn as demurely as Clarissa Harlowe’s or flung back on the neck, and depending for support upon a rosebud or a sprig of mignonette; flowers so ripe and real as to induce roving bees and dissipated flies to seek Barmecidal feasts thereon. Hair! Ye gods! black, brown, chestnut, auburn, wine colored, red, yellow, and white; in plaits, pig-tails, curls, corkscrews, bands,. kisses, Montagues, shells, rolls, and every other form known to the advanced females of this the fag end of the nineteenth century; pearl-powder, rouge, cherry-paste, and burnt umber are fairly represented, and beauty-veils at a discount.

Let us take a look at the men. Old dandies, with dyed hair and aide-whiskers of that purple so fashionable in Rome B.C. 500. Paterfamilias issuing orders in an authoritative way, and glowing with the pride of " Here I am, with my household gods, off to the best hotel at Saratoga I Look at me 1" Young fellows with collared heads, in the loudest possible suits, and nautical hats that would have won the heart of Black-eyed Susan, attached to canes of enormous proportions, and sucking cheap cigars or cheaper toothpicks, with an "I’ve just dined at Delmonico’s!" air. Portly brokers in stiff white waistcoats, giving them all the appearance of gazing over newly whitewashed walls.

Legislators, looking very profound, and about as cheerful as Acts of Congress. Earnest middle-aged men in spectacles and alpaca goats thirsting for information, and deep in the mysteries of the guide-books. Languid swells in blue suits, with striped stockings and patent-leather shoes, absorbed in each other, and maintaining a masterly inactivity. Greasy men in bulgy clothes, with diamond shirtstuds, chains enormous enough to hang bales of cotton, and immense rings upon fat, hairy fingers, surmounted by inky nails. A few provincials of the stage-Yankee type, tourists whose glacial coldness, fixed eye-glasses, and general imperturbability bespeak them Englishmen, arrayed in their rhinoceros robes of insular prejudice. And, of course, just as the gangway is about to be drawn aboard, the stereotyped elderly lady is declared in sight, who stoutly refuses to " hurry up," who thrusts her bandbox in the eye of the nearest deckhand and her umbrella to back it up; who will not venture on the plank until it is more securely fixed; who drops her umbrella, then her reticule, then her spectacles, then all three, and refuses point-blank to budge an inch until her property is restored to her; and who is finally somewhat unceremoniously thrust forward under indignant protests and threats of writing to the Herald.

A bright and brilliant sight greets us as we ascend to the deck. The river is studded with craft of every description, from the huge ocean steamer to the tiny sailing-boat, from the richly laden and dignified argosy to the impudent little tug, scooting hither and thither and audaciously darting beneath the very bows of some leviathan, in momentary danger of being crushed up like an eggshell. White-sailed sloops and schooners, ferryboats speeding from shore to shore with their living and anxious freight, canal-boats of enormous dimensions, great tows of barges, the lazy life on which would seem like a Summer dream; pleasure craft in saucy swiftness, their snowy canvas resembling the outstretched wings of gigantic seabirds—all these, with the teeming life on either shore, and the Palisades in the purple-blue and hazy distance, tend to form an ensemble at once striking, impressive, and to the memory imperishable.

Little groups soon form themselves in coigne of vantage. The bows are extensively patronized, camp-stools are in tremendous requisition, windlasses speedily utilized, and coils of rope compelled a double debt to pry. Jaunty young gentlemen, with a view to exhibit their intrepidity, sit loosely on the bulwarks, allowing their feet to hang over the side of the ship, to the admiration and dismay of the young ladies. Very large cigars are smoked, and cheeks grow pale that but an hour ago blushed, if not exactly in praise of their own loveliness, possibly beneath the flushing influence of the seductive cobbler. Jones, of Wall Street, poses as if for his photograph; the position is painful, but Miss Bluepatch, of Fifth Avenue, rewards him with a look wherein a smile is secretly wrapped up, and he poses on to Poughkeepsie. Smith’s boots are new, and just a leetle too small for him, and yet this heroic fellow stands the whole way to West Point, expatiating on the beauties of the scenery to Miss Mintsauce, who, happy girl, is seated upon an icebox, utterly unconscious of the delicious agonies of her afflicted admirer. We saw all this at a glance, and we saw more than this.

In the remotest corners of the boat sits the brand-new brides and bridegrooms. Angelina is attired in a traveling costume composed expressly for the occasion by that great artist, Worth—the Talleyrand of the toilet. The dress is a veritable poem, and seems to caress the fair form like a thing of life. It would take the condensed evidence of a dozen French milliners to describe even the "goring," so it is not for us to rush in where a modiste would fear to tread. Edwin, too, is brand-new, from the gilt sole of his boot, which betrays the fact of its never having been hitherto worn, to the shiny felt hat, with the impress of the hatter’s thumb still upon it, as glossy and bright as a new drugstore.

The grim, gaunt grandeur of the Palisades serves to render the gaff, sheeny, dimpled hills around Tarrytown, Nyack and Sleepy Hollow even more lovely, and bathed in a glowing bath of golden light, an auriferous glory, such as won Dana for the mighty Jove. We crane for a peep at Sunnyside—the home, "made up of gable-ends and fall of angles and corners as an old crooked hat"—of Washington Irving; the scene of the loves of Ichabod, Katrina and the muscular Brom Brones, whose daring impersonation of the headless horseman won for him his pretty pouting bride. We picture Irving seated beneath the spreading foliage, employed in thinking out some of his charming creations, or engaged in gentle converse with a welcome guest—say with the man of drooping eyelids waxed mustaches, who did not then foresee that awful day when the French eagles would be trailed in the bloody dust of Se;dan. Yea, Napoleon III. was once upon a time a visitor at Sunnyside.

And on we speed past Tarrytown, with its sad, sad story of treachery and treason, and Sing Sing, where piteous and strained eyes watch us from behind prison bars, till we enter the beautiful Highlands, to be confronted by the Dunderberg, and the exquisite scenery of West Point. Passing through this cleft in the mountains we throb onward till the Catskills dreamily lift themselves on the left, and six o’clock finds us at Albany, the cupola of the magnificent Capitol standing out in wondrous and superb relief.

We have dined well—a conscientious soup, a slice of striped base, a warm cutlet with green peas and a broiled chicken; ice cream and a peach. This is the very essence of luxurious traveling.

The palace-car is a revelation to such of our cousins as venture across the pond. Its size, its decorations, its lounges, its conveniences. Compare it with the stuffy first-class carriage of British or Continental travel, and how effete the latter article appears! The stiffness of a compartment, be it upholstered in yellow plush or blue satin, or Japanese silk, or Utrecht velvet, is to an American simply appalling. His sense of freedom is deeply injured when he finds himself deliberately locked into a prison on wheels. He cannot stretch his limbs. Ice-water there is none. To bathe his temples or flirt with his mustache through the medium of a mirror and a comb is out of the question. The friendly and well posted conductor is non est. There are no information-giving officials passing through, no books presented or newspapers flung into his lap, no candies or bananas, no cough-drops or cigars. He is dropped into a seat, provided he can get one, with haughty and frozen-mannered womankind and silent and abstracted men. If his luck be good he may meet very pleasant, well-bred people; but then he must be in luck, and fortune must be in a propitious mood. He is hemmed in without even the luxury of a chance of stretching his limbs, since the slightest movement in that direction might lead to the disarrangement of the draperies of the opposite lady. If he is the happy possessor of a newspaper, and offers it to his neighbor, the chances are that the civility will be received with a frigid " Thanks," and then he must endeavor to amuse himself as best he may, cramped, with the uneasy feeling upon his mind of being a prisoner until the train slows into a station, when a muchly-bearded guard will politely but sternly inform him that he must not descend, as the train will start in a "couple o’ seconds, sir."

If the traveler is in need of refreshment he must restrain the inner cravings until the train arrives at a station possessing a refreshment counter. To this counter he must plunge with the most frantic haste, to be snubbed by the pretty, pert barmaids in attendance. If he is lucky enough to secure a plate of soup he must swallow it in hot haste; if he has annexed a portion of the carcass of a lean fowl, he is constrained to recollect that fingers were constructed before knives and forks. A bell rings the guard, bearded like a pard, growls something in a hoarse and unintelligible voice, and the traveler, despoiled of half a grown, for which he has in turn received a Barmecidal feast, rushes back to the carriage, mistaking his compartment, and finally, as the train is in motion, is bundled by the bearded guard into his prison cell—flung over the foot of some gouty countess, or into the arms of a spiteful elderly spinster, who talks at him about American barbarians for the remainder of the journey.

Arrived at his destination, instead of quietly proceeding to his hotel, his baggage-check reposing in his waistcoat pocket, he has to hustle and force his way into a throng of eager, rude and excited people, all clamoring and clambering for their luggage; all yelling at the porters, claiming trunks and portmanteaus they had never laid eyes on before, while the most acrobatic, disdaining the slow process of being waited on by wooded headed employee, leap into the middle of the valice-laden arena, and bear away in triumph their impedimenta—ay, and not unfrequently the impedimenta of other people as well, for this miserable baggage muddle is a rich mine to a certain class of " gentlemen of the road. "

Our American, having by dint of " skinning his eyes " and a leviathan bribe to a porter, at last secured his baggage, beholds it flung on to the top of a growler, alias a four-wheeler or a hansom, the fare being an unknown quantity; or if he decline to ride in solitary grandeur, the hotel omnibus is yawning to receive him—and still with a sense of insecurity in regard to his luggage hanging over him like a black cloud, he is driven to his hotel, again to worry and skirmish over his trunks; nor is he happy until he beholds them deposited in his bedroom.

How often during that fatiguing ride has he longed for the short, sharp but welcome cry of " Baggage checked! Want your baggage checked?" so significant of ease, comfort, and security! How often has he yearned for a stretch in the direction of the platform! How often has he wished for a gossip with the ever-courteous and thoroughly posted conductor! The nuisance of having books, periodicals and newspapers flung into his lap every five minutes would have proved a boon, and the crack of the shell of the homely peanut, delicious music.

The day-journey will be gotten through, somehow or other.

"se the day weary, be the day long,

At last it ringeth to evensong.,"

Be the journey ever so dusty, ever so hot, ever so tedious, the terminus at last comes in sight, and should the American’s companions have proved unsociable or worse, he has at least had the satisfaction of gazing out of the windows, and of filling his eyes with "bits" of the country as the iron horse sped upon its way. There are many distractions, and pleasing ones, to boot, in a day journey, but at night—ye gods!

Where, oh, where is the sleeping-car? where is the ebony attendant, all smiles and white teeth? where the cozy little smoking-compartment, where one can whiff the best Henry Clay, and partake of a " modest quencher " in the shape of a nightcap?

Our helpless countryman is conveyed to an ill-lighted, fearfully stifling compartment, containing eight divided seats, seven of which are already occupied. A wheezy old lady refuses to have the window opened. The floor is littered with handbags, wraps, etc., while the netting overhead threatens to burst and brain the luckless individuals reposing beneath it, a rap on the cranium from a heavy dressing-case being somewhat dangerous in consequences. The American finds the netting full, the floor packed. Where will he put his grip-sack, his hand-valise, his "hard-shell" hat? He begs for a little space, addressing a ghostly company in the dim religious light. Room is begrudgingly doled to him with the remark, " These railway companies ought to be ashamed of themselves, cramming people like sheep into their beastly carriages!"

A dead silence falls upon the prisoners as the black van moves out into the dark night. Sleep! Absurd! Who could sleep seated in one position, the legs at a right angle, the head being bumped against the dirty and fussy and musty wall-cushions? Some one goes off—a loud snore proclaims that Sleep has taken a scalp. A general snorting ensues. Bodies become limp and roll to one side. The man or woman who but a few brief minutes before would scarcely vouchsafe a reply to the disgusted American’s query now lean upon him as though he were a brother. In vain he nudges and fends them off; they return to their first love; they are true as steel. Sleep! Oh, for that colored porter, and the ice-water, and the stretch on the platform! Why, the curtained lane between the berths would be scenery surpassing that so rapturously described by Claude Melnotte, and the stockinged foot of the gentleman in the upper berth a thing of beauty. Even the ordinary car, crammed with passengers in every form of acrobatic position, were a paradise on earth compared to the stifling first-class compartment on a night-journey in Europe.

Some railway companies in England have put on sleeping-cars, notably the " Wild Irishman," between Holyhead and London, and the " Scotch Limited Mail," from London to Edinburgh. In France, too, there are sleeping oars between Paris and Bordeaux, and also on two of the other lines; but to compare these, cars with a Pullman or a Wagner would be equivalent to comparing a grocer’s wagon to Mrs. Van Spuyten Dargole’s victoria. They are, however, a move in the right but as yet the traveling public has not taken to them, and while the first-class carriages will be full of suffering humanity, the sleepers will have many berths to let.

Diligence-traveling is rapidly dying out, since mountains are being tunneled and the iron road laid everywhere. The diligence for a mountain day trip is very delightful traveling; for a night journey it is a horror. The discomforts of the "good old coaching days," so rapturously referred to by our grandfathers, are still preserved in diligence travel, and a night in the wheezy, bone-setting, " leathern conveniency " will live long in the memory. I have done two consecutive nights in Mexico, sixteen mules being the team, the driver yelling at the top of 0a lungs, his assistant pelting the leading files with stones, and if I wasn’t as sore as Mickey Free’s father, I know nothing of contusions, abrasions and partial dislocations. I have crossed the Pyrenees from Perpignan to Gerona, To say that I was stiff as the mummy of one of the Ptolemies at the end of the journey is a close approximation to my condition. The Irish jaunting-car is a delightful conveyance, and has to be experienced in order to be appreciated. With a chosen companion, a good horse, a cheerful driver, and a " drop o’ the crayture" " in the well, the jaunting-car "bangs Banagher." Many a glorious spin I have had on Killarney, through the wilds of Connemara, and in the lovely valleys of Wicklow, and a more agreeable mode of conveyance it is impossible to conceive. I would never care to sit on a jaunting-car outside of "Ould Ireland," for, somehow or other, the vehicle seems to adapt itself to the country and to the people. In Connemara and the West of Ireland elongated jaunting-ears are run, each side capable of containing from eight to ten passengers. They are worked with four horses, usually garrons, or miserable animals, only fit for the Knacker’s Yard, or the Corrida de Toros in sunny Spain. The covered oar which confronts the American tourist at Queenstown is a relic of the dark ages, and ought to have disappeared with the sedan-chairs. An Irishman, upon being asked what was the difference between an inside and an outside car, promptly replied: " Shure, thin, the outside car has its wheels inside, an’ the inside car has its wheels outside."

The omnibuses of the world would form a not uninteresting article. By far the most comfortable and most elegant in my experience are those plying in Vienna—the horse-cars also taking the palm. Paris, too, is admirably and comfortably omnibused. The stages in this country are a little behind the age. They are lumbrous, cumbrous vehicles, uncomfortable to the last degree, and the system of packing people into them like figs in a drum is as reprehensible as it is abominable.

Our street-cars are eminently useful and-that is all. There is little or no attempt at either comfort or adornment, while in the principal cities of Europe the streetcar is a perfect model of both. The vehicles are roomy, elegantly gotten up, and exquisitely glean, while no overcrowding is permitted, and every woman is sure of a seat. The conductors and drivers wear uniforms, and are as presentable as Austrian Life-guardsmen. With us the greater the load the greater the praise to driver and conductor. The former is about as ragged and disreputable-looking a personage as the heavy villain in the melodrama; the latter, as a rule wears a uniform cap, sadly at variance with the remainder of his raiment. Our illustration of the agonies of the rear platform tells a piteous but o’er true tale. Fancy a lady having to fight her way through that closely packed mass of perspiring humanity. " How am I to get out ?" is the idea that weighs upon the mind of some delicate woman during the entire ride. The conductor is of no avail; he is powerless; and her chance of emancipation lies in a stout heart and a pair of sharp elbows. The light-fingered gentry approve highly of this system of packing street-cars especially since the wearing of watches and jewelry has become so fashionable. The basket nuisance in a street-car is one with which we are all tolerably familiar.

There is a vast stride toward improvement in the waiting-rooms of our large railway depots, and from being great gloomy, depressing square ball-alleys, they are assuming shape and color and form, with groined roofs, and paneled walls, and stained-glass windows. As a natural sequence the country stations will follow suit, and the waiting-room in the near future will be a tasteful apartment, papered in perhaps—and why not ?—sunflowers, with a dado and medieval window.

The great art-wave which is breaking over this vast continent will not only beautify our abodes, but our trysting-places as well, and the traveler will find the loss of train or boat less painful, since he or she can wait for the next that is to follow, in a room which will savor more of a humanized habitation than of an enlarged cattle-pen.

There ought to be a large reward in store for the noble being with mental capacity to organize some method for ticket-checking once only. "Tickets ready!" are words that raise feelings of no very amiable nature in the breast of the ordinary traveler. To be wakened from a nap by an implacable employe;, whose punch is pointed at your unoffending head like a weapon of destruction, is, to say the least of it, a singularly disagreeable sensation. To know that you carry about your person that which may be called for at any moment, and must be produced instanter, is a "turn on the nerves." One is perpetually on the rack. Every time the door opens, every appearance of a uniformed official, every stoppage of the train, mentally sends the hand to the pocket-book for the be;te noir that harasses from the commencement of the journey to the end; and with what a sigh of relief one delivers up the punched and tattered ticket for the last time! One feels inclined to give the conductor something for himself for having taken it off one’s hands. Something should be done, if possible, some system devised by which the traveler will be relieved from this nightmare—one punching at the beginning of the journey, when the ticket will be taken up for good and all—and a boon will be conferred on millions.

On the New York elevated railroads the passengers, until a comparatively recent date, were compelled to carry their tickets and deliver them up at the end of their respective trips. So many mistakes occurred, and so much grumbling arose, that now the ticket is dropped into a box while it is still warm with the digital pressure of the delivery clerk. The system works well, and millions are all the happier.

The days of the bobtail-car have been too long in the land. It is an accommodation, but a nuisance. The anguish of having one’s pet corns trample I upon while a heavy man or woman wobbles to the change-window is too dreadful to dwell upon. The jerk which sends the change flying all over the car; the catapultic upheaval that flings the newcomer into a seat or into the repelling arms of an already seated passenger; the terrible anxiety when the bell rings, announcing a defaulter lest you be suspected; the frownings and scowlings of the uncongenial-looking driver as he counts his heads preparatory to pouncing upon the assumed swindler; the dangers arising from the accumulation of small boys on the steps—all these are the discomforts attaching themselves to the " bobtail," and I say, "Away with it."

One of the discomforts connection with ocean travel is the Custom-house that grimly confronts you on your arrival anywhere, everywhere You are as innocent as a lamb, your hands are as clean as those of the Princess in the "Arabian Nights, " who made the famous cheese. cakes. You have nothing to declare, nothing dutiable, nothing but your immediate wearing apparel; and yet, as in the case of the bell on the bobtail car, the approach of the Custom-house officer causes an indefinable thrill of apprehension.

Assuming, my dear madam, that you have bought a seal skin sacque for a dear friend, or a couple of silk dresses for your sisters or your cousins, are you not singularly exercised as the grim official deliberately plunges his not always savory hands amongst your delicate finery and nervous to the last degree when he comes to disturb the articles in question? What indignation and terror do you experience as he coldly informs you that the dresses must be appraised, and what a flow of language comes to your rosy lips in disparagement of articles which you selected in Paris as being the most chic in the "Bon Marche;" or in the Magazin du Louvre.

Here is a discomfort in travel that must be done away with. No matter how innocent we may be, the thought of the dreaded Custom house officer is a shadow upon the sunniest and smoothest voyage.

It is, however, due to the Customs employee to say that they do their spiriting very gently, and that they meet with "hard cases", goes without saying; ladies with elastic consciences and gentlemen without any consciences at all. Their treatment, however, Or the ordinary passenger, subject to the ordinary weaknesses of human nature, is, so far as official nature will permit, highly considerate.

"Beautiful Snow" has been so gracefully sung in song and story that it needs no rhapsodizing here. A snowdrift in a deep cutting, blocking the track, may be a thing of beauty, but it is scarcely a joy for ever. Nor is it a comfortable feeling for the traveler by rail to hear torpedoes exploding as the train rushes through a blinding, bewildering snowstorm. Snow, save for sleighing purposes, is one of the discomforts of travel. It disarranges the timetable, it breaks appointments, it spoils dinner, it compels one to wear gum-shoes—it’s a nuisance.

The heating of cars and bouts is a question that demands a few words. As a rule, there is either too much heat or too little. You are suffocated or you are shivering. Cold is not so difficult to bear as heat, for you can warm yourself, but to cool yourself is another matter. The thermometer is far below freezing-point; the conductor of the car being a chilly mortal himself, or being very good natured, resolves that the passengers shall at all events have nothing to complain of on the score of heat. He turns on all at his command, piles coal into the stove, and in a few minutes comes the dry, suffocating feel, that knows of no relief save one, that of flinging open the window or door, and letting in a knife-like air that cuts to the very marrow.

Of course!, there are some passengers who partake of the nature of Salamander, for whom no heat is too much, and who would flirt with the stove in the dog-days; but the average passenger dislikes to be stifled or dry-baked, and he undergoes both in a long Winter railway journey.

Some plan should be devised by which our cars could be heated to a certain temperature, warm enough to prove agreeable, yet not too warm. Let the Salamanders put on overcoats and wraps, as is done in English railway carriages, where they have no artificial heat at all save in the first-class, where long jars covered with flannel and filled with hot water are placed beneath your feet at certain stations along the line. That feeling of asphyxiation that one endures, consequent upon the overheating of the cars, is about the most unendurable one can experience. The flushed cheek, the pink hand, the incipient headache, the unquenchable thirst, all arise from an overdose of heat, and the entire pleasure of a trip is completely marred either through the carelessness or extravagance of a thoughtless conductor.

There is one feature in connection with the comforts and discomforts of travel that should not be passed over, and that is the knack some people possess for making themselves comfortable, and, vice versa. Persons of the Mark Tapley class enjoy travel under every circumstance, and to this class of the community at large I make my most deferential bow.


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This page is from Thomas Ehrenreich's Railroad Extra website, and is reproduced here as a memorial to him and his dedication to preserving the history of railroading in America. Please note I have no access to the original source material and cannot provide higher resolution scans.
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are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery . The Railroad Extra pages are ©2001 Thomas Ehrenreich.