TRAINS OF THOUGHT

All my life I have been thrilled by the names of famous trains. The Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, the Train Bleu rushing through the night to the Riviera, the Flying Scotsman and the Brighton Belle rolling north and south from London, the Twentieth Century Limited, the Santa Fe Chief and Super Chief crossing the vast continent of America — these were magical names to people of my generation, but on a dark November evening in 1963 the rather dingy train awaiting us in the Zurich station offered no interest until, at a second glance, I noticed that under the grime it bore a name in letters which had once been of polished brass — the Wiener Waltzer [Vienna Waltz]! My spirits rose. How charming, how romantic and how right, I thought, for I was on my way to Vienna to play the part of Johann Strauss in a picture.
–Brian Aherne, English-American actor (1902-86)

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I, too, have long been fascinated by trains — probably since the age of 12, when I traveled with my family by train from Cincinnati to Mexico City. Perhaps my most vivid memory of that trip: the elegant dining car, lined on each side of the aisle with tables covered by immaculate white tablecloths topped by spotless linens and tableware, at which we would sit like ‘big wheels’ eating leisurely meals as the scenery rolled by. “Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer” — like the old song, now echoing back over time.

On the wall near where I sit as I write this post, hangs a large 1966 calendar published by the Union Pacific Railroad (“Road of the Domeliners”). Above each month is a color photo of a scene which is presumably within viewing or dreaming distance of a Domeliner: Sun Valley, Idaho; Morro Bay, California; Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon; Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona; a covered bridge somewhere in northern California; and so on. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge in 51 years.

But the handwriting was already on the wall for iconic streamliners in America by 1966. Numbered were the days of such storied trains as the CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO and railroads like THE ATCHISON, TOPEKA AND THE SANTA FE. Sad to say, the new kid on the track, AMTRAC, would lack their imagery….not to mention, their soundtrack songs from films such as SUN VALLEY SERENADE (1941) and THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946):

Those were the days, my friend. Clickety-clack, echoing back. It’s enough to give one the….

NOTE: I will be taking a one-post break. Until my next post on June 20, keep your dreams intact and your hopes on track.

 

 

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18 comments on “TRAINS OF THOUGHT

  1. calmkate says:

    ah that brought back a few memories … here we have The Ghan and a few others that cross our vast arid interior … hadn’t realised you had a posting schedule, enjoy your break 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Garfield Hug says:

    Have a good break ☺

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mistermuse says:

    Thank you! 🙂

    Like

  4. Ricardo says:

    Coincidentally, the girl and I have just booked a trip from Anchorage to Denali in August by train. It will be my first non-commuter train ride ever.

    Mexico City by train? There’s a trip I could go on.

    Liked by 1 person

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    Liked by 1 person

  6. Don Frankel says:

    Great selection Muse. Now there’s no real scenery with this train. Well none you’d really like to see but still the music is just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      Thanks, Don — that’s an Ellington classic. If I had time, I could probably find a dozen old train songs on Youtube. Here’s one from a 1948 Irving Berlin musical (EASTER PARADE) starring two legendary performers:

      Like

  7. Mél@nie says:

    my very best & bonnes vacances, Monsieur Muse! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. linnetmoss says:

    Love the dining car nostalgia! It’s too bad we do not have a more extensive passenger train network in this country. Especially since the airline experience has gone down the tubes. In the old days they used to sing about the romance of air travel (“Flying Down to Rio”)–but no more!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      Thanks, Linnet. Your comment leads me to a connection which, unlike today’s airline experience, is easy to make for those of us who are fans of old movies: Fred Astaire appeared in both FLYING DOWN TO RIO (1933) – – his first pairing with Ginger Rogers — and 15 years later in EASTER PARADE with Judy Garland (see the “When That Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For Alabam” clip above).

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mark Scheel says:

    muse,

    You know, Atchison and Topeka are nearby Dee and me. Been there many times. Ridden the train out of Emporia many times (a railroad center in its day–the William Allen White era). Got caught in a blizzard once trying to get to KC and catch my flight to Washington D.C. to process through National Red Cross HQ for Germany. And I saw the Orient Express in Germany once, but didn’t ride on it. Rode others. Don’t overlook “Folsom Prison Blues,” by Johnny Cash. And “City of New Orleans,” by Steve Goodman. On and on. Thanks for the memories!

    Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      You’re welcome, Mark. What a thrill it would’ve been to ride on the Orient Express, made legendary by Agatha Christie’s novel MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (I wonder if there has ever been a real murder on the Orient Express?)!

      Love “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, but the “Blues in the Night” clip is a much better fit for this post because of the train lyrics (“Now the rain’s a-fallin’ / Hear the train a-callin’, whoo-ee! / Hear that lonesome whistle blowin’ ‘cross the trestle, whoo-ee / A-whoo-ee-Ah-whoo-ee, ol’ clickety-clack’s a-echoin’ back / The blues in the night”).

      Like

      • Mark Scheel says:

        muse,

        I think it’s a close call:
        I hear the train a comin’ rollin’ round the bend…/While a train keeps a rollin’ on down to San Antone…/When I hear that whistle blowin’ I hang my head and I cry/Well I’ll bet there’s rich folks eatin’ in some fancy dining car…/Well if they freed me from this prison if that railroad train was mine/Bet I’d move it on a little farther down the line/Far from Folsom Prison that’s where I long to stay/Then I’d let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away.

        Yep, Johnny was a great one! 🙂

        Mark

        Liked by 1 person

  10. mistermuse says:

    You’re right, Mark — Johnny Cash was a great one. I have “Folsom Prison Blues” on LP but hadn’t played it in a long time — I should’ve listened to it again before my previous comment….but, even though it’s a close call, I think I still would’ve used “Blues in the Night” because of the film clip I chose.

    Like

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