August 1, 2011

Dawn in the dining car

Dining car on an old Chicago line.
One of my earliest memories is of a train ride from New York City to somewhere-or-other in Canada. I was less than six years old, how much less I'm not sure. I remember one thing vividly from the trip.

It was still dark when my mother took me to the dining car in the morning. It was the most wonderful place in the world, a rolling room from a fairytale. I didn't know about racism and Pullman porters yet. To my child's eyes, it only seemed festive that the staff were black and wore shocking white uniforms. It looked special, as if the look was designed.

The tablecloths and napkins weren't just white -- they were shockingly white, as were the uniforms of the dining staff and the towel over the forearm of the man who served us breakfast. And there was a lot of silver and glass on the table.

As we shook and rolled, we ate eggs with sausage and toast, and had a cup of coffee. At one point, I remember being very impressed by a tiny glass of tomato juice the waiter placed before me. It sat, so bloody red on that blindingly white tablecloth. Drinking that glass of tomato juice seemed the height of sophistication to me.

And all the while, the world rushed by our window. I saw mountains and rivers and waterfalls. And as the minutes passed, the darkness lifted in stages. It was the first time I saw the sun rise. It was absolutely glorious, inside the car and out. I thought I was in heaven.


That hour spent in a railway dining car is one of my favorite memories. Got any you'd like to share?

3 comments:

Artichoke Annie said...

My first train travel was in Europe, most of the time in the third class section and occasionally in second class when a padded seat would afford comfortable sleeping.

Once I took an Amtrak tour from California up the coast to Seattle. And then later from Glacier National Park to back to Seattle.

Loved it, love the dining car and love falling to sleep with the sound of the train's wheels on the track. Love watching the world pass by...

I really want to take the Canadian Pacific train across Canada some day. At one time it was one of the nicest train services offered.

Oh and who can talk about train travel and not dream of being on the Orient Express.........ah love that thought.

writenow said...

The Orient Express was a lovely addition to the folklore of those old trains. Old railway lines had real (and imagined) cachet.

Nice to think of a present-day journey like the one you suggest.

(Off-topic: I wonder what it's like on one of those super-fast trains. I don't think I'd be thrilled with the speed. It sounds scary -- and there was just that terrible accident in China last week. Oy.)

Hi Annie, nice to see you.

Artichoke Annie said...

We traveled once from Geneva to Paris on one of France's super-fast trains. The scenery was a blur... nice if you are commuting, not so nice for a tourist.

Thanks for the welcome back... I had 101 degree fever yesterday that knocked me flat, feel great today. Just a quick bug that got defeated.