Green Bay, Wisconsin.
I love historical sites but I wasn't sure what the railway museum would have to offer, I thought, "Just how interesting can this be?" I was wrong. It was interesting. In fact, it was fascinating - so much so, that, Denny and I will be taking a train in the future for the experience. The National Railway Museum of Green Bay, Wisconsin is a hands-on [or should I say walk-on] exhibit.
The Big Boy is pictured above. The engines were huge and appeared very complicated. With numerous levers and switches in the engine; I marveled at how difficult it must have been [before modern technology] for the engineer to run the train. The position of the engineer's seat didn't allow for him to see anything in front of the train unless he leaned far out the window and even then he would only see things at a distance. The heat and dirt must have been extensive since the coal was shoveled into the furnace right next to where he operated the engine. The heat must have been intensive and unbearable.
The passenger compartments
Have you ever seen the size of the bunks on the passenger trains? The trains we walked upon didn't have the bunks like most of remember in the movie, "Some Like It Hot". Instead they were in little cabin-like compartments where a person's seats would convert into the lower bunk and the upper bunk would come down. I wonder how anyone could fit comfortably in such a small space and manage to get some rest? The upper bunk reminded me of the upper bunk on a "Minnie Winnie" - small, very small. Claustrophobic? I wouldn't recommend traveling on a train for long distances.
And those mail cars
Did you know that in its peak years, 9000 trains used mail cars. They covered more than 200,000 route miles and employed 30,000 postal workers. The Railway Post Office Cars resembled passenger cars in size, shape, and
construction, but met specifications of the Post Office Department. They had racks for mailbags, letter slots for sorting, extra storage space, and a crew of 6-14 men who carried sidearms under Postal Department direction. But how could anyone stand and sort mail while the train was moving? In fact, they couldn't, which is why it was eventually discontinued. -- "Crews on the RPOs had difficultly maintaining their footing on "swinging and swaying, rocking, rolling mail cars." RPOs' placement as head-end cars proved dangerous. Accidents killed 205 men by the beginning of this century. All-steel construction of No. 2330 made it safer than its wooden predecessors."
The dining cars
For the first class passengers, dining on a railroad car was a luxurious experience. Examples of their menus were displayed and there was no shortage of expensive entrees. The dinnerware was made of beautiful china. Tablecloths, tableware, and napkins were exquisite - no throwaway plastics here. The cars were well-designed in top-quality materials to make the first class, high paying, passenger feel confortable and pampered.
On the other hand - the regular pasenger's dining facilities were a little less glamourous. Seating arrangements were in booths instead of round tables. The menus were more limited than the first class passengers.
The passenger cars
The cars differed in style and comfort. Most of the passenger cars were designed with all the seats facing foward in a bus-like style. The elite might reserve an entire car for their group often choosing one where the seats would face each other, in a sort of semi-circle fashion. There was so much to see.
The visit was interesting and inspired me to plan on a 3-day train trip in the near future.
For more information visit their website at www.nationalrrmuseum.org
Have fun in your own backyard!
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