Living on rails

The holidays are over for most of us – we are within that majority – and that is why this week we want to link it in some way to these. Among the possible topics, there was the idea of dedicating it to a vehicle that is extremely useful to us. A vehicle that is used for short or very long distance journeys. But which vehicle? We can talk about the well-known cruiser, the long-distance plane, even the space rocket modules – of which we have already spoken before! However, this week is dedicated to the means of transport that revolutionized travel in the 19th century: the train.

The moment a vehicle such as a train can make long journeys without the need to constantly stop for fuel or water, the idea of carrying not only cargo but also passengers begins to germinate. The permanence of these users on long journeys causes a problem: the need for a temporary habitable space.

This is how the first sleeping car model appeared in 1839. A simple wagon in which are placed folding beds that allow its use as a seat or bunk. This model of wagon, as can be seen in the image, lacked privacy, although it certainly solved the problem in a tremendously functional way.

Chambersburg, the first sleeping car. 1839.

Rolling Hotels

This would mark the beginning of a new business, and George Pullman, founder of the Pullman railroad car factory, wanted to squeeze the situation to the max. To do this, he invested a large part of his money in the design and production of different models of sleeper cars, and just as a hotel needs staff to assist customers, or cleaning rooms, the role of the conductor was insufficient to meet these new needs. The role of the wagon assistants – Pullman Porters- appeared, people generally of African-American origin, and who, in comparison to the rest of the individuals in their collective, lived in better conditions of security, health, and salary. These assistants were generally known as “Georges”, in honor of the founder of the company, and thanks to the fact that most of them belonged to this African-American ethnic group, they fought to obtain rights for people of color in the United States, a feat they would end up achieving.

The design of the carriages was refined, and it was only a matter of time before intimacy ended up arriving at this means of transport. This intimacy would appear to satisfy the higher classes, who could afford a ticket of this type, appropriating more space on the train. The wagons evolved to generate distributions similar to those found in a hostel, where multiple rooms share a communication space and common bathrooms.

Eventually, this eagerness for privacy and possession of space would lead to the rare appearance of wagons in which three occupants per room could live, and they would also have their own toilet with bathtub and toilet.

The success of this means of transport between the different social classes generated images in which the same locomotive pulled different types of carriages. The separation of social classes became evident depending on the ticket that the user could afford, and the winner of this situation was always the businessman, who could meet a gigantic demand for travelers.

Today, we enjoy the evolution of this past, and in places like the United States, Australia, Asia, or Central Europe, we can still experience these ways of living, which have been updated. Now acquiring one of these tickets on which you have temporary possession of a train room is something that many of us can access. The range of passengers per room has risen from that rare 3, to 4 occupants per room. Thus, traveling, spending the night, and enjoying this vehicle that excites so many people is now possible for the vast majority.

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