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Postal Cars and Baggage Cars

Many trains included, either on the fore or the rear part, wagons destined to the transportation of mail, parcels and luggage. Postal administrations soon realized about the great possibilities that the railway had. Since 1838 mobile post offices started to circulate, which included both pick up and distribution services, in the route between London and Liverpool. The new service was such a success that even after the introduction of postal airlines, postal trains continued carrying the mail from one place to another. For example, in the service between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh the trains carried about 300 tonnes of letters, postal packages and newspapers each day.

The typical composition of a postal train, as for example the one that effectuated the route between London and Aberdeen, in the north of Scotland, comprised twelve wagons, some of them with the mail bags already classified from the departure, while in others, which served as mobile post offices, the rest of the bags were prepared while the train was on route.

Vintage railway - Postal car
The postal bags were hung from metallic posts next to the track and were gathered by a net placed at the left side of the wagon. Inside the mobile postal office, the mail personnel had to open the bags and distribute their content in different lockers. The jolting of the train difficulted the work of the personnel who, installed in a counter as long as the wagon, had to prepare with haste the bags intended for the next station.

In all the contracts signed between postal administrations and railway companies some penalty clauses were set for delays and losses. Thus, postal trains enjoyed an absolute priority of transit, even before luxury trains. This fact was used by their driving crews to boast before the express and direct trains, momentarily stationed in secondary tracks, by performing a thunderous noise during the overtaking, since not having to worry about the comfort of the passengers they could drive the machine at maximum speed. The famous locomotive City of Truro was, allegedly, the first machine which achieved the fabulous speed record of 160 kilometers/hour, while towing four postal wagons of 22 meters in length each, in 1904.

In a postal train, the device for gathering mail was placed on the left side of the wagons, and because of this the train had to enter the station always in this position, inconvenience which forced the machinist, tired after a fatiguing travel, to fully rotate the train. The most famous of the postal trains was the Indian Mail, which departed from London, crossed the English Channel onboard a ferry and then traveled across France and Italy until reaching Brindisi. There the postal bags were loaded onboard a packet-boat which was ready to depart bound for Bombay, and which also carried the Italian mail bound for Ethiopia and Libya and the French mail bound for the colonies in India and Indochina.

Vintage railway - Luggage car

Other wagons were used for transporting luggage and parcels. One of the results of this new service was the incentive that the old road robbers had for learning the new techniques of assaulting trains. The baggage cars progressively became meeting points for the railway personnel serving onboard the trains. Those in charge of the Pullman or the restaurant cars spent some time on them, chatting vividly with those in charge of the baggage car. Conductors took advantage of a rest between two ticket controls to search there a quiet place where to sleep, and even some first-class travelers entered to visit their pets which, bored, spent the travel inside baskets and cages. By last, as the regulatory standards allowed that coffins were transported together with some companion, some passengers saved the price of a ticket by travelling on the baggage car at expenses of the funeral parlor company.

The Pleasures of the Palate

Dining on the train was, in a way, part of the adventure, and so, during long time, the railway companies around the world rivalled in offering to their passengers, amid elegant decorations, the most selected menus, excellent wines and an impeccable service. It was in 1869 when Pullman put into circulation, in United States, his first restaurant car, which he had baptized "Delmonico" after an important restaurant of New York. The car was illuminated with gas and fitted with a huge refrigerator which allowed the two cooks and four waiters employed on it to serve up to 250 meals in several turns daily.

In the good times of the Broadway Limited Company, the personnel comprised a maitre and his assistant, a cook with three kitchen pins and ten waiters. The menu comprised twenty-four different dishes. To be able to roast the steaks, bake the pies, fry the chicken and keep warm the muffins, all of that at the same time within a space of five square meters, the kitchen had to be extremely functional and make use of every corner to attach cupboards where to store a thousand pieces of glassware and tableware, seven hundreds of silverware pieces, nine hundreds of tablecloths and the provisions necessary to feed four hundreds of hungry passengers.

Vintage railway - Dining car

In some European luxury trains the norm was to serve the meals in the very travel departments. The passengers did not have to leave their seats, where they stayed for the whole travel, sitting face to face, separated only by a table illuminated by a lamp. At the times of meals, a waiter approached the seats to lay the tables, promptly bringing the shimmering plates covered with exquisite delicacies from exotic gastronomies.

Vintage railway - Dining car

A delicious gastronomical discovery crowned the first train travel effectuated in France, even if this one did not take place in a restaurant car. In 1847 Queen Maria Amalia had accepted to preside the solemn inauguration of the line between Paris and Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where a banquet was to be offered to her. Shortly before the time intended for the arrival of the queen and her entourage, the first kitchen pin began to slowly fry in oil potatoes cut in very thin slices. As the train was delayed, he took them out of the pan and, after drying them, put them aside. When the royal guest finally arrived, the cook immersed the partly fried potatoes on the boiling oil again, and with great surprise he saw how the potatoes began to inflate as they were getting browned. And this is how Queen Maria Amalia was the first person who tasted the pommes soufflées.

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