Rail travel inspiration offers fertile ground for writing ideas
Rail travel inspiration
I wrote an article for NOLA History Guy last week on “Hickory Creek,” a 1948-vintage railcar built for the New York Central’s “20th Century Limited” train. The car operates in charter service, pulled behind Amtrak trains. I saw it leaving New Orleans, behind the Amtrak Crescent. The Crescent travels from New Orleans to New York City. I included the poster above, as a bit of a flashback. It flashed to me, even if nobody else follows along!
Grand Central Terminal in the 1950s
My thoughts go back to 1950, but not necessarily to the New York Central. While Grand Central Terminal was A Big Deal to the railroad, their trains connected Chicago to New York, not the South. So, for the South, it’s Southern Railway and Louisville and Nashville. They brought the Crescent and other trains up from New Orleans. Replace the 20th Century Limited in that poster with the Crescent and it’s a New Orleans story! Additionally, a story doesn’t have to be limited to a single train trip.
The romance of train travel
This New York Central poster shows a 4-6-4 “Hudson” steam engine, pulling the 20th Century Limited. While most steam locomotives presented a lot of exposed rods, gears, and machinery, the railroad covered all that up for their signature train. So, the streamline look of those engines increased the romance aspect of a trip to Chicago.
Switching to diesel continues rail travel inspiration
The railroad switched the 20th Century Limited to diesel locomotives in 1945. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors sold “E” units to the New York Central. The railroad ordered new cars, “trainsets” as well. Those entered service in 1948. That’s where Hickory Creek comes in.
Imagine a regular traveler on the 20th Century Limited, settling into a sleeping compartment in one of those new cars. Or, maybe a couple from Jersey, taking a trip to the Lake Michigan shore. While those visuals aren’t Southern, they’re still inspiring! So many possibilities!
New Orleans railroads are my latest distraction
New Orleans Railroads – writing prompts
Now that Krauss: The New Orleans Value Store is in “pre-release” mode, I’ve been back at the fiction for a month or so. Trusted Talents is moving along again, as Ren and Mike are well into their next adventure. The Dragons (note the plural!) updated me on The Trio. There are notes everywhere that will come together as I hear from AM, David, and the kid who gets his phone set on fire occasionally.
Staying focused is always a challenge for me. The original idea for Hidden Talents developed back when was writing the Streetcar book. It was a way to procrastinate, and I’m very good at that. Now, Talents is the main project. That means I have distractions for procrastination! My biggest distraction from writing is my model railroad. I’ve turned it into a writing project as well, so that’s something. When I set the trains back up, I named the layout the Pontchartrain Railroad, like the old “Smokey Mary” train that ran on Elysian Fields, from Chartres Street to the lake.
Model Railroading in #themetrys
Passenger trains fascinate me. Even in these days of Amtrak, there’s a magic to them. New Orleans is a passenger railroad hub. A number of railroads converge on the Crescent City. For decades, The Crescent Limited (now the Amtrak Crescent) came down from New York City, on the Louisville and Nashville and Southern Railroad tracks. Travelers could spend a day or two in New Orleans, then continue west to Los Angeles on the Southern Pacific’s Sunset Limited. (The Sunset Limited is also still around.) There was even a time where Pullman-owned sleeper cars came down on the Crescent, then connected to the Sunset Limited, making a transcontinental through route.
So much writing potential here! I run the trains and ideas come in. Romance, drama, intrigue. Lots of stories involving African-Americans, since the Pullman Porters kept the passenger system going for decades. It’s great daydreaming potential.
Now, what if Mike and Ren and the Assembly had access to a private rail car? 🙂