De Luxe Distance Defying (Train of Tomorrow), Published 21 January 1943For years now I have wanted to ride The Mercury, and when chance put me in Chicago the other day, I promptly booked on this fancy New York Central exhibit for my ride to Detroit. The Mercury is called The Train of Tomorrow, and is not like anything you have ever seen. First of all. it is steam-driven, not Diesel, but its engine is disguised so that it might be anything. The important thing however is that it hit a top note of 87 miles per hour.
Walking through the train, I was impressed by the fact that you can hardly tell where a car begins and ends, so completely articulated is it with the next one. On the other hand, one car will have so enormous a vestibule as to be big enough for a front parlor.
What I think will smite you with its splendor is the glass end observation bowl. I say bowl, because the glass goes right down to the floor, and if by any chance you had eyes in your corns, you could take off your boots and let your toes see the scenery too. Leather couches are arranged sideways on the train, and longways, and you can sit however your fancy chooses. If you care to, you can often half lie down, as the Indiana landscape blurs by at 75 M.P.H. The front end of the car is more or less normal, but this tremendously deep observation end appealed to me as something brand new.
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Then the diner will make you draw a deep breath. You know how half the average diner is taken up with kitchen space. Well, in this case, the kitchen is not in the car at all. but in half of the car ahead. Thus you have more than double the usual amount of dining car space. But don't think it is all set out like so many tables at Murray's. Far from it. You actually can sit at a table with your back to the windows and facing the aisle. You can retreat into a sort of alcove, or you can crowd around a big table, party style. There is more variety to the seating in the Mercury's diner than on any train I have ever seen.
The club car is interesting, in that it operates a bar as well, and has extremely sumptuous appointments. Most of the people however were playing cards, or lounging. What struck me most were the four men who came in, and all ordered pop.
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The train left an almost snowless Chicago, and then we ran through a blinding snowstorm over near the Indiana border. When we got into Michigan, we ran out of the storm, and into blue sky. There had been snow there the night before, and people were just shovelling their way out. Here was Christmas post card scenery with a vengeance, and it would be hard to imagine more attractive urban winter settings than those which supplied themselves at a mile a minute while we noiselessly rushed through Buchanan, Dowagiac, and other western Michigan centers.
The trouble about the Mercury of course is that you have no idea of its speed, and even when the little gauge on the table in the solarium bowl points to 80 miles an hour and better, you get little illusion of speed. What I longed, for was one of those old iwooden coaches they use up the Gatineau or to Golden Lake, a real eight-wheeler. Then between the wood crackling and the wheels jolting and the gas lamps rattling, we would not lack the proper accompaniments and acoustics to such speed.
The Mercury slid into Detroit. I got of, caught No. 22 an hour later, rode under the river behind the twin electrics, and emerged on the Windsor side. The whole train population changed. They no longer talked of Willkie and Leon Henderson and Paul Macnutt. Now we heard about Bracken and Donald Gordon and the fellow whose's taking Elliott Little's place, whatchacallem.
I was back where they have a separate air force, but no marines. I was out of a land of streamliners and into a pattern of slow but sure railroading. I had forsaken a country that can dramatize its most inconsequential event and returned to where we can't sell a war effort worth shucks. I had left a country where they curse Roosevelt in the Pullmans but elect him in the day coaches, and entered a land where it seems everybody hates Mackenzie King but everybody votes for him.
And so on to Toronto the Not so Good, and Montreal the Not so Bad.