The Colorado Eagle, Published 26 July 1945The green aisles of Pullmans
Are soothing to me,
Like trees woven,
In old tapestry.
The Colorado Eagle is my idea of what a train should be like. I'd like to go into Bowles Lunch some day, round up the boys, and put them aboard the Missouri Pacific's streamliner, as she stands at Denver Station. Then they'd see what I mean when I say the Colorado Eagle is a dream of a train.
Let me tell you what she does. Here you are, standing late in the afternoon in Denver. The east feels a long way off. You've been riding for days, it seems, on ordinary trains. Yet this diesel job is going to lift you so fast and so far, that you'll be back east by breakfast time next morning. Boy, put my bags on the Mopac Magic Carpet.
* * *
So there I sat in my little room, and no monarch ever sat more complacently on a diamond studded throne, than I perched on the Missouri Pacific's plush. Let me take you on a Cook's tour around my room. The seat is wide enough to hold two people, and the opposite ledge high enough to rest your feet. The window is yours, all yours a yard wide and still all yours. It's a private show glass window through which you view the world at 100 miles an hour. You have sliding doors on the other side, and when you slide them shut, you shut out the world.
If you still want some measure of privacy, you also have curtains. These do not button, but zip. (Query to the Pullman why don't all Pullman curtains zip?) The roomette also has a special clothes cupboard, something the normal compartment lacks.
* * *
Now when it is time for the sandman to knit up the ravelled sleave of care, the porter merely gives a yank, and down comes your bed, from the wall. In the morning, you give your bed a shove, and Murphy-bed-like, it goes back into the wall again. It's the real way to travel, I tell you. I can truthfully say that on all my 99 railways, I never got on a train which pleased me more, for its overnight run.
I settled down to enjoy my delightful little room, in the Pullman sleeper Arkansas River, a dream in grey and black, outside, and of pastel shades, inside. The streamliner with her slick diesels moaned her way up to Palmer Lake, at 7,200 feet, quite a climb from 5,280 at Denver station. The steam trains use a helper up the hill. Then the train scoots along with increased speed, till right outside your window, with a snow storm playing furiously around its often obscure summit, is Pike's Peak.
I went up this peak in 1925, climbing the 14,109 feet on the cylinders of a rented car. I could get lyric about the experience, and also about the grotesque world at its base picturesquely named The Garden of the Gods. But that's a Geography Lesson we'll have to skip this time, as I rush you downhill now toward tired-looking Pueblo, the steel center of the southwest.
* * *
We were now on double tracks used by the Colorado and Southern, a Burlington subsidiary, the Santa Fe, and ourselves, the Missouri Pacific, locally known as the Mopac. To the west, we had snowstorms and sunset scenes by turn, till finally we did a complete circle through Pueblo (that's right, we went round the full 360 degrees) and then we swung east out through the sugar beet country toward Kansas.
Here we really went to town, and you got the craziest illusion, as you lay down on your bed, and watched the motor cars go by. Ourselves hitting it up to 100 miles per hour, and the cars sailing along at 50, you passed them naturally at 150 miles an hour, and it made you dizzy. On all this, I closed my tired eyes, and next thing I knew, there was the sun dancing on my bedcovers.
Gone was the queer, exotic, spectacular scenery of the west, and in its place were the comforting, familiar scenes of my life - grass, and trees. We were in good old Missouri. It was wonderful just to see grass and trees again, and to view the kind of world I live in. You hardly appreciate how you miss these things till you go some place else for a while.
* * *
So our diesels throbbed through fertile Missouri, till they deposited me at Jefferson City, the state's capital. I had returned there because I had missed getting a snap of the capital building back 20 years ago, and so I came back to settle some unfinished business. This I did. snapping right and left, and talking to a white haired lady who went to school with General Eisenhower, in Abilene, Kansas. The legislative building, standing on a bluff overlooking the browit Missouri, is well located, and a visit to its pictures and murals is well worth while.
Then the Diesels moaned again, and this time it was the Missouri Eagle, another Mopac dream that drifts down from Omaha via Kansas City, and which dances with a lilt along the right-of-way down the old Missouri River to St. Louis itself. It was enchanting to sit beside my big window, riding smoothly down the Big Muddy, with table, shelf, super-easy chair, and every conceivable luxury. The Missouri Eagle was a daytime version of the Colorado Eagle, and I really reached St. Louis in style. Wilbur Kelly, my streamlined friend and arch ping-pong rival from the Iron Fireman, now of St. Louis, but formerly of Toronto, and a frequent visitor to Ottawa, met me, and so I came to the end of a perfect day.