Before there were airplanes, before there were automobiles, before there were bicycles, there were trains. Exactly why trains were invented before bicycles is something I've never quite understood. I mean, OK, a caveman invents a wheel, domesticates the horse, brings both together in the horse and buggy (or horse and chariot, horse and stagecoach, etc.), several millennium passes, James Watt in the late 1700s invents or perfects the steam engine, someone else in the early 1800 figures out that if you lay out tracks you can use that steam engine to move people or things great distances, for the rest of the 19th century trains remain the most advanced form of transportation, until someone comes along and invents the internal-combustion engine and thus the automobile, but before that can happen, right near what in my youth was referred to as "the turn of the century", someone said, "Um...shouldn't we invent bicycles before we invent automobiles? I mean, we look stupid enough already inventing a train before a bicycle, let's not compound the stupidity."
OK, that's the introduction, now let me get to what I'm introducing. Five train-related videos for your enjoyment. All aboard!
Actually, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because before all can get aboard, they first have to arrive at the train station. And if it's a long journey ahead, it can be an emotional experience for a loved one left behind. Such is the case of Cpl. Bill Smollett (Robert Walker) and his sweetheart Jane Hilton (Jennifer Jones), as he prepares to leave for war in the 1944 movie Since You Went Away. That Walker and Jones were married in real life may have added a touch of realism to this scene until you consider...well, I'll get back to that. For now, just watch:
So does Cpl. Smollett survive World War II? I don't want to give away the film's ending, so instead I'll give away the real life ending. Jones ran off with and eventually married the movie's producer and screenwriter David O. Selznick. Walker's heart was broken, and he spent time in the Menninger Clinic for a psychiatric disorder, quite possibly the reason Alfred Hitchcock cast him against type--he had heretofore played proto-Richie Cunningham boy-next-door roles--as a psychopathic murderer in Strangers on a (this is just a coincidence, folks) Train, before possibly drinking himself to death in 1951, the very year that film hit the theaters. And you thought the war was bad!
I realize that first video and accompanying commentary was heavy going, so, to get you in a more upbeat mood, I'm going to offer you some...
Pretty catchy tune, huh? Hmm? Commercial jingles are not your type of music? Perhaps you'd prefer something with a...
Watch and listen:
But what if you can't afford a ticket on the Love Train? Well...
...I suppose you can always take a streetcar instead.
Let's get back on track. Tracks. The kind with rails.
Obviously, a train can be a very dangerous thing if it's coming right towards you, but as long as you're not a cow, a late 19th-early 20th century damsel in distress, or a hungry coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris) with a taste for roadrunners (Accelleratii Incredibus), there are all kinds of...
...precautions taken so nothing messy happens, both here in the United States and everywhere else, except possibly Thailand, which has a railway that runs right through...well, you have to see this for yourself:
Did you see those people snapping pictures? I wonder if they got the conductor to say cheese.
Even though their picture's obviously being taken, none of these airline passangers are going to turn around and say cheese because they're busy watching one of those in-flight movies. That got me wondering. Don't people on a long train trip deserve a little entertainment? It doesn't necessarily have to be a feature film. It could be something a little musical, like, say...
...a big band. So let's watch Duke Ellington (born on this day in 1899) and his Orchestra as they Take the 'A' Train (on tracks laid down by Billy Strayhorn):
A train with its own rhythm section. It's the only way to travel.