I know of no form of land-based personal transportation that's more fun to ride than a horse, but a close second is a glorious, full-blown passenger train pulled by a real steam locomotive. America should be laying track, not ripping it up.
Imagine how bracing it would be to ride in an open flat car with seats, under a canopy of trees like this (above). I did that a few years ago and the experience was so moving that I'll likely never forget it.
It's amazing that a noisy, heavy, industrial product like a locomotive should fit in so well with nature.
Maybe steam trains seem so environmentally friendly because they're confined to a narrow set of tracks, and don't make frequent stops. Maybe it's because the trains seem more like animals than machines. They actually have character. You root for them as they try to negotiate a hill.
Oddly enough, it's not the steam power by itself that makes trains so appealing. Put the same boiler and funnel on wheels (above) and it seems like a senseless nuisance. For some reason a train has to ride on rails to capture our imaginations.
My guess is that the appeal has to do with the uniquely pleasing and stimulating sounds and motions of steam trains on tracks...that and the terrific visuals. As I said before, steam trains seem to have personalities. There are few other machines you can say that about. I suppose mechanical clocks have a little of that quality. Even toasters have a bit of it.
This business of pleasing sensations derived from things seems like an odd subject to discuss, yet when you think about it, it's not discussed enough. I wish there was a book that catalogued things like this. If there was, then architects and designers could refer to it. Wouldn't it be nice to walk through a building that combined interesting tactile and aural cues with stimulating and romantic visuals? Wouldn't it be nice to have more items and buildings in the world that had appealing personalities?
Here's (above) the Disneyland Express entering a tunnel. Tunnels are so mysterious, and so congenial to trains. They appear like a gateway to another world, like the rabbit hole in "Alice in Wonderland." There should always be lush greenery around a tunnel.
Geez, I have to use Hello Kitty photos to show what the interior of the Disneyland passenger cars look like. It's embarrassing! Anyway, the idea that passengers should face the side is an interesting one.
Disneyland-size steam railroads should be all over the suburbs of our big cities, and they should be used for real, practical transport, not just entertainment. The first city to try this will see a big rise in income from tourists.
I like this photo (above) because it shows how naturally small steam trains fit in with ordinary urban landscapes. Amtrack fails to do this because of the awkward and unimaginative design of the cars.
I stumbled on this photo (above) of a small, rural train platform that's fallen into disuse. Wow! Clean up the tracks and it'll be ready for business again. Let the plants try to cover the platform...it makes for an interesting atmosphere! It's like a train platform in the middle of Jurassic Park. You expect to see raptors!
I grew up near a beautiful train station like the one above. I and my kid friends had many philosophical discussions while sitting on wooden benches under the platform roof. I especially liked to be there while it was raining, during a thunder and lightening storm. The station sheltered us like a kindly grandfather, and it was bracing to see giant, heavy locomotives hiss and shutter to a stop in the rain.
Why do we moderns deny ourselves the simple pleasures of life? I love high tech...I wish I had a personal jet plane...but I also like horses and small wooden sailboats. Since everybody else likes them too, why don't we re-instate them where ever it's appropriate? Cars are fine, but lets have other kinds of mass transportation too.