Startup: A Steamtrain to Obsolescence

Based on the number of these I’ve seen in the wild, I’m guessing this idea really took off. Unfortunately, the invention of the airplane changed people’s travel expectations. Who would bother buying a sleep hanger when you’ve got things like no leg room and spinal damage to keep you occupied?

  • I took two overnight trips on Amtrak this summer – the first time I'd traveled by train in twenty years. While the train was generally comfortable, I did experience the problem that Dr. Seeger's invention seems to solve. I would have loved one of these.

    • OA5599

      The only Amtrak that rolls through town is once-every-other-day-at-inconvenient-times service where the cheapest ticket to anywhere costs more than an airline ticket. Consequently, I haven't ridden one of their trains since an elementary school field trip to their nearest stop (with same-day return trip via chartered bus). Do train seats not recline like the ones on airliners, or are there other ergonomic considerations causing your sleeping discomfort?

      • It was all about how to hold my head. The wide seats do recline but not far enough to lay your head back.

        I really wanted to like riding Amtrak more than I did – there is a lot of room to move around, plenty of other places to sit besides your own seat and you can get a sleeping compartment. But Amtrak's sustained economic woes have left it with rolling stock that is just kind of tired inside. It's neither an economical nor convenient alternative to air travel. I would say that it's a much more relaxing way to cover distances than road tripping.

        • I only ride the Downeaster, and then only when I'm back in New England, but it is definitely the best way to get between Portland and Boston if you're on vacation and don't mind the extra time it takes. It was $45 round trip last week, and I think the bus is about the same, but maybe 1/2 hour faster and way more frequent. (I ended up having to take the 5:45 A.M. train to make a 4:00 P.M. flight!)

          I took one trip from Beantown to NYC years ago, I didn't pay for it but it was a lot more than the Chinatown busses. Sitting in a huge seat, drinking beer and watching the un-seen sides of all those old industrial cities roll by was much more enjoyable than wondering if your bus driver had a license, or any sleep in the past 36 hours.

          • Here's a fun game to play when killing time on the train, for about five minutes. Fire up your phone's navigation app and watch it scramble to adjust to the fact that you're on no known road.

          • Took AMTRAK from Toledo, OH to Chicago. Saw the un-seen side of Gary, Indiana…<shudders>

        • Did you go west or east of KC? The trains and tracks out west toward Denver and the Northwest are wholly different and better than the dirty, cramped trains and bumpy, under-maintained tracks that run east from KC to Chicago.

          • We went west, to Philmont, New Mexico. The tracks weren't bad but it was apparent that the cars needed some love. The pervasive aroma of sewage on the return trip was especially unpleasant.

          • I have some fond memories of riding Amtrack from Pocatello, ID to Denver and back, but that was in 1991. Things may have changed significantly since then.

          • 20+ years of government subsidies will do that.

      • The last time I checked going from Atlanta to Orlando required changing trains in Washington DC and takes about 36 hours.

    • The Professor

      The long distance trains in Japan look comfortable from the videos that I've seen, I wonder how they really are. My frame is probably too big for them anyway.

      • Never been to Japan but based on my European experiences other nations have rail figured out way better than the good 'ol US of A.

      • Number_Six

        The Shinkansen (bullet trains) in Japan have very comfortable seating but the local trains not so much. In South Korea they have a version of France's TGV, called KTX, in which the normal seating is awfully narrow but first class has amazing large recliners. However, the longest trip on the KTX is only about 3.5 hours. In China I once rode twelve hours on a train that only had plastic benches, so you had to work hard to not slide off them. I wanted to jump off and catch my head under a wheel, but luckily a massive drinking binge broke out and after a dozen or so XL bottles of Xinjiang beer it got better.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Anyway there are a bunch of varieties of shinkansen, they were all very comfortable on the inside. More than half of the passengers would nod off and everyone was very considerate and quiet. Often they had power outlets near the seats and one even had wifi on the train for part of the journey from Tokyo to Kobe (though I could not figure out how to get it to work, all the explanations on the signs were in Japanese). The one thing peculiar about most of them were the bathrooms. There would be a separate small closet sized stall with a urinal. The door had a big window in it. Yes you were backwards, but it was just sort of odd to me still. What is it about me and pee during travel recently?

        • Number_Six

          I used to get a weird kick out of taking a leak at 305km/h. The shinkansen is a great way to get around but I guess the cost of building that infrastructure in North American would take US military budget kinds of money.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            No its more of buying the land, paying fees on top of fees and getting permits then hiring unions to build it on an 8 hour a day schedule when they could just run 3 crews 24/7 and get it done in a year or two. Rather then the 4-8 years which means it stretches into another, new, political big wigs term thus it needs to be "reviewed" and "examined" and then they like to slap "cost cutting measures" on to it because they said they would in their campaign and ON TOP OF ALL THIS CRAP the odds are slim that ridership will pay for it as airline company's and other will block a continental coast to coast crossing and various cities will make it hell to put down track in a straight line….

            /Rant over

            Did I miss anything?

          • Number_Six

            And gas is still too cheap…

          • CaptianNemo2001

            Rail travel is cheaper still per mile. AND Advanced steam can in some cases be cheaper then diesel-electric and electric is cheaper still.

  • SkyMall says maybe not as obsolete as you'd think. Sure, the packaging is different, but I'd say the idea is close enough to warrant a $1 billion patent infringement judgement.

    <img src="; width=400>

    • I usually just ball up my jacket on the tray table and lay my head on that.

    • Recipe for TSA intervention – one of those plus a turban.

    • Vairship

      Isn't that just a first generation iMac in a tea cozy?

  • The Professor

    That thing looks like it would hang you if the train made a sudden stop.

    • Number_Six

      Well it was made by an Austrian at a time that looks not too long after the war…

      Too soon?

      • The Professor

        Hmmm, I think that would depend upon how seating is arranged.

        /I think it depends on your touch whether or not it's too soon