[In France] you are in the hands of officials who zealously study your
welfare and your interest, instead of turning their talents to the invention
of new methods of discommoding and snubbing you, as is very often the
main employment of that exceedingly self-satisfied monarch, the railroad
conductor of America.
It is hard to make railroading pleasant in any country. It is too tedious.
Stage-coaching is infinitely more delightful.
Illustration by F. B. Opper for "Cannibalism in the Cars"
from 1899 edition of SKETCHES NEW AND OLD.
Photo of Clemens at railroad station in Hannibal, Missouri courtesy of Dave Thomson.
|A railroad is like a lie -- you have to keep building to it to make it
stand. A railroad is a ravenous destroyer of towns, unless those towns are
put at the end of it and a sea beyond, so that you can't go further and
find another terminus. And it is shaky trusting them, even then, for there
is no telling what may be done with trestle-work.
- Letter to the San Francisco Alta California, printed May 26, 1867
The romance of boating is gone, now. In Hannibal the steamboatman is
no longer a god. The youth don't talk river slang any more. Their pride
is apparently railways -- which they take a peculiar vanity in reducing
to initials ("C B & Q") -- an affectation which prevails
all over the west. They roll these initials as a sweet morsel under the
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