• Virginia Tolles

A Vote in Favor of the Amfleet Rail Cars

Amfleet I Cars (Mark Levisay - Creative Commons license 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

I can understand the dislike for the Amfleet cars, especially Amfleet I, as I understand it: leaking roofs and all that. Still, the old girl has a few things going for her. In fact, she reminds me, in many ways, of that venerable old airplane, the DC-3.

Now, celebrating her 86th birthday, the Gooney Bird, as the DC-3 is lovingly called due to her somewhat awkward, tail-dragging gait, is still flying, not only for museums, but also for commercial and air freight operations. She is the bread-and-butter of Buffalo Joe McBryan’s Buffalo Airways in the Northwest Territories of Canada. She flies both people and cargo for them and for airlines in remote areas around the world, where the terrain makes ground transportation impossible. She sets down on the roughest dirt tracks you can imagine, but then, she was built to be tough. Airstrips weren’t well developed in 1935, when she came to be. But, yes, she has had her problems, including leaking roofs. As an unknown author wrote,

She had her faults, but after all, who's perfect in every sphere?

Her heating system was a gem; we loved her for her gear.

Of course, the windows leaked a bit when the rain came pouring down.

She'd keep you warm, but in a storm, it's possible that you'd drown.

Now, Amfleet I is celebrating her 46th birthday; her Big 5-0 is right around the corner. Yes, we see the evidence that her roof has been patched, sometimes at one end, sometimes from end to end, but let’s face it: the roof on a house lasts only about 30 years. She has a comfortable ride without too much sway and bounce, making her accessible, full length, to everyone, even the elderly and disabled. There’s no need for them to sit downstairs, next to the bathrooms, trying to make do on cheese nabs and granola bars. They can walk or roll their way to the dining car for dinner and to the café car to meet their fellow travelers, along with everyone else. She has large windows that provide excellent views of the passing countryside. She has a wonderful rounded design that tells us right away that she is a ‘70s child. Most of all, she has the stainless steel scallops that tell us she’s Edward Budd’s child.

“All good things must end some day. Autumn leaves must fall,”* but let’s not be too quick to throw away this gem. The lady is proving to be quite a pleasant surprise in her old age, and she’s still a beauty!

* A Summer Song. Composed by Chad Stuart with Clive Metcalfe and Keith Noble. Performed by Chad and Jeremy (1964).

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