Train Toilets Reveal Victorian-Era Attitudes
Or "Don't mind the filthy immigrants".
In the 1880s, American trains featured Ladies' Lavatories,
and Immigrants' Lavatories.
I learned this from
Scientific American, which was a weekly publication in the late 1880s.
19th century volumes are available at archive.org.
The content can seem odd by today's standards.
There are announcements of patent filings, successful and not.
Plus "how-to" advice for sometimes dangerous
light industrial and chemical processes for the home enthusiast.
Some of the articles demonstrate the Victorian era's obsession with
protecting the White Woman, and who cares how much it turned her
into a caged animal and treated everyone but English men as dangerous animals.
Writers in the late 1800s were squeamish about what we consider routine,
while at the same time they were horribly discriminatory about race and class.
An article from 1889 combined all of this with train toilets.
Shop Notes" in the 7 September 1889 issue of Scientific American
for the details.
The section about the Northern Pacific line starts:
The Pullman Company have recently delivered to the road ten new vestibuled
sleepers of handsome finish.
A Belgian train toilet.
It becomes obvious that they say "closet" to mean what we call "toilet",
and "toilet" to mean an area for washing up.
The interior arrangement is an improvement over the more common cars.
The ladies' toilet is a very much larger room than usual
and has two wash bowls.
The closet is separated from the toilet room by a door
and can be entered only by passing through the toilet room.
As there is no lock on the door of the latter it is hardly possible
that ladies riding in these cars will have a chance to complain
of the monopoly of their fellow travelers.
A Bulgarian train toilet.
The wording wanders off the path with "part of the room next the main part",
but we can follow the overall flowery and formal intent of the passage.
The state room is double, that is, there are two rooms which can be
used as one or separated by closing the folding doors between them.
The part of the room next the main part of the car is in every respect
like the usual room.
The other, however, is smaller, but is quite suitable for two persons.
The first section in the body of the car is arranged for
draperies which will separate it from the remainder of the car.
A Bulgarian train toilet.
The story gets back on track, so to speak, with more lavatory descriptions.
The gentlemen's lavatory
is a decided improvement over the common form.
It is not open, but is a private room next to the smoking room, and
has a door opening into the side passage, and another into the smoking room.
When desired the door between the rooms can be kept closed,
but in the mornings the two rooms can be thrown into one.
This is a much better arrangement than the open lavatories.
I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but it's been improved,
and now the Victorian gentlemen can smoke away in brotherly companionship,
what ho, what ho.
And this is
mind you, despite the strenuous attempts at Englishness.
Now let's move on to the facilities for those dusky immigrants.
A Latvian train toilet.
Immigrant Train Toilets
Passenger ships like the Titanic had "steerage class",
while American trains had cars just for immigrants.
The standard immigrant sleeping cars,
several of which are present at the shops, are all arranged so that
the wash rooms, cook stove, etc., with the exception of the ladies' toilet,
are separated from the body of the car by a transverse partition,
in which is a swing door,
thus keeping the main part of the car much warmer in winter,
the passing in and out producing fewer cold draughts.
A Japanese local train toilet.
Ladies, by which they mean White Ladies, get the top tier of train lavatory.
Gentlemen, meaning White Gentlemen, get facilities almost as nice.
Plus, of course, complex smoking arrangements.
Then the Immigrants get their very own cars with cook stoves
on which they can roast possums or whatever it is that they eat.
Plus the Immigrant Ladies' toilet is separated by a swing door.
The Earth Closet System