Nostalgia on a 150th Anniversary Train Ride

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Nostalgia isn't just for rowdy Rock & Roll concerts. Sometimes the most enduring memories are made far from traditional venues like nightclubs and stadiums. This week, a vintage locomotive marked its 150th anniversary by taking passengers on a train ride down memory lane. Surprisingly, the nostalgia for trains chronicled in this post has parallels  to nostalgia for music concerts gone by - including ticket sales.

Met Loco Number 1

This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan transit system in London. The world's oldest public transportation system has carried more people to work and school than any other, but for it's birthday, "the tube" will be re-living old memories from the past.

In honor of the occasion, the citizens of London have the opportunity to ride the vintage train cars from the turn of the century in what is being called "Tube 150". The event not only marks the historic passing of one hundred and fifty years of service, it is also an occasion for many to recall their fondest memories of their favorite train ride.

Timeout's Tim Arthur has written a love letter to the city icon in his most recent blog post:

When I was eight I was given a train set. I wanted a Scalextric. I dutifully set it up in order to avoid looking like the spoilt child I actually was. Twenty minutes later I stopped playing with it and went back to the Atari. So was I really the best person to get the golden ticket to take the glorious 1898-built steam engine, the Met Locomotive No 1 as it recreated history by traveling along the Hammersmith and City line from Kensington (Olympia) to Moorgate to celebrate the Underground’s 150th anniversary?

Vintage train fans the world over should take the time to read Arthur's post since it includes wonderful photography of the 1898-built steam engine that started it all - the Metropolitan Transportation Locomotive Number One - or Met Loco for short.

Arthur's "magical subterranean adventure" is just one of a series of posts he has written over the past month leading up to this week's celebration. The past and the present begin to blur in Arthur's colorful writing that speaks for more than just one person's fondness for train rides.

Steamy Stuff

One of Arthur's earliest Tube 150 posts was the initial announcement of steam train tickets. Pausing the melancholy for a quick commentary on "privilege", Arthur suggests that those no having the means to buy tickets stake out a spot to take photographs.

On January 13 and 20 the Met Locomotive No 1 will pull the coaches one way along the original Metropolitan Line and parts of the District Line (tickets cost $250 standard/$289 first class). On the way back, the Sarah Siddons electric locomotive will be pulling the train (these tickets are a tad more affordable: $80 standard/$128 first class). If you can’t afford one of the golden tickets (they are pretty pricey) or are too late, there will be other chances to catch these historic coaches.

Arthur isn't the first to suggest train fans use photography as a way to enjoy a train ride vicariously. There are thousands of website dedicated to train photography, some are so popular, they expand to include the trinkets and torn paper tickets as collector items. The parallels between train ride nostalgia and live music concert nostalgia are uncanny.

Nostalgia Train Ride

On this side of "the pond", train ride nostalgia takes a different form, but it is no less popular (or profitable).

In Manhattan, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) dusts off vintage subway cars from the 1930s through the 1950s and offers "Holiday Nostalgia Train Rides" during Thanksgiving and Christmas. The decor inside each train car is period correct and even includes the matching vintage posters from the era long since gone. There are wonderful photos of the MTA train rides on the popular photo sharing service Instagram. Passengers often dress in 1950s vintage clothing to match the theme of the train ride.

Wildly popular train enthusiast blog 'I Haz A Choo Choo Train Problem' describes the MTA's holiday transportation/entertainment:

The holiday nostalgia train is a special train that operates along the M line between Queens Plaza station in Queens and the 2nd Ave station in Lower Manhattan. It is comprised of R1 and R9 subway cars which were built between 1930 and 1940. According to, the New York Transit Museum (who put this on in conjunction with New York City transit) train consists of cars 100, 381, 401, 484, 1000, 1300, 1575 and 1802

The Nostalgia Train Ride is not the sole domain of New Yorkers either, thousands flock from across the nation to ride what is normally a rather mundane subway system 360 days of the year. Tickets for the special nostalgia rides are purchased through the MTA using the same ticketing system that issues the daily commute tickets.

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