Train station etiquette: What you must know before you travel by railroad (1921)

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People at train station - 1920s

Southern Pacific Railroad steam locomotive No. 237 1927

Train station etiquette

by Mary Marshall Duffee

To say that the well-bred person is on time when he takes a train might be unfair. But it is a fact the well-bred person shows his consideration for others in his actions, and the person who comes into the station behind time, pushes by other people, runs into them with his traveling bag, summons a porter curtly, and tries to push ahead of others at the ticket window is acting in an inconsiderate manner.

He is also making himself conspicuous, and the well-bred person does not attract undue attention to himself in public places.

It is nothing to be ashamed of if one has traveled but little, and some excellent folk have perhaps never been in a railroad train more than once or twice in their lives. Still, it is but natural that we should all want to appear to be at ease when we travel, and not to proclaim by our manners that we have never been about before.

Your conduct in the railroad station should, therefore, be composed and unruffled.

Train station etiquette: What you must know before you travel by railroad (1921) - People at train station - 1920s

If you have time to idle away before train time, it is quite all right to go to the newsstand and purchase a paper or magazine and read it; but there is no reason why you should have to invest in chewing gum, salted nuts and gumdrops, weigh yourself, and have your fortune told by one of the penny-in-the-slot machines, pace back and forth in the station, delve in your traveling bag to see whether you remembered to bring your slippers, or ask the station attendants innumerable unnecessary questions about why the train is late.

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If you have been unable to get a tiny lunch, and really feel the need of nourishment, then you may be excused for eating a little milk chocolate while you wait, but remember that well-bred people do not eat in any public places, save restaurants and other places especially intended for that.

And the consensus of opinion seems to be that the very well-bred people do not kiss in the station. At any rate, they do it without attracting any undue attention, and save such signs of devotion till they have reached home.

I'm quite all right now, thank you - Fuhr, Ernest c1920
I’m quite all right now, thank you – Fuhr, Ernest c1920

Train station etiquette differs in Europe

To be sure, when we travel in continental Europe, we see much kissing and embracing in the railroad stations — fathers embracing their grown sons and brothers with tears in their eyes kissing brothers, though they may not have been separated for many weeks.

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But we Anglo-Saxons avoid such over-demonstrativeness, and the American way, as well as the British way, is to reveal as little as possible of our own personal affairs to others in the railway station.

We can excuse the woman who weeps audibly in the station when she sees her dear ones departing if she is old or very much overwrought, but the young woman should do her utmost to avoid such demonstration of her feelings in the station. It makes it very, much harder for those who leave her, and sometimes is painfully embarrassing.

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Grand Central Station in New York, NY in 1921, by E O Hoppe

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