History is preserved in it’s random junk

Floyd Jarvis was one of those quiet guys who, in his own small way, helped preserve one heck of a lot of the American railroad history.


He lived in a doublewide up on 12th Street by himself. A former railroad workers, whose father also worked on the railroads, the rails and all about them were his life.


How much nobody knew. After he died in 2009 he left his entire collection to Union Station. Members who went into his trailer said it was chock-full of books, movies, model railroad gear and so on.


A lot of his stuff was sold to raise funds, but a lot more was put into Union Station’s collection: Books, slides, movies, stuff.


Fun stuff. Nothing was too small to attract his interest, apparently, and as a historic preservationist, this is critical.


I was looking for railroad schedules, of which Floyd had many, and came across another box labeled “Dining packets etc.”


Dining packets?


Yeah, those little envelopes of plastic silverware, napkins and other stuff that you get on trains when you sit down to eat, or buy a hot dog in the canteen.


They don’t sound important, but in historic preservation you never know what really is important. A 100 years from now nobody may ever know what a “spork” is, for example.



There are napkins here on which the railroad’s name embossed on them, not the generic tissues used today. There are souvenir checkbook covers, brochures of Mt. Rainier and Old Faithful with the Union Pacific logo prominently displayed, Rio Grande paper napkins that almost feel like linen,and on and on.


Fun stuff.



The treasure of this particular box is a Pacific Northwest snack pack given to first class travelers by the nice folks at Amtrak on its “Pioneer” and “Empire Builder” trains. It would have been given to folks who paid extra for a sleeping car and looks pretty yummy.


There’s a pack of salmon spread, an “Aplets Colets” snack bar, some roasted peanuts and a box of Venus brand stone ground wheat crackers.


No I am not going to taste these things. I can’t see the expiration date but mid-70s is my guess. Is that spread packet’s foil lid bulging a titch?




But stuff like this, as I said, gives a hint at life back when trains were run by companies that didn’t mind spending a little money to make the trip more pleasant and, incidentally, reinforce that railroad’s name with that pleasant experience. They actually act as if they care whether you are comfortable.


Contrast that with the current flying experience, where they jam you in a seat two inches too small for your legs, toss a packet of peanut (there’s supposed to be more than one in there?) at you and tell you to have a nice flight.