calming engine


In 1863 Dr Walter Lewis wrote a report on the dangers of train travel.


“Railway travel, if not too excessive,  has little injurious effect on healthy, strong well-built people, but persons who take to habitual rail travel after the age of 25 are more easily affected than those who begin earlier. The more advanced in age a traveller is, the more easily he is affected by locomotion.

Weak, tall, loosely-knit persons are very unsuited for habitual train travelling and should avoid it unless absolutely necessary.”


The enterprising Dr Lewis went on to devise a cure for people in those high risk categories. His patent traveller’s calming engine was, he said, the only certain palliative for the potentially severe health effects induced by high speed locomotion.

This “cure” was a wooden box containing a bottle of smelling salts, a bottle of brandy, a cap that came down over the eyes and an instrument which looked like a giant pair of scissor handles with two flat pads instead of blades.


The handles were squeezed together which pushed the pads down hard on the unfortunate sufferer’s  temples. This pressure, together with the smelling salts and a swig of brandy was purported to provide an instant sense of calm and renewed vigour…….

head pads

Thankfully road and air travel took off soon after this and Dr Lewis’ calming engine for train travel was no longer needed…..


image found here

Published in: on November 2, 2009 at 7:23 am  Comments (32)  
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32 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve never been on a long train ride, but I know that really long flights get to me. So I take a valium, order two red wines and sleep like a baby who’s taken a valium and two red wines!

  2. One of the most romantic nights of my life was when Stephen and I took the overnight train from Paris to Venice in 2001. The food was excellent, our compartment wonderfully quaint and the sex sublime….. *sigh*

    Train travel will always make me feel weak at the knees

    • I’m envious, of all of it! I’m planning a trip to Paris in the spring, maybe I’ll check out the possibility of doubling it up to include Italy and a train trip as well!

  3. I love traveling on trains. I wish they had them like they do in Europe.

    Book Review #5 – Merle’s Door

  4. Brandy + smelling salts = a hot time in the old town tonight. Your European love train notwithstanding, train travel looks great in books but is, in practice, a long and laborious way to get around.

    Unrelated topic: What’s the Gimcrack doing about H1N1? To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

    • We’re vaccinating. I had my needle last week…..

  5. How wonderful to hear your rattle down memory lane, Nurse. It’s amazing how even oddball stories evoke our sentiments indirectly.

    A lovely train trip is from Bangkok south to Malaysia, very delightful.

    For global train travel there’s a webiste called The Man in Seat 61, which explains every major train trip/train network in the world, byo head-paddles!

    • Was that a comfortable trip Mitzi? I’ve been on Vietnamese train rides that were something akin to torture…. though to be fair to that lovely country I’ve been on a good one there too

  6. i was under the impression that the biggest risk from long train rides was the liquefication of the contents of your digestive tract… not sexy. so very not sexy.

    • oooohh…i couldve gone all day without reading this daisyfae! conjures up a mental image…never heard it put that way before…

  7. pressure smelling salts and brandy always calms me and renews my vigor!

  8. hmmmm, looks like the brandy is maybe the active ingredient…I wonder if you’re allowed to substitute scotch?

  9. Youd think modern medicine wouda found a way by now fer a loosely knit fella to get his bights tightend.

  10. The guy in the last picture has one arm and is driving a manual car with a stick. How does he switch gears?

    • I was about to say that too Bearman until I noticed his arm was under the jacket. Hmm, I wonder what that hand is doing????

    • Not to ruin the salacious speculation, but I belive he is indeed a double amputee. What looks like an arm under the coat is a bump in his coat – you can tell by the way the shoulder of the coat fits on the side without a prosthetic. The gear shift appears to have been moved to the left side and has probably been altered further as well so he shifts and drives with his left hand prosthetic. Amputees *can* drive stick shifts but making it safe requires modifying the car and a lot of planning ahead on the part of the amputee, especially a double amputee. I wouldn’t want to drive stick with that kind of prosthetic and no other hand available. 🙂 My husband can drive a stick but he is only a single amputee and on the left side so his car doesn’t need to be modified. He just takes his hand off the wheel long enough to shift. But he doesn’t drive a stick because it is a pain in the ass he says. 🙂

      If this is a real picture and not a mannequin (I can’t honestly tell for sure), he is likely off at the shoulder on his right side and probably mid bicep or mid forearm on his left side. More than anyone wanted to know, I’m sure. 🙂

      • No,Nicole, it’s really interesting. 🙂

      • I agree with spinachpie, fascinating information Nicole, thanks

  11. Trains is my favourite way of transportation, it’s so much more civilized, I’d rather travel by train than by air, I’m really afraid of flying, although statistics say I shouldn’t be…

    re:Thank you:)

  12. Makes me think about the huge debate that was held shortly after locomotives got powerful enough to drag a train along at a high rate of speed. There were authorities who were positive that people would die if they traveled at a speed greater than about 35 mph because they would not be able to breathe in the pressure and would suffocate.

    • Intriguing, I didn’t know about that before

  13. Believe it or not i have never been on a train inmy life!!!! Sounds soo primitive i know!!!!

  14. “loosely-knit” persons…hmmm…don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those.

  15. The blindfold hat is the least erotic fetish wear I’ve seen in a while.

  16. I did the Trans Siberian from Beijing to Moscow, far from romantic, more like smelly and cold 🙂

  17. Wow, what would they think of Planes?

  18. Don’t even get me started about fecking trains!

  19. In the earliest days of passenger locomotives, people sat in what were essentially open boxcars with seats; coal smoke up in their nostrils and dirtying their Sunday whites. A lot of uncomfortable bumping and jostling until they sorted out the shocks, I’m sure.

    I’ve always thought that one of the most under-acknowledged drivers of human evolution is our adapting to moving faster than our legs can carry us and the effect this has on our minds, bodies and behavior. (stopping before I get too pedantic)

    • Hmmm…. that sounds like certain Vietnamese trains..

  20. I still use trains a lot so I may indeed use this 🙂

  21. […] calming engine (gimcrack hospital) […]

  22. Excellent article, amazing looking weblog, added it to my favorites!

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