Overland Trail is equipped with (what is thought to be) the sole
operating streamliner era railroad barbershop in the world. Once a
common feature aboard the premier trains of old ... the railroad
barbershop succumbed to the realities of the jet age in the mid 50s.
The honor of carrying the last barbershop probably falls to the
famous Super Chief, flagship of the former Atchison, Topeka and Santa
Fe Railway. The train, affectionately known as The Train to the
Stars, because of its Hollywood celebrity patrons, lost several
premium services on January 10th 1954 including the barbershop.
Before the jetage,
the business traveler made up a very important percentage of the
railroads ridership ... and they needed to arrive at their
destination clean, well groomed and dapper, if they
wanted to make that sale. The onboard barbershop made all
that possible as quite typically, the barber not only provided the
tonsorial arts at speed, but also presided over a shower bath and
pressing services as well. Indeed, the Overland Trail sports a quite
substantial 32 volt American Beauty pressing iron. An
annex off of the barbershop provides a complete public shower with
all of the amenities ... toilet, vanity mirror, clothes locker, sink
and of course, a spacious monel metal lined shower.
In this new millennium,
the barbershop elicits dropped jaws of unbelief as
visitors and patrons pass down the hall way and spy the barbershop!
If underway during one of our frequent public day trips
out of Los Angeles (or the occasional steam special anywhere around
the western USA), chances are good that you'll find our stalwart
barber extraordinare, Earl Nickles manning the shop and providing
that time honored tradition ... the tonsorial arts at speed, while
transverseing the silvery rails from city to city.
Earl at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in the mid 80s. I found
out that we shared similar railroad and spiritual passions ... and I
found out one thing more ... he was a barber by trade! At the time, I
was nearing completion of the lounge car (at least enough to operate)
and had our maiden voyage looming (as part of the train that would be
pulled by the magnificent and beautifully restored, 1927 built,
ex-AT&SF steam locomotive, 3751 ...
also making its public maiden run). Naturally, I had to
have a barber aboard for this extraordinary journey (from LA to
Barstow to Bakersfield and return) and hoped that Earl would be
interested in a busmans holiday. Although Earl was
beside himself with the prospect of cutting hair at speed,
unfortunately, he was unable to open the shop on the
Overland's first outing as a full-fledged barbershop lounge car in decades.
a brother in law who cut hair, John Dematos (affectionately known as
John the barber to the Hatricks). It was John who made
the maiden voyage with us and resurrected a dead tradition in grand
style ... behind a steam locomotive in December of 1991.
been THE barber of the Overland Trail, but other barbers have had
a chance to helm the last operating barbershop: Sandy in Oregon has
made three trips, Lee Weaver several trips, with cameos by John
Dematos, Doyle Henderson, Ed Holt and C. Ford Haskel.
Some have said
(my thoughts as well), that the barbers chair is the best
seat in the house Im closing in on 50 haircuts. Sorry,
... doubt that anybody in the world will ever break my record in the
Guinness category of hair cuts in moving railway car.
sir / madam, are you next? Please have a seat