Mission: Chapter 10: Brakes on a Train
The magnificent locomotive thundered out of the tunnel and into the arid daylight, belching steam from its dozen chimneys. Western trains like this one were gigantic, and the ground rumbled for miles around as it passed.
Kanesville had been left behind five miles ago, and the train was gradually picking up speed. It was heading east, far, far across the Old West, in the direction of Columbus City. Trailing behind the rust-coloured locomotive came its twenty-four carriages of wood and brass panelling, each of them twice as large in every direction as anything on the railways of Europa.
The train was carrying large amounts of machinery, cattle, and trading goods. The Old Western railway was the economic lifeline of the nation. There was no other way to transport such quantities of goods at such speed between the coastal cities. But there were just as many empty goods carriages as filled ones: the train had only collected a fraction of the fresh food that it had been supposed to along the way. The food crisis was spiralling out of control, and the freight conductor could only guess what would happen once the train reached Columbus City with a full list of orders to fulfil once they got there.
The staff, such as the engineers, the stewards, and the conductors all worked for the private railroad company, and the rail marshals aboard the train had been hired separately to keep the peace and to protect the cargo. Because the West was operating under martial law, the rail network officially belonged to the military, and so the railroads were frequently used to transport soldiers.
Large quantities of passengers were also being transported. Many of the passenger carriages had two decks, with the fourth- and cheapest class of carriage having three decks with as many people packed under the low-ceilings as possible. The third-class passengers shared upper-deck cabins above the communal entertainment and eating areas. These passengers tended not to be well-off, but still had coin to spend on their journey, and the railroad company was determined to make them spend it here.
For second-class passengers there were family-sized cabins on either upper- or lower decks. The cabins were roomy enough to make a long journey more comfortable, and some of them even had private bathrooms. The passengers in these cabins tended to be the social elite, or otherwise rich, and their tickets granted them access to the more specialised entertainment that the train offered. There was a ball room, a restaurant, a sports room and who knew what else.
The real luxuries were reserved for the first-class passengers who could rent up to an entire carriage, if they so desired. The possibilities were only limited by their budget. The Peacock family was one such group of passengers. They had a carriage to themselves, and had expected to travel to Columbus city in the the highest of luxuries. But they hadn't counted on their carriage being invaded by criminals. Nobody expects a pirate intermission.