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Old 28 February 2008, 07:25 PM
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snopes snopes is offline
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Icon86 Direct disposal toilets

Comment: Modern-day passenger trains in the United States are required to
have retention toilets. In the "bad old days," however, the toilets
emptied directly onto the tracks. These "direct disposal" toilets are
still used elsewhere in the world.

The rumor I have heard is that "direct disposal" toilets were outlawed in
the United States because a US congressman was fishing under a Florida
railroad trestle one day. Amtrak came along, and he literally got "dumped
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Old 28 February 2008, 07:49 PM
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Mateus Mateus is offline
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I found this google book page which suggests that Washington State first required the use of retention toilets, followed by the Federal gov't in the 70's.
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Old 28 February 2008, 10:08 PM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
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We still have them in the UK, but my brother was recently in India and their trains have toilets labelled European and Indian; the Indian ones consisting just of holes onto the track
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Old 29 February 2008, 01:19 PM
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Loyhargil Loyhargil is offline
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My dad worked for the railroad for 40 years at a station where a lot of trains got switched.

He used to tell the story about how the passenger trains all had signs, "Do not flush toilet while train is not moving," or "in the station," I can't remember exactly now. Dad was a switchman I believe at the time, and working the night shift. One of his friends noticed a passenger train stopped once, and saw the shadow of someone going in to use the toilet. They began to get really nervous, because they both had to walk those rails a lot in the dark. The person stood up, and Dad's friend began yelling at the top of his lungs for the person NOT to flush. Except the person got flustered once s/he realized s'he'd been seen, flushed anyway and ran out of the toilet. So Dad and his buddy ended up walking the lines quite gingerly that night at the spot where they made the mental note to watch out.

Dad said he felt better later about Dad's friend yelling, that HAD to freak the passenger out. But at the time, all they could think about was the mess they were going to be left with.
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Old 29 February 2008, 01:28 PM
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Tootsie Plunkette Tootsie Plunkette is offline
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Ah, the 'lyrics' to Humoresque...
Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station, I love you.

We encourage constipation
While the train is in the station
Moonlight always makes me think of you

If you really must pass water
Kindly call the Pullman porter
He'll place a vessel in your vestibule
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Old 29 February 2008, 01:32 PM
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Ramblin' Dave Ramblin' Dave is offline
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Originally Posted by snopes View Post
The rumor I have heard is that "direct disposal" toilets were outlawed in
the United States because a US congressman was fishing under a Florida
railroad trestle one day. Amtrak came along, and he literally got "dumped
The version I heard was that it was Sen. Edmund Muskie, during his 1972 presidential campaign. He wasn't fishing; he was giving a campaign speech near a parked train during a whistle-stop trip. The culprit was songwriter Steve Goodman, of "City of New Orleans" fame. That song, of course, contains the line, "passengers will please refrain". Goodman borrowed that from a sign he saw on the train that inspired the song, reading "Passengers will please refrain from flushing the toilet while the train is in the station" or something like that.

Goodman was providing the entertainment at Muskie's rally, and he wasn't feeling well due to a round of chemotherapy (he had leukemia). So while Muskie was speaking, he used the train bathroom and ignored his own advice with respect to flushing. Muskie's campaign manager immediately got on the train and yelled that the senator was getting sprayed with shit. Goodman reportedly replied, "Hey, man, he's your candidate!"
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Old 29 February 2008, 09:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Tootsie Plunkette View Post
Ah, the 'lyrics' to Humoresque...
Passengers will please refrain
From flushing toilets while the train
Is standing in the station, I love you.
Even here? (Sadly, Flushing, Cornwall, has no train tracks, so very likely no train station, and I wanted a European location -- pun originally unintended.)

My mother sometimes sings the first verse, if the mood strikes her, and it's interesting to see the rest of the lyrics.
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Old 29 February 2008, 10:58 PM
rockstar1976 rockstar1976 is offline
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damn, you beat me to the Steve Goodman story. A book I've been reading says that the story may have been largely embellished, but a great Goodman story nonetheless.
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Old 01 March 2008, 06:33 PM
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E. Q. Taft E. Q. Taft is offline
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Scrolling down the main index real fast, I originally read this as "Direct deposit toilets."
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Old 11 March 2008, 08:55 PM
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NorthernLite NorthernLite is offline
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That line out of "The City of New Orleans" finally makes sense to me

The conductor sings his song again
Passengers will please refrain
This train's got the disappearing railroad blues.
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Old 11 March 2008, 10:18 PM
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Izzy Quigley Izzy Quigley is offline
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There's a short story by Alice Munro, "Chance" (from the collection Runaway) that mentions direct disposal toilets on trains. Actually they're important to the plot. As Loyhargil mentioned, passengers in the story were warned not to flush the toilet while the train was in the station.
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Old 13 March 2008, 06:00 PM
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snoozn snoozn is offline
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There is a good reason to have "direct deposit" toilets other than getting dumped on:

I remember seeing signs about not flushing in the station when I lived in Germany (about 10-15 years ago). I don't remember if I saw the signs in Germany or somewhere else in Europe (maybe the Czech Republic).

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Old 17 March 2008, 12:17 AM
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Horse Chestnut Horse Chestnut is offline
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I grew up right next to some railroad tracks, and walked the tracks beside my house almost daily during the summer. My, sister, brother and I found many odd, as well as sometimes horrific things along the tracks, but I can never once recall finding human waste on the tracks.

This would have been during the 60s and 70s, so I suppose people were still using the direct deposit toilets. I guess people just refrained when they were in front of our house.

BTW - I always thought the "refrain" in "City of New Orleans" referred to this definition: "refrain - the part of a song where a soloist is joined by a group of singers". Since I never got to ride on a passenger train, I never knew about the hidden reference.
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Old 17 March 2008, 12:28 AM
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There is a classic steam train that runs not to far from here, as a tourist attraction. When I was a little girl, my family once rode it. My mom had made a note of the sign on the door of the toilet saying "Don't use when train is not in motion."

When we got to the station, my dad and I had gone elsewhere, but my mom and sister got a show of one of the reasons not to use the toilet when the train was stopped. The room was quite small, and had a small window in it. Mom and my sister got to see a large woman's behind smooshed against the window as she tried to bend over and pull up her panties after using the toilet on the train.

I didn't realize until much later that there was probably another good reason not to use that toilet.
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