Toilets on Trains

I have been documenting the toilets on the various trains and boats I have used on my Eastward journey around the Northern Hemisphere.

Why toilets?

Toilets are a great leveller for travellers. The toilet is a defining space on a train: not every train will have one, but pretty much every toilet will be used, and on longer journeys, pretty much every passenger will use the toilet (inhabiting its space for a brief or not-so-brief interval).

Many of the photos do not show the actual toilet itself: this is not, after all, what I am interested in. It is the space that I am concerned with. These are the smallest, most intimate spaces on trains. They are inherently public, but are just about the only space on the train that one can be in private. (Unless one is lucky enough to have a cabin to oneself, as I did on the Köln-москва sleeper.)

In most cases, I have also included a picture of the toilet's mirror. This is to record the part of the space that enlarges the visual space, allowing the toileting traveller the pleasurable illusion of not being trapped inside a very small space. The mirror photos also serve the purpose of recording my own presence in the space.

First up, Arriva Trains Wales, from Ludlow to Shrewsbury:

This toilet is thoughtfully combined with a baby-changing table.

Note the pile of toilet paper nonchalantly placed upon the dispenser.

Next, we have the Wrexham & Shropshire from Shrewsbury to London Marylebone. (I chose this route as the trains are infinitely preferable to the fridge-like interior design of the FirstGreatWestern offering via Newport. With W&S, even standard class feels like first class.)

But what is the handle for? I assume it is a manual self-steadying device. 

(blurriness reflecting state of mind - I slept through most of this journey, as I had had a very short night.)

The London Underground, as well you know, is without toilets on its trains (but wouldn't that be something?)
We thus move to the following day, and Eurostar from St. Pancras International to Bruxelles Midi (Brussel Zuid)
Less can be seen, due to a smaller space than the previous two.

but multiple mirrors compensate visually for this lack of space.

Leaving Brussels and heading East into Germany, it's...
Thalys, from Bruxelles Midi to Köln Hbf.

A mirror above the toilet allows the male trans-European-border traveller to watch himself while peeing.

For the first time, mirrors mirror mirrors in parallel, creating more visual space than any previous toilet.

Then into Eastern Europe, on the Köln-москва 2-night sleeper from Cologne to Moscow: The toilets on this train made an amazing "wheeeching" sound when flushing. I have yet to find any recordings I may have made of this.

This grey-green decor characterised the whole train interior. 

A double mirror on the wall further enlarges an already large space.

The toilets on the 5-night sleeper "байкал" from Moscow to Irkutsk had a similar general layout to the Köln-москва sleeper.

It seems that the actual pan is designed so that those who want to squat upon it can do so using the handy foot pads. The bottom of the pan actually opens straight onto the tracks below. Also notice that the floor has plastic matting and a drain in the middle, so the whole space can be used as a shower room.

A decent mixer tap made this space seem very civilised. 
The very clunky door handle was typical of all the trains across central Asia. 
A similarly large double mirror - and a shaver plug with which to charge up my camera battery!

Next, onto a Mongolian train, where the water delivery and flushing system seems to have all sorts of complicated instructions attached to it. I think these are best ignored.

A nice friendly round-cornered mirror.

A view from the top, in which can be seen the complicated water delivery and flushing system. A shower is less easy here, due to a lack of floor matting. There was not much space, but fortunately no cats were available for swinging.

The Chinese train was fairly similar to the Mongolian one, although with slightly greyer décor:

Above the no drinking sign is a small alcove with two stopcocks in. Each one has a different number of gallons(litres?) on - I assume they are linked to different sized water tanks.

Next comes my first failure of this series: the fastest regular service train in the world. This runs from Beijing to Tianjin, and I was unable to access the toilets. This may have been because of the short journey time, but I ought at least to have taken a photo of the outside of the toilet door. Instead, here is a photo showing the interior of the train, including a screen that announces how fast the train is travelling:

(clicking on the image should give you a larger version, on which you may be able to read the speed.)

My next forms of transport were bus and taxi (no toilets) from Tianjin to Tanggu. 

At Tanggu, there is no more land to the East without going North or South, so I boarded the "Jincheon" ferry to get to Korea. This then, is one of the many toilets aboard the ferry:

The bright colours of the anti-odour blocks really brighten up the room!

This could almost be a toilet in any public space, but I assure you it is aboard a ferry. 

Of course, the ferry is far more spacious than on a train, and the walls of mirrors make this even more so. 

 Lots of fun for photographing with...

On arrival in Incheon, I got the subway into Seoul. No toilets on the subway, but here is a photo depicting the general atmosphere:

The next toilet photos were taken aboard Korea's High-speed train, the KTX. This was designed and built by the same company as France's TGV, so there were notable similarities with Thalys and Eurostar (see above).

This is the first train since Thalys that had facing mirrors in the toilet. 

And so I arrived in Busan:

This is not a toilet, nor is it on a train, (it is in fact the form of many floors in the biggest department store in the world.) but I noticed that the form of it is somewhat similar to your average contemporary lavatory pan. I therefore include it here as an ode to the dream of Sir Thomas Crapper (who should have been knighted if he wasn't).

The Busan-Hakata ferry was the shortest ferry crossing of the journey to Japan, and I was so excited by the outside scenery and the "Japaneseness" of the boat that I neglected to take a photo of the loo - another failure. Here, then, is a photo of one of the corridors on board. Which (one hopes) is not generally used as a toilet.

And so we move to the Japanese section of the journey, and the Limited express train known as Sonic. Since 2006, when I lived in these parts, the silver Sonics have all been refitted on the inside, and painted blue on the outside

The first Sonic I travelled upon on this journey ran from Hakata to Oita, but I got off it at Kokura to change to a local. Despite the interior renovations, the toilet space was the smallest on this journey yet.

 The slim corner mirror does little to alleviate the cramped feeling.

 The local (wanman, or one-man) train that I changed to in Kokura was the first I had experienced with neither a mirror nor a window, which also meant that it was the darkest toilet of all, and more difficult to photograph.

The red notice beside the No Smoking signs says, in Japanese, "Please do not smoke: The sensor will activate, and a buzzer will sound"
This helpful sign tells us foreigners that "Restroom lavation flows when I push the central button"

I re-boarded the Limited Express Sonic in Nakatsu, and was pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of the toilet, the size of the mirror, and the stylish lighting design.

An SOS button for peace of mind 
Again, that handy sign

That grille on the right hand side could even be said to be a window!
Smart and functional

From Beppu, I boarded an overnight ferry to Osaka.

This cubicle seems to be entered from the side.
The semicircular sign is a no-smoking sign in Japanese only.

Again, the sense of space aboard a ferry is entirely different to that on a train. 

20/6/10 Osaka-Tokyo by local trains (a 10 hour journey)

The first 2 trains (南海 Nankai railway to Namba and 地下鉄 chikatetsu subway Midosuji line) didn't have toilets on. I assumed the next train ("special rapid" commuter train to Maibaru via Kyoto) also didn't, but i think i may have been wrong. Nevertheless, the train was very crowded, the toilet was at the back of the train and i was at the front. These short hour-long train journeys didn't give me much thinking time, and on that first one I didn't even have time (or need) to find the toilet. I think that most commuters on this train would, likewise, not try to find the toilet, and spend their time aboard engaged in the noble Japanese art of gaman: patient endurance of a situation.

Here is a picture of me practising Gaman on the Osaka-Kyoto-Maibara commuter train

The next train (a "rapid" from Maibara to Toyohashi) did have a toilet. Inside I found a smallish-but-not-too-small mirror that was hung rather low, and also lots of helpful signs, buttons and gadgets.

The next train, which took me to somewhere in Kanagawa, had toilets of a very similar design:

That's all for the moment; more to follow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A fascinating excursion through the nether regions of Northern Hemisphere trains. It seems to connect with the Guardian's rather offbeat series of Maradona's 'thoughts from my £1000 toilet' during the World Cup.
This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive series of photographs of train toilets that I have ever seen.