The Silver Phantom (or Silver Meteor)

This was the train taken by James Bond and Solitaire on their trip from New York City to Florida in Live and Let Die.

Seaboard Air Line Railroad introduced the train and route in 1939, and now under Amtrak, continues to run to this very day.

Fleming refers to it as the Silver Phantom, which he also makes reference to as a “sister train” to the Silver Meteor train. In real life, the sister train to the Meteor was the Silver Star.

The train leaves from Pennsylvania Station, where Bond and Solitaire arrive separately.

It lay, a quarter of a mile of silver carriages, quietly in the dusk of the underground station. Up front, the auxiliary generators of the 4000 horsepower twin Diesel electric units ticked busily. Under the bare electric bulbs the horizontal purple and gold bands, the colours of the Seaboard Railroad, glowed regally on the streamlined locomotives. The engineman and fireman who would take the great train on the first two hundred mile lap into the south lolled in the spotless aluminium cabin, twelve feet above the track, watching the ammeter and the air-pressure dial, ready to go.

Bond heads into the train,

Bond stepped on to the train and turned down the drab olive green corridor. The carpet was thick. There was the usual American train-smell of old cigar-smoke. A notice said ‘Need a second pillow? For any extra comfort ring for your Pullman Attendant. His name is,’ then a printed card, slipped in : ‘Samuel D. Baldwin.’

Their sleeping room is compartment H in car 245, toward the rear of the train. They meet and their Pullman Attendant Baldwin takes care of them, even giving Bond a warning that they have an enemy on the train. Bond and Solitaire have chicken sandwiches for lunch, (with Old Fashioneds) and scrambled eggs (with “bottled” martinis) for dinner. After a note is slipped under their door, Bond decides to leave the train early, with the assistance of Baldwin, he and Solitaire exit the train in Jacksonville.

In Goldfinger, Bond again rides this train, but in the opposite direction. He orders Goldfinger:

“Right. Now jot this down on the back of your cheque book and see you get it right. Book me a compartment on the Silver Meteor to New York tonight. Have a bottle of vintage champagne on ice and plenty of caviar sandwiches. The best caviar.

He also specifies to “make that compartment a drawing-room” as he’ll be taking Jill Masterton with him as a “hostage.”

It’s a luxurious trip from another era, similar to the experience of the Stratocruiser, where there is fine dining, service, and other comforts that you just don’t find in today’s travel experience.

B.O.A.C. Stratocruiser

From the moment the B.O.A.C. Stratocruiser taxied up to the International Air Terminal at Idlewild, James Bond was treated like royalty.

Live and Let Die.

This is one case where the old days were definitely better. More comfortable at a minimum.

Bond enjoys the luxury of the stratocruiser, flying it also in Diamonds Are Forever.

In For Your Eyes Only, Bond laments that he isn’t able to take the Stratocruiser:

Two days later, Bond took the Friday Comet to Montreal. He did not care for it. It flew too high and too fast and there were too many passengers. He regretted the days of the old Stratocruiser — that fine lumbering old plane that took ten hours to cross the Atlantic. Then one had been able to have dinner in peace, sleep for seven hours in a comfortable bunk, and get up in time to wander down to the lower deck and have that ridiculous BOAC ‘country house’ breakfast while the dawn came up and flooded the cabin with the first bright gold of the Western hemisphere.

Bond feels everything is too rushed on the Comet.

At the end of Goldfinger, Bond is a captive aboard a Stratocruiser hijacked by Goldfinger and his crew.

This 1952 ad gives you a feel for the experience.

My feeling is that Bond would eschew the downstairs cocktail lounge:

Preferring instead to have a drink in his seat, or sleep in a private berth. (Though in Diamonds Are Forever, Bond notes that he booked too late to get a sleeping berth.) Young lady presumably not included.

On all three occasions above in which Bond flew the Stratocruiser, the airport involved on the United States end of things was Idlewild, which is now John F. Kennedy International Airport. Here’s a peek at it back in the 1950’s:

 

For much, much more on this plane and wonderful era in airplane travel, check out this page.