Baby Train

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[1]:For the movement of orphans to the west in the late 19th century, see Orphan Train and Catholic sisters and nuns in the United States#Baby trains.

An artists impression of The Baby Train

The Baby Train or simply Baby Train is an urban legend, told in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.[2] The legend first appear in Christopher Morley's 1939 novel Kitty Foyle.[3] According to the legend, a certain small town had an unusually high birth rate. This was allegedly caused by a freight train passing through the town and blowing its whistle, waking up all the residents. Since it was too late to go back to sleep and too early to get up, couples would find other ways to amuse themselves in bed. This resulted in a mini-baby boom.[2]

Plot[edit]

One version of the myth, as written down by the Australian author and folklorist Bill Scott in The Long & The Short & The Tall: a collection of Australian yarns tells the story of a little town on the coast, not too far north of Sydney, where the birth rate was three times the average for all the rest of Australia. This was so unusual the Government sent someone out to the town to investigate the cause for the high birth rate.

When the official arrived, he found children everywhere he looked. "Even the local school had those temporary classrooms all over the place to fit them in and they had a special maternity wing at the local hospital."[4] The man was mystified for a while. The people there didn’t seem different from people in other small towns, so he couldn't understand why they got three times as many children. After a few nights in the town, the man figured it out.

This particular town was right by the main railway line. The train was delivering mail right past the town, and thus blew its whistle when it stopped. Since it was too early to get up and it was too late to go back to sleep again, the adults had to find something to do in bed while waiting. This then led to the very high birth rates.

Other versions of the myth vary to different degrees. Sometimes the small town is in America or England, and one version tells of noisy foghorns rather a than train whistle.[3]


Similar myths and actual events[edit]

The story is related to the rumour that birth rates spiked nine months after the Northeast Blackout of 1965[5], the actual birthrate increase in Boston after February 1969 nor'easter [6] September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks[7], and other natural disasters and similar events.[8][9][10] It is based on the premise that when regular life is disrupted adults will resort to sex as entertainment without regard for family planning or protection.

Background[edit]

  • In 1939 Baby Train was mentioned in Christopher Morley's novel Kitty Foyle : “The first thing you hear mornings in Manitou is the early Q train to Chicago. It’s too early to get up and too late to go to sleep again. They have a legend out there that the morning yells of that rattler do a good deal to keep up the birth-rate.”[3]
  • In 1944 the story was published in The New Anecdota Americana : Five Hundred Stories for America's Amusement.[11]
  • In 1946 it appeared in A Collection of Jokes and Anecdotes by Bennett Cerf: "A visitor to “a small town near Charleston” is struck by the number of children in that village and thinks to ask the waiter at his hotel about it. The obliging server takes the traveler to see the train tracks at the east end of town where the expresses to Miami come barreling through. “It’s this way,” he explained. “That damned train rushes by here every morning at seven o’clock. It’s too early to get out of bed, and too late to go back to sleep.”"[12]
  • In 1946 Frank Cunningham wrote the book Big Dan: The Story Of A Colorful Railroader about the railroader Daniel Goode Cunningham or Big Dan. In the book the Baby Train myth is mentioned.[13]
  • In 1956 Baby Train popped up in Playboy's "Party Jokes".[14]
  • In 1967 Readers Digest mentioned a version of the myth without a train: "A harried young serviceman, tripping over small children, babies in buggies and the assorted paraphernalia of the very young in a shopping area of San Francisco, sputtered exasperatedly, “Good Lord! Don’t these people around here ever do anything else?” A passerby commented knowingly, “It’s the foghorns.”"[15]
  • In 1985 Bill Scott, an Australian folklorist published The Long & The Short & The Tall: a collection of Australian yarns, where the Baby Train is written down.[4]
  • In 1993 folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand published the book The Baby Train & Other Lusty Urban Legends.[2][16] The Baby Train was Brunvand's fifth in a series of books that set out to document, and occasionally debunk,[16] urban legends such as "Cactus and Spiders,"[17][18] "The Slasher Under the Car,"[19] and "Car Theft during Earth Quake,"[20] along with the "Baby Train."[2] Many of the stories were collected from readers of Brunvand's syndicated newspaper column, "Urban Legend".[21] Like Brunvand's previous urban legend books, stories in The Baby Train & Other Lusty Urban Legends are divided into common themes: automobiles, animals, horror, accidents, sex and scandals, crime, business and professional, government, celebrity rumours, and academic legends.[2]

Further reading[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Brunvand, Jan Harold (1993). The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends.[22]
  • Cerf, Bennett (1946). Anything For A Laugh, a collection of jokes and anecdotes that you, too, can tell and probably have. [12]
  • Boyd, Robert F.; Fleming, Robert Loren (1994). The Big Book of Urban Legends: Adapted from the Works of Jan Harold. [23]
  • Scott, Bill (1985). The Long & The Short & The Tall: a collection of Australian yarns.[4]


References[edit]

  1. ^ NASA. "Apollo 12 Technical Air-to-ground voice transcription" (PDF). 
  2. ^ a b c d e Nicolaisen, W.F.H. (1997). "The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand". Folklore. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd. 108: 134–135. JSTOR 1260739. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Baby Train". Snopes. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  4. ^ a b c Scott, Bill (1985). The Long & The Short & The Tall: a collection of Australian yarns. p. 250-251. ISBN 094946001X. 
  5. ^ "From Here to Maternity". Snopes. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  6. ^ "Calendar Studied After Birth Surge". Philadelphia Inquirer. Associated Press. 22 Nov 1969 – via ProQuest Historical Newspapers. 
  7. ^ "Baby Boom". Snopes. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  8. ^ Levs, Josh. "Is the post-Sandy baby boom real?". CNN. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  9. ^ Henley, Jon. "Sex, lies and natural disasters". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  10. ^ O'Connor, Anahad. "Really? Natural Disasters Can Influence Birthrates". The New York Times Blogs. Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  11. ^ Grayson (1944). The New Anecdota Americana : Five Hundred Stories for America's Amusement. Grayson Publishing. p. 37. 
  12. ^ a b Cerf, Bennett (1946). Anything For A Laugh, a collection of jokes and anecdotes that you, too, can tell and probably have. Grosset & Dunlap. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  13. ^ Cunningham, Frank (1946). Big Dan: The Story Of A Colorful Railroader. pp. 257–258. ISBN 978-1163154670. 
  14. ^ Party Jokes. Playboy. December 1956. p. 48. 
  15. ^ Reader's Digest. July 1967. p. 74. 
  16. ^ a b Molyneux, Michael (12 February 1995). "New & Noteworthy Paperbacks". The New York Times (Late Edition-Final). p. 36, section 7, column 1. 
  17. ^ Mikkelson, David. "Spiders in Cactus". Snopes.com. Retrieved 3 May 2018. 
  18. ^ Claiborne, Ray C. (30 November 1993). "Q&A". The New York Times (Late Edition–Final). p. 11; Section C; Column 1. 
  19. ^ Mikkelson, David. "Slasher Under the Car". Snopes.com. Retrieved 3 May 2018. 
  20. ^ Mikkelson, David. "Car Thief Dies in Earthquake". Snopes.com. Retrieved 3 May 2018. 
  21. ^ Null, Elizabeth F.; Mcneil, W.K.; Pifer, Lynn (October–December 1988). "The Journal's Editors". The Journal of American Folklore. American Folklore Society. 101 (402): 20–49. JSTOR 540385. 
  22. ^ Brunvand, Jan Harold (1993). The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-03438-7. OCLC 25508604. 
  23. ^ Boyd, Robert F.; Fleming, Robert Loren (1994). The Big Book of Urban Legends: Adapted from the Works of Jan Harold. New York: Paradox Press. p. 126. ISBN 1-56389-165-4.