It Is Decreed: Train Eyes Should Be On Their Windshields

Illustration for article titled It Is Decreed: Train Eyes Should Be On Their Windshields

Peoples of Earth! Listen up! It has come to my attention that the anthropomorphization of trains and locomotives is in a state of crisis, a state that has persisted for decades. The time has come to right this wrong, and, of course, the responsibility to do so falls upon me, the Global Chief President of Vehicular Anthropomorphization, as appointed by myself and what I vividly imagine are the wishes of the United Nations, the American Council of Churches, and the American Dental Association. I’m happy to say I have found an easy and potent solution to this issue: put the eyes in the windshields.

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Everyone, please, remain calm! REMAIN CALM. I do realize that this diktat appears to fly in the face of my earlier vehicular anthropomorphization decree regarding cars, where the eyes are most definitively the headlights, and should not be in the windshield.

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I, of course, continue to stand by this decision and will defend it, sloppily and wheezily, with my fists if I need to. But trains are not cars (even if they’re both automobiles) and they have many inherent design differences that preclude the application of one global rule to both.

For those unfamiliar with trains and cars, here’s two representative images, one from each category:

Illustration for article titled It Is Decreed: Train Eyes Should Be On Their Windshields

Fig. A is the train, in this case a steam locomotive. Most trains tend to have one cyclopean headlamp, counter to the usual human pattern (for those unfamiliar, the basic human optic layout is two, arranged horizontally, on either side of a bony, bifurcated air-intake scoop that’s also used as a mount point for optical prostheses). Cars, as seen in Fig. B, tend to have paired lighting units also arranged horizontally, and these, with a grille-like mouth, can provide a foundation for an effective analog of facial components.

Trains generally lack this easy and obvious method of anthropomorphizing, which is why we’ve been subjected to such terrible attempts over the years.

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For example, look at the methods used for just one particular train-oriented story, The Little Engine That Could:

Illustration for article titled It Is Decreed: Train Eyes Should Be On Their Windshields
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Ugh. What a mess. An embarrassment to the fundamental capabilities of human creativity. The most common method used here, just slapping a face on the steam funnel, is lazy and looks weird, and, when translated into three dimensions, is downright horrific.

Illustration for article titled It Is Decreed: Train Eyes Should Be On Their Windshields
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Attempting to add extra lamps for eyes has been tried as well, and while the results are a bit better, it still comes off as strange, and it’s just not common for trains to have lamps in the positions shown.

There’s also the method of just jamming a face on the front of the train, a method made most famous by the anthropomorphic disaster that is the Thomas the Tank Engine universe:

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Dear God, just look at that. Slapping on a face William-Nilliam doesn’t respect the machinery of the train or the face itself, or the viewer of the resulting monstrosity. Those gray slabs of face-putty are just awful.

Look, I understand that the challenge of train anthropomorphization is difficult. The forms to not lend themselves to easy solutions. Diesel trains are somewhat easier due to their less complex forms, but it’s still a challenge.

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Even with this in mind, after a great deal of study and research and computer-assisted simulations, I believe the only reliable way out of this problem is to let the windshields of the train stand-in for the eyes, and work from there.

To prove my point, I’ve sketched a pair of anthropomorphized trains using this method, a Diesel and a steam locomotive:

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I’m not saying these are perfect, but I do think some quick proof-of-concept is merited, and these quick drawings I think convey the point reasonably well. The proportions of the steam locomotive (let’s call him Clonky Pete) are perhaps a bit odd and I’m not sold on the mouth solution, but he still feels like a whole character, not a train with some ghostly visage painted on somewhere. I can imagine him talking and interacting and not being creeped out. I’m not the first to propose this method, of course, but I am now making it law.

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The Diesel locomotive (let’s call her Coalaline) is a much easier task, and has also been a solution that’s been known and utilized for a good long while, perhaps most famously seen in the Chuggington series (pictured here) of anthropomorphized fictional rail-related antics.

While we’re at it, I may as well also formalize another similar question: for most aircraft, the windshield is also the preferred location for eyes, as those elements are closest to eye location on an airplane, which does have a prominent and analogous head and nose shape. You can see this well in Pixar’s anthropomorphized aircraft:

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So, in this context, I agree with Pixar, but this should in no way be taken as a softening on the subject of car headlight-eyes, which are still the proper method.

So, let’s recap the basic, unquestionable rules of vehicular anthropomorphization, specifically the crucial question of eye location:

• CARS: Headlights are eyes

• TRAINS (Steam and Diesel): Windshields are eyes

• AIRCRAFT: Windshields are eyes

• BOATS: Generally, windshields for watercraft like tugboats, fishing boats, etc. More flexibility may be needed for craft without cabins, etc.

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• OTHER VEHICLES: If lights are arranged in the extreme front in a generally face-like way, all attempts should be made to use them for eyes if possible; if this fails other methods may be attempted, but any serious undertaking should be approved by the Office Of Global Vehicular Anthropomorphizing, which is, at the moment, me.

I really hope this helps to clear things up, and I dearly hope my decrees will be heeded, as I would hate to have to unleash the full punitive force of the Office Of Global Vehicular Anthropomorphizing.

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If I have to, though, I will. By the power of every sentient cartoon vehicle, I will.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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