The hotel guests arrive by train to Romper, and the story begins by noting the perceptions of more sophisticated Eastern passengers gazing out the window of the train car—who look upon and judge the blue hotel. This immediately establishes the passengers’ difference from the world of Romper and allows the train to symbolize a link to civilization and rationality.
Early on in the story, there is a threat of the train being held up by the blizzard—a delay that signifies both a literal and a figurative separation from society, safety, and the possibility of escape. Though at points Scully talks about the installation of an electric train in the near future, marking Fort Romper as a soon-to-be “met-ro-po-lis,” the city's distinct separation from this symbol of civilized life is clear, particularly for the most alienated hotel guest, the Swede. The Swede repeatedly threatens to catch another train and leave Romper when he is feeling particularly threatened by the men in the hotel, indicating his desire to return to a more civilized world.
When the men walk outside toward the scene of the violent brawl between the Swede and Johnnie, the only building in sight is notably the train station, which is described as “low” and “incredibly distant.” As the tension, violence, and sense of isolation in the story escalate, the train—and as such, the men’s connection to the rules of society—seems to become harder to reach. In many ways, the Swede's belief that he is in a wild, lawless place is most starkly represented by the distance and inaccessibility of the train; the train becomes both the only literal escape for the Swede, and a symbol of what he believes he has left behind when he chooses to stay in Romper.
The Train Quotes in The Blue Hotel
The Palace hotel at Fort Romper was painted a light blue, a shade that is on the legs of a kind of heron, causing the bird to declare its position against any background. The Palace Hotel, then, was always screaming and howling in a way that made the dazzling winter landscape of Nebraska seem only a gray swampish hush. It stood alone on the prairie, and when the snow was falling the town two hundred yards away was not visible. But when the traveler alighted at the railway station he was obliged to pass the Palace Hotel before he could come upon the company of low clapboard houses which composed Fort Romper, and it was not to be thought that any traveler could pass the Palace Hotel without looking at it. […] It is true that on clear days, when the great transcontinental expresses, long lines of swaying Pullmans, swept through Fort Romper, passengers were overcome at the sight, and the cult that knows the brown-reds and the subdivisions of the dark greens of the East expressed shame, pity, horror, in a laugh.
No snow was falling, but great whirls and clouds of flakes, swept up from the ground by the frantic winds, were streaming southward with the speed of bullets. The covered land was blue with the sheen of an unearthly satin, and there was no other hue save where, at the low, black railway station—which seemed incredibly distant—one light gleamed like a tiny jewel.