Blumberger's plan isn't good for anything now except to cut up into railroad sandwiches

如沐春风

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, everyone. Would you please do me a favour.
I have trouble understanding the following sentences from Witches' Loaves by O. Henry.


"Blumberger's been buying the bread here. Well, to-day -- well, you know, ma'am, that butter isn't -- well, Blumberger's plan isn't good for anything now except to cut up into railroad sandwiches." (Witches' Loaves)

What is puzzling me:
1. How can the plan (a drawing of ... ) be cut into railroad sandwiches?
2. What on earth are railroad sandwiches? Are they sandwiches sold in the railroad station or sold on the train? Or are "railroad sandwiches" just long pieces of paper spread with butter covered by bread crumbs? That is, a metaphor is applied here by O. Henry.

I would appreciate it if you could give me an explanation.
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    "Railroad sandwiches" are normal sandwiches, made with bread. They are available to train passengers. That is probably what it meant in 1904 (when this story was published) too. One website says "During the early years of the railroad, sandwiches proved an ideal form of fast food, since they could be sold at train stations when everyone got off to buy snacks."

    I have no idea what the nuances were (in 1904) surrounding railroad sandwiches, or why this is used in the text. But this context:

    well, Blumberger's plan isn't good for anything now except
    tells me he is saying that the plan is useless now.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    You really need to read the whole story to understand those lines. The main point is that by putting butter on the stale bread that Blumberger used to erase pencil lines,the woman had caused Blumberger to ruin his plans by smearing them with butter.The plans were now useless, as dojibear said. The speaker jokingly humorously suggests one use - cutting up to use in sandwiches.
     
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    如沐春风

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The speaker jokingly humorously suggests one use - cutting up to use in sandwiches.
    Thank you both very much, dojibear and tunaafi.
    tunaafi, me, a foreign language learner, sorry to bother you again, but what do you mean by: The speaker jokingly humorously one use - cutting up to use in sandwiches?

    My puzzle is: How can the plan be cut into railroad sandwiches? Paper becomes food?
    My guess is that "railroad sandwiches" is an expression as a humorous metaphor, because if you cut the plan smeared with buttered bread into pieces, the pieces have something in common with the true railroad sandwiches.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    If American railroad sandwiches in 1904 were anything like British Railways sandwiches in the 1960s, then they might as well have been made with paper. Dry, curled up at the edges ...

    I suspect that this was a comment based on the quality of railroad sandwiches.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    but what do you mean by: The speaker jokingly humorously one use - cutting up to use in sandwiches?
    That was a mistake, corrected by the time you asked about it.
    t the plan smeared with buttered bread into pieces, the pieces have something in common with the true railroad sandwiches.
    [/QUOTE]
     

    如沐春风

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If American railroad sandwiches in 1904 were anything like British Railways sandwiches in the 1960s, then they might as well have been made with paper. Dry, curled up at the edges ...

    I suspect that this was a comment based on the quality of railroad sandwiches.
    Thank you, Andygc. Thanks to your clue, I have found this material:
    Sandwiches served on trains were a source of amusement long before the advent of British Rail, as evidenced by a humorous column in the October 1884 edition of the American Railway Journal:
    The existence of the railway sandwich and its spread throughout the country has long been a source of terror to the people and of anxiety to the medical fraternity who have been able to cope with it successfully.[4]
    British Rail sandwich • Wikipedia

    So it might be understood as this: By "except to cut up into railroad sandwiches", O. Henry. humorously said the plan was useless, and meanwhile made a joke of the unappetising railroad sandwiches at that age .
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It sounds like something that a writer like him would say. Eating the plans would not be less satisfying than eating the sandwiches that were offered then. They would both be unappetizing.
     
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