in the wake of the observation car

Couch Tomato

Senior Member
Russian & Dutch
The days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used tissue paper that a train passenger sees whirling in the wake of the observation car.
(Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov)

I've found on Wikipedia that an observation car is is a type of railroad passenger car. So what's the idea here? Does the observation car create an air flow which causes tissue paper to whirl? I'm not exactly getting the picture. What does he mean by "in the wake of the observation car"? I know what "in the wake of" means, but how does the observation car influence the whirling of the tissue paper?

Thank you in advance.
  • Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    I imagine that the observation car is situated at the end of the train and that if installed therein, one could observe the tracks disappearing behind the train as it tears through the landscape.
    I also imagine that at the same time the train is dumping its sewage load as it passes on through, leaving a wake a swirling debris, toilet paper streamers being just part of that debris.
    (cross-posted with gramman)

    George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK

    The observation car is generally at the back of the train. That should be enough info to work out what in the wake of means and what causes the whirling ...


    The relevant definition is also in the WR dictionary. <<Comment deleted.>>
    Last edited by a moderator:

    Couch Tomato

    Senior Member
    Russian & Dutch
    Thank you, gramman, George French and especially Beryl. Your explanation was very clear and helpful.
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