Anyway, I thought about it more and did my own bit of research. As I thought, the toilets in early trains were often nothing more than holes in the floor of a closet. And yes, the contents dumped directly onto the tracks while the train was in motion. Later, seats were constructed but waste was still dumped directly onto the tracks. These were called hopper toilets. I think this second image is from a train dated 1882.
Those of us who write historical westerns, love indulging the reader in a realistic setting, but oft times we have to sugarcoat or brush over the more unpleasant aespects of being a pioneer. Even so, I think we can all imagine how cowboys on the trail or pioneers in covered wagons had to deal with bodily functions. I can just imagine a woman squatting over a self-dug hole only to have a grasshopper climb up her skirts in mid-process. I know what my reaction would be? Do you know how you'd react?
And of course, let's not forget those chamber pots. I'd like to share a scene from Eliza's Copper Penny in which Eliza is forced to care for a patient who suffered buckshot wounds to his backside. It was a difficult scene in that I knew I couldn't go into great detail or we'd have the famous "ewww" factor but I wanted to show the man's vulnerability. He's a ranger, a hard man not used to accepting help. She's a school marm not used to a man's course ways.
He blinked. “You drugged me.”
“Mr. Nolan gave you a little laudanum to help you sleep.”
“I couldn’t make my body move right.” A chagrined expression hinted at a vulnerability she would have never associated with her first image of him.
She set the lantern on the bedside table and studied him closer, puzzled by his comment. Was he trying to escape? In his condition? Escape from what? What was so important it lured him from bed and onto the floor? “You needed the rest. Perhaps I should help you back into bed. Are you in much pain? I can give you more medicine. It’s been several hours since your last dose.”
She stamped her foot. “There’ll be no more of your profanity in this house, and you needn’t yell.”
“I don’t need your infernal drug. I need my guns. Where have you put my things?”
“In your condition, you have no need of anything but rest.”
“Woman, don’t play with me. I have a job to do.”
“A dangerous job, I’d say.”
“Damn it, I don’t need some schoolmarm acting as my conscience.”
His outburst seemed uncharacteristic for the man she’d met earlier, brought on by something more than his desire for his guns. Perhaps fever held him in its grip and he hallucinated. She touched his brow and discovered over-warm skin.
He pulled away from her touch. “Go back to bed and leave me the hell alone. I don’t want any more of your help.”
She reared back. “I expected you to be a difficult patient. Proud men always are. I even expected some childish behavior, but I’m not sure I understand the depth of your anger. Everyone has bent over backwards to help you.”
“Some things you can’t help me with.”
Her gaze swept the room for clues to his surly behavior and discovered the source of the crash. At the foot of the bed, the enamel chamber pot rested on its side, the lid a few feet away. Oh dear. No wonder he was cranky and irritable. She had pulled the container from its chair and set it in the open so he would see it when he felt the need. In his drugged state, he must have tipped it over trying to reach it. The laudanum combined with the wounds and fever made him too weak to walk across the room. He’d crawled from the bed only to collapse on the floor.