Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Traveling Tuesday: Train Travel in the 1870s

Traveling Tuesday: Travel in the 1870s

After decades of traversing the American continent over bumpy roads by horse-drawn covered wagon or stagecoach, the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 slashed travel time from months to mere days. Long forgotten are the more than 20,000 Irish-American Civil War Veterans, freed slaves, Mormon pioneers, and Chinese laborers, who performed the back-breaking work. Estimates vary as to the project’s cost, but it was exorbitant: somewhere above $60 million (or $1.2 billion in today’s money). An additional cost was the more than 1,200 lives lost in the process of building the railroad.

James Meigs, senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, likened the transcontinental railroad to the internet of the 19th century. An excellent analogy considering that the railroad created the opportunity to communicate and conduct commerce over great distances. Much like the internet, the railroad transformed the economy of the time.

The first passenger train on the like took 102 hours to travel from Omaha, Nebraska to San Francisco,
Pixabay/Brigitte Werner
and a first-class ticket cost $134.50 – about $2,700 today. Using the Overland Route, the train went across prairies, mountains, and deserts, exposing East Coast travelers to visions they’d never imagined. Celia Cooley Graves from Massachusetts wrote in 1875 “For hundreds of miles we saw no other persons except now and then a station with a few hovels about it.”

Mimicking ocean travel that transported millions of immigrants to the US and offered different fares for different classes, the railroads implemented a system of three classes. Third-class passengers paid half of what first-class passengers did to sit on benches and bring their own food. Second-class passengers had it a bit better in that their seats were upholstered.

Courtesy National Park Service
Those who could afford first-class traveled in opulent style with access to sleepers, dining cars, and parlor cars that were lavishly decorated and included brocade curtains or silk shades, chandeliers, plush upholstery, walls covered in dark walnut, velvet hangings, gilt-framed mirrors, and brass fixtures.

Historian Amy G. Richter made an interesting observation about George Pullman’s elaborate palace and the impact they had on women: the train cars’ home-like setting and the presence of women in the living-room-like cars legitimized train travel for {single} women and soothed those who feared that public life would endanger women and the moral order.

Eventually, railroad tracks crisscrossed the United States providing the opportunity to travel from coast to coast no matter what their economic status.


Beryl’s Bounty Hunter

Can a thief and a lawman find happiness?

Orphaned as a child, Beryl Atherton has lived on the streets of London as long as she can remember. Reduced to stealing for survival, she is arrested. During her incarceration one of her cellmates shows her a newspaper ad for an American mail-order bride agency. But all is not as it seems, and moments after landing in Boston, she must run for her life. Will things be no different for her in the New World?

Working as a bounty hunter since The War Between the States, Lucas Wolf just needs a few more cases before he can hang up his gun, purchase a ranch out West, and apply for a mail-order bride from the Westward Home & Hearts Mail-Order Bride Agency. While staking out the docks in Boston, he sees a woman fleeing from the man he’s been tailing. Saving her risks his job. Not saving her risks his heart.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/45CaZVo

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