Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Early Passenger Car Blinds

From: Larry Mullaly

Today I came across a description of another SP passenger car ride down the San Francisco peninsula. The year was 1879, and the account seems to challenge the accepted understanding that window blinds on these early cars could not be "opened" or "closed." It reads:

"We leave San Francisco on Christmas Eve, a brilliant, sunshiny day, and take our seats in cars of the South Pacific Railway [sic], with a protest against the heat, for December being a winter month according to the division of time, the stoves are lighted at either end of the car; the blinds are closed to keep out the burning rays of the sun, but they keep in the stifling hot air of the stoves till the crowded car becomes uncomfortably close and warm. The rest of the passengers sit and bake in uncomplaining calm; to us the suffocating air grows unendurable; we get out and sit upon the steps of the rear platform, and are whirled along through pretty home scenery at the not especially rapid rate of twenty miles an hours...."

Lady Duffus Hardy, Through Cities and Prairies Lands: Sketches of an American Tour (R. Worthington, New York, 1881), p.212.



Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Jim" woodburner@earthlink.net

Lady Hardy may be describing blinds which were kept closed by consensus of the passengers, railroad operating rules or traditions, or a conductor's preference, rather than blinds which were permanently fixed in place. She gives a picture of a potentially cool, dark train – almost like those in India – which would have been perfect for a hot day except for the stoves.

Her preference for simple and healthy things like fresh air and riding on the steps is typical of British aristocrats who traveled through 19th century America and elsewhere. Although snobbish by our standards, they kept a well bred interest in health and were commonly curious about the bovine acceptance of Americans for anything less, especially in cases such as the car, where it would have been simple to extinguish the stoves.

Her comment about the speed of the train would be interesting to any British reader, accustomed to the fast speed of even local trains.


5/18/2005 12:01 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

See additional comments.

5/18/2005 12:05 PM  

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