Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Travel New Orleans to San Francisco to Klondike in 1898

From: "Don Surgeon"

I read with great interest the article by Erle Heath, Seventy-Five Years of Progress. An Historical Sketch of the Southern Pacific 1869-1944.

I am researching a party headed to the Klondike in 1898. They left New Orleans in March-April 1898 and traveled by train to San Francisco in two groups. After a meeting in early April, they went to the station in New Orleans and bought tickets for the first group, who were trying to travel cheaply. That group left about April 4 and arrived in San Francisco about April 13 and went through Houston, Texas. The remainder of the group probably traveled in style and arrived in San Francisco in mid-May.

To what station in New Orleans would they go to buy train tickets to San Francisco, and would it be the same station for both groups? Is there a picture of this station as it looked in about 1898? When they left New Orleans, would they leave from the same station in New Orleans where they bought their tickets, or would they have to go across the river to another station? Is there a picture of this train? Would the second group, traveling in style, take the Sunset Limited/Express (which was it called in 1898?) or some other train? Is there a good picture of this train from that time period (the best would be in New Orleans, but any good picture would do)? And from what station would they leave? Wikipedia describes the Sunset Express as follows: From its beginning in 1894 until streamlining in 1950, all the train's cars had 6-wheel trucks and dark olive green paint with black roofs and trucks. In summer 1926 it was scheduled at 71 hr 40 min New Orleans to San Francisco; it then carried a coast-to-coast sleeper Jacksonville to Los Angeles.

An 1895 consist included:

— A 4-4-0 American steam locomotive

1. Composite Baggage car with barber shop, bath and buffet smoker lounge El

2. 7 Drawing Room Sleeper with ladies´ parlor lounge El Piloto
3. 10 Section 2 Drawing Room Sleeper El Dorado
4. Dining Car Gourmet
5. 6 Section 1 Drawing Room 3 Compartment Sleeper Cliola
6. 14 Section 1 Drawing Room Sleeper Los Angeles

Would this be a correct description for 1898? How long would the trip take? I am assuming that the entire trip would be in the same cars – would there be an engine change?

I am assuming that both groups would have arrived at San Francisco’s old, old Southern Pacific Depot at Third and Townsend Streets – is that correct?

Is there anything else I should have asked but didn’t.

Thank you for any help you can give.

—Don Surgeon