Saturday, October 28, 2006

Entertainment on the Transcontinental Railroad

From: "Skiz"

What kind of entertainment did they have on the Transcontinental Railroad for tourists?



Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Based on the limited number or first person accounts I have seen, I believe that the passengers were left to their own devices. Card games were popular, as was reading or watching the world go by (and there was a lot of world to watch at 15 miles an hour or so...)

—Randy Hees

10/28/2006 7:47 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

They might have spent some time reading a transcontinental railroad guidebook, following the stations and sights along the route. Popular guidebooks included Nelson's, Crofutt's, and Williams, all of which can be read online on our website.

10/28/2006 8:12 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

You can also read first hand accounts of 19th century travel on the transcontinental railroad online or in book form.

10/28/2006 8:18 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Kevin Bunker"

As far as anyone has well-documented ... it was largely a do-it-yourself form of entertainment situation, not at all organized entertainment as we might know today, pretty much with one exception — and only in the earliest years after the "Transcontinental Railroad" was completed. The elite passengers that could afford to travel in Pullman's Hotel Cars (regular coach fare paid to the railroad(s) with added fare paid to Pullman to travel in that company's deluxe cars) had a foot-powered parlor organ in one of the cars at their disposal. Of course, some passenger had to have the talent to play it, and those who wished could gather 'round to join in singing if a popular tune was played.

Otherwise, anyone seeking diversions might read, play a game of cards with another passenger, games like bridge, whist, or poker. Gambling, however, was expressly forbidden aboard the cars, so if one got caught by the conductor he (or she) might be ejected from the train at the nearest station as the penalty. I'm sure that rule was broken plenty of times, but there's not much documentation one way or the other. You'd do well, however, to read the book Out West on the Overland Train by Richard Reinhardt (1977, Golden West Publishing Company) in which he compares a transcontinental train ride circa 1877 with one (pre-Amtrak) made in 1967. It's a "good read," some libraries have it and cheap copies are available from online retailers.


10/28/2006 8:30 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Don Snoddy"

It all depends on what era you are talking about. Understand that the transcontinental railroad passenger trains ran on a regular schedule between Chicago and San Francisco from 1869 until the mid-1990's.

If you rode the Pullman hotel train in 1869 or 70, the adverts tell us about their being an organ in one of the lounge cars.

IF you were lucky enough to be on the Los Angeles Limited in 1929, which isn't the transcontinental, you saw the world premiere of The Virginian starring Gary Cooper, which was done to show the possibilities available. It was never a regular thing.

Otherwise, and in between those two events, there are no recorded activities pre-arranged for travelers. Travelers could read the tourist guides to know what they were passing along the way. If you went first class you could sit in the lounge car and converse with fellow travelers. Porters were available to provide you with whatever services might be on the train. One can suspect that cards, and other games like checkers or chess might be played by some. If you look at the arrangement of the chairs in the lounge, (they mostly faced inward and were backed up against the windows) reading and conversation were likely the main entertainment venues for the transcontinental traveler.

In the 1920's there were open observation cars on some routes through scenic areas. I don't know if the Southern Pacific had them through the Sierra's though it would be a good place to do so. UP had them in the Columbia River Gorge and into West Yellowstone, neither of which are on the transcontinental route.


10/28/2006 8:43 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Help! I am doublechecking my answers because our teacher is very detailed
on answers and I want to make sure I have these right:

1) Travel f/Omaha to Sacramento/Length of Trip: 1,775 miles

2) Days on Train: I cannot find this information????

3) Sightseeing Opportunities: I have down the train went through 4

a) Nebraska:

Wood River, Platte River, Elkhorn River, Northern and Southern Cheyenne
Indians, Sioux and Arapaho Indians

b) Wyoming

Green River and Wind River Mountains, Ute and Snake Indians

c) Nevada:

Sierra Nevada Mountains

d) California

Donner and Tahoe Lake, Mount Chester, Humboldt Lake, Elk Mountain,
Sherman Rocky Mountains, Como Lake, Hot Spring Lake, Wahsatch Mountains

4) Animals you can see: buffalo, antelope, deer, trout fishing, hunting,
grazing stock, jack rabbits, prairie dogs, owls, elk, grasshoppers

5) Accomodations

a) food: this has to be in the 1880s so I found something on that they
ate meat, cold beans, week old coffee which discouraged Americans from
making this journey. Then I read something on Fred Harvey dining facilities
every 100 miles--which is it for the 1880s?

b) sleeping quarters

Could you elaborate more on the sleeping cars. I found info on this
too but it is detailed.

c) entertainment: what you gave me that is listed below

6) Cost of trip: from what I can see, it cost $100. Is that right?

Also found excurstion rates, so I know those are right

7) Changes in time: Pacific to Central Time

Please check over my research and information listed above so I can make sure these are right. My research has been fun but I want to make sure it is right for my teacher. Thank you


11/02/2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

Days on train
Also see the panel "Through Train Schedules"


Location of mountain ranges: Sierra Nevada, Rockies, Wasatch

Sleeping Cars
Travel in a sleeping car


Fred Harvey provided meals on the Santa Fe Railroad, not the Central and Union Pacific


Local time versus time zones

11/02/2006 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Chris Graves"

TIME ZONES: Time zones were invented by a fellow named Andersrag, this as he traveled from New York to Sacramento........Mr. Andersrag (Alex to his friends) promoted the idea of time bands, thus, they were named for him:
Alex Andersrag Time Band.
Humor never hurts.............gjg

11/02/2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Scenery. And if you were in a 1st class Pullman like the Palmyra and a few others equipped with them, organ playing on Sundays (and perhaps a few other days.) If you were in an emigrant car, perhaps some musician might be along too, and provide some folk music – if you were lucky.


11/05/2006 8:19 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The SP had open cars on the Cascade route in the 1920s-30s, but I think not on the Overland route. Remember, that was "railroading in a barn" – not much scenery visible inside a snowshed. In the 1870s they did couple on an open car, converted form an old San Francisco & Alameda coach. (That same open coach was used on the Loma Prieta Branch near Santa Cruz in the 1880s.)


11/05/2006 8:21 AM  

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