Saturday, May 31, 2008

Berths on CPRR

From: "Malcolm Easton"

I am trying to understand about the sleeping arrangements around 1885. The Helen Hunt Jackson narrative of 1878 implies that on CPRR if you didn't have a berth in a silver palace car then you had no berth but sat on a bench all night. Other narratives, perhaps dealing with other types of trains, describe a lesser class of sleeping arrangements in which the seats are converted to berths, and other berths swing down from the ceiling. Can someone clarify this?

—Malcolm Easton


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The Central Pacific briefly allowed Pullman trains in scheduled service in 1869-70, then stopped them because it competed with their own Silver Palace sleeping car service that they also started in 1869. Silver Palace cars provided the first class sleeping service on the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific until 1883, when the company finally decided it was a better bet to contract with Pullman, who from that date on provided all first class sleeping car service on the Central and Southern Pacific.

Sleeping car fare was an added premium in addition to basic coach fare which everybody paid. If you boarded a train and tried to engage a sleeping berth when the sleeping cars were full (as might happen particularly if you boarded mid way through the run), then you ended up making do with coach seating. I've seen several accounts of such happenings from the 1870s, some rather humorous.

Emigrant cars were initially like coach cars, but with much LESS comfort – wood slat seats, etc. But in 1879 the Central Pacific introduced a new emigrant sleeping car design that, while still wood slat, included upper berths that pulled down and lower seats that could make into beds, much like the Pullman and Silver Palace cars (and no doubt covered by the Silver Palace patents which Central Pacific had purchased the rights to use). Central Pacific loaned one of their first upgraded cars to the Union Pacific, which copied them. Northern Pacific also copied the design.

Probably the best account of emigrant car travel, in both the old cars and the new, was written by Robert Louis Stevenson: The Amateur Emigrant; Across the Plains, based on his 1879 trip across the US to California in pursuit of his future wife. On the Union Pacific the old style cars were still in use, and Stevenson provides quite a description of them. At Ogden he boarded the Central Pacific cars of the new design, and while he was quite sick by that time, he does provide a good description of the contrast between the two styles of cars. I believe by the early-mid 1890s the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific emigrant cars were superseded by Pullman Tourist cars.

—Kyle Wyatt

6/01/2008 12:47 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Paul S Martineau"

Here is a clip from my great grandfather's (James H. Martineau) journal when he traveled to the east in 1879. Note the fare prices he paid.

Paul Martineau

Tues. 25 Feb 1879
Started for the east. Arrived at Ogden and found Lyman awaiting me there, with M. Thatcher, who is also going east. Wm Jennings of S.L. City was also starting east. I had a pass to Omaha, a saving of $17.50, but had to pay $8.00 for sleeper for myself and the same for Lyman. Left Ogden about 10 a.m. (9.50). Got a second hand ticket for Lyman, $63.00. Took a lunch basket along. My feelings at finding myself on the way to the home of my childhood, after an absence of so many years – 35 – were hard to analyze.

Wed. 26
On waking found ourselves near Carbon. Saw a flock of antelopes bounding away from the train. Breakfasted at Rock Creek. But little snow on the ground – only in hollows and shady places. The weather is pleasant, but on account of our great altitude – about 7000 feet – is quite cold. When I left Utah, people were making gardens. Now in Wyoming territory.

Thurs. 27
Breakfasted at Grand Island, on the Platte, Nebraska. Snow covers the ground, weather cold. Last night our train ran over and killed some cattle. Arrived at Omaha at 3p.m. And crossed the Missouri to Council Bluffs, and there changed our train, taking passage to Chicago via Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. $16.00, sleeper $2.50 each, = $18.50 each. The river is frozen solid – teams crossing constantly on the ice. Weather very cold, sleighing good. Left for Chicago 5 p.m. Found I had lost one hour in time by coming east from Ogden 1029 miles.

6/01/2008 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What were accommodations like on the transcontinental train?

2/15/2017 1:35 PM  

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