Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Passenger cars in 1871

From: "Stephanie Whitson"

I am a fiction author working on her 18th published novel and have searched for hours to discover what a passenger car on the UP looked like in 1871. I have an emigration society leaving from St. Louis headed to a fictional town in western Nebraska ... but I don't know how to accomodate them. They do NOT have a Pullman palace car. Just a normal passenger car. Can you help me?

Main questions: How many passengers per car? Were the seats padded at all or wooden benches? Did the windows go "up" and "down" Would smoke from the engine have been problem inside the car if the windows were down?

Thank you for any guidance you can provide.

Stephanie Grace Whitson


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

For information about passenger travel following completion of the transcontinental railroad, see:

Nineteenth Century Travel on the Transcontinental Railroad
Robert Louis Stevenson, Across the Plains
Car Builder's Dictionary (see Emigrant Sleeping Car)
Emigrant Cars
Helen Hunt, Bits of Travel at Home
Riding the Transcontinental Rails: Overland Travel on the Pacific Railroad 1865-1881, edited by Bruce C. Cooper

1/28/2009 3:07 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

Robert Louis Stevenson's account is a classic description of such travel among the non-Pullman class of folk. Almost all travel writers moved about by Pullman, so second class travel descriptions are much harder to come by.

Start with this. After you have read this, I would be happy to answer other questions as best as I can.

—Larry Mullaly

1/29/2009 12:11 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


Check out the photos by A. J. Russell, official photographer of the Union Pacific during construction in 1868-69. There are a number of photos that show Union Pacific passenger cars – including interiors and exteriors of coaches, which is what your folks would likely have ridden on. Negatives are at the Oakland Museum in Oakland, Califonria, but many photos are available for viewing on line.

In particular, check out the following views:
Imperial views
I-44 Clerical excursionists at Laramie City 1868 - UP lr_ajri-44

Stereo views
S-017 Interior of Union Pacific passenger car - also in CPRR Museum Swackhamer collection as S-018
S-019 Union Pacific passenger car (exterior)
S-511 Passenger train at Corinne, Utah

The view from Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, Feb. 9, 1878 p. 389, will also give you a good idea of coach travel in the 1870s, and may actually have been representing a UP car.

A typical car would seat around 48 people, plus or minus.

Unless in an emigrant car (a different and lower class for traveling), the seats in typical coach cars would have been padded.

Windows could be opened, although sometimes only with difficulty. Sometimes they would stick.

Smoke from the engine would have been minimized in the cars if the windows were closed, but not eliminated. On the other hand, a closed car could be stifling in the summer with windows closed, and smoke from the engine was typically not that big a problem with windows open.

—Kyle Wyatt

1/29/2009 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Kyle Wyatt"
Subject: Lavatory facilities on passenger trains

Dry toilets you sat on, that dropped directly onto the tracks, in a small partitioned room for privacy. Either one or two in each car – typically in the corner of the car – if two, then at opposite ends.


8/02/2014 7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"
Subject: Lavatory facilities on passenger trains

There is a wonderful new children’s book that was this year’s Caldicot Award Winner that has drawings of the lavatory facilities on the first Transcontinental trains in 1869 — Locomotive by Brian Floca.

Alice Mullaly

8/04/2014 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Susan Snively"

Thank you! I've written a novel about the poet Emily Dickinson and her love affair with her father's friend Judge Otis Phillips Lord. At one point, she journeys by train with her father to hear a concert in Boston, and when they return to Amherst, they are trapped by a snowstorm. Although this is fiction, I appreciate knowing certain details of train travel in New England, in 1872. I'm glad to hear about this book, which I've ordered. I look forward to reading it. Gratefully,

—Susan Snively

8/05/2014 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From: "Susan Snively"

Thanks so much! Beautiful illustrations, and the choice tidbit about the "little room" where the children could get clean.

—Susan Snively

8/05/2014 6:57 PM  

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