Happy Wednesday, and welcome to another installment of “Where my research takes me.” The cool thing about being a historical mystery author is all the research “rabbit holes” I find myself exploring in order to write my series. I discover all sorts of interesting things!

I’m currently writing the fourth Concordia Wells novel (working title: Unseemly Haste), which entails a transcontinental railroad journey in July of 1898. As you might imagine, this involved quite a bit of research.

Since I’m strapped for time (gotta get back to writing the story!), here is a photo-essay of sorts, with links so that you can explore the subject further, if you’d like.

Concordia’s Journey: New York to San Francisco

Transcontinental railroad map (approx. 1873). Source: www.yosemite.ca.us

The Chicago Express, New York to Chicago:

The trip from New York to Chicago took 26 hours.

from Appleton's General Guide to the United States and Canada, 1898.

from Appleton’s General Guide to the United States and Canada, 1898.

The Overland Limited, Chicago to San Francisco:

Referred to simply as “the Overland,” it was run jointly by the Union Pacific Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad (which took it over from Ogden, UT – without passengers needing to change trains). The journey between Omaha and San Francisco took 71 hours. Highlighted sections below are mine (when Concordia is traveling the line).

from The Official Guide of the Railways, 1910.

from The Official Guide of the Railways, 1910.

The general timetable for my story:

  • Concordia and Miss Hamilton leave New York City at 9 am Tuesday.
  • Arrive in Chicago around 11 am on Wednesday.
  • Layover in Chicago (shopping…and skullduggery) until departure at 7 pm Wednesday evening.
  • With various stops along the way (and more skullduggery), such as Omaha, Ogden, and Salt Lake City, arrival in San Francisco on Saturday evening.
  • More skullduggery in San Francisco… 😉

Accommodations:

So, being aboard a train from Tuesday through Saturday means that the rail line must meet the sleeping, eating, and leisure needs of its passengers.  There were specialized cars for this purpose: sleeper, dining, parlor, smoking (for the gentlemen), and even a library car was standard for these lengthy trips.

Lounge car, date not indicated (approx late 1890s). Chicago Historical Society.

Lounge car, date not indicated (approx late 1890s). Chicago Historical Society.

Pullman sleeper (daytime operation; bunks folded away), 1900. Library of Congress.

Pullman sleeper (daytime operation; bunks folded away), 1900. Library of Congress.

Sleeper car, bunk pulled down. Image from the Pullman Company, 1890s.

Sleeper car, bunk pulled down. Image from the Pullman Company, 1890s.

Menu cover, n.d. From University of Nevada Libraries.

Menu cover, n.d. From University of Nevada Libraries.

The dining car "Queen" on the Royal Blue of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as advertised in 1895. Wikimedia Commons.

The dining car “Queen” on the Royal Blue of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, as advertised in 1895. Wikimedia Commons.

Want to learn more about 19th century railway travel?

Pullman Cars Add Comfort to Overnight Travel

Traveling in Style and Comfort: the Pullman Sleeping Car (Smithsonian Magazine)

The Pullman Era (ChicagoHS.org)

Photographers from that long ago often get lost in the shuffle. The copyright on their images may be expired, but I’m grateful for their work. Check out this index of Pullman Photographers, from the Pullman State Historic Site.

Have you ever traveled long distance by train? What interesting things have you discovered lately? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

Other installments in the “Where my research takes me” series:

Anywhere my research takes me: burglars, knitting, detective cocktails?

Where my research takes me: 19th century health ads

Where my research takes me: having a blast in the 19th century

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