Thursday, May 10, 2012

MAY 10, 1889: WHEN EAST MET WEST


By Guest Lynn Hubbard

I have always had a fascination with trains. So it was quite easy to choose what aspect of the West to write about.
Locomotive engine
My mother’s family is from a coal town in Kentucky.  On one family trip, we headed to Kentucky to visit. I remember their houses being backed up to the train tracks. They would use the tracks like a road, and walk the tracks to town to buy groceries. Back then, the trains hauled coal, and they would collect the coal that fell onto the tracks to use for heat.

I was so jealous, even then I loved trains. The long, mournful call as the whistle blew. The chug, chug, chug from the powerful engine. And they are huge! It is hard to comprehend how back in the 1800’s they were able to transform iron and steel into a 100+ ton machine.

Ship routes to California,
before and after the Panama Canal
Before the age of trains, if one wanted to head West, there were few options. Goods were mainly transported from the east coast by ships. Ships had to travel down and around Cape Horn, the tip of South America. Talk about a detour! The Panama Canal, which would cut that trip in half, was conceived in 1881 but not completed until 1914.

Mid 1800s Wagon Train Heading West
There was, of course, the wagon trains. Wagon trains were popular from 1840-1860. The cross-county trip could take up to 6 months. If you made it! About 1 in 20 would perish along the way. Most died from sickness or injury, rather than from Indian attacks. (In the TV show, “Wagon Train” it took them 8 years. My mother watches it, and I always ask her if they've made it yet.)

Promonotory, Utah, May 10, 1889!


Progress. That’s what they called it. Until May 10, 1869 Promontory Utah, was a speck on the map. That was the day when the last spike was hammered into place, and it just so happened to be made out of gold. That spike would transform a nation and open up the west to everyone.

Trains made intercontinental travel much safer, more comfortable, and quicker. Daily passenger service was soon offered. First class passengers could ride express and make the trip in a week for about a hundred dollars. Third class tickets cost about forty bucks and bought you a spot on a wooden bench. Your trip would take a bit longer since you would probably be tethered to a freight car, which had to stop for express trains. Nonetheless, you would make it in ten days or so, which is still better than six months.

Comfort. George Pullman built the first sleeping car in 1862. These posh coaches had bunks which could be folded up during the day to save space. They had wonderful finery such as wallpaper, drapes, and private washrooms. Some even had libraries! Life was good, if you could afford it. Sadly, George Pullman is better known for the Pullman Strike in 1894. Railway workers across the country took part and refused to pull Pullman Cars. This affected US mail delivery, and President Grover Cleveland sent in troops to settle the ruckus.

Pullman cars improved comfort for travelers
I was able to take a train ride with my sons on Amtrak. Since the sleeper cars were costly, we rode in coach.  What better way to see America? We traveled from Atlanta to Washington, DC, and back again. It takes great skill and balance to walk along rows of seats. You get well acquainted with your neighbors as you clutch onto each other for balance. The experience was one we all will remember, and it gave me great insight for my books.

Since train travel was such a vital part of the west, how could I write a book without it? My books are set in the 1880’s well after the merger.

In RUN INTO THE WIND, Sabrina takes a train west as she runs from her past. And into Brock’s arms. (Eventually)



One of my favorite train scenes is from CHASE THE MOON.  When Amelia and Chase first meet.  I would like to share an excerpt:



From CHASE THE MOON by Lynn Hubbard
It was nearly dusk. Amelia figured she had better use the loo before it got any darker. She climbed to her feet and held onto the backs of the chairs to steady herself on the ever moving floor. She clumsily made her way up the long aisle only to find she had to go into the next forward car.
She took a second to fumble with the lock on the door and slide it open. The blast of wind and dust in her face pulled loose most of her hair from its pins. So much for getting gussied up for travel she grumbled.
Squinting her eyes, she precariously crossed the moving ground below to enter the next train. Making her way to the front she was dismayed to find a long line and a horrible stench coming from somewhere up ahead.
The conductor spotting the well-dressed young woman hurried back to her. Amelia covered her nose as he approached.
“May I help you madam?”
“Um I need to use the loo.”
“Are you ill?”
“No why?”
“I’m a bit embarrassed, but some of the chicken that was served was spoiled and there is much sickness. I would not suggest using this privy for a woman of your stature.”
“Is there another?” She asked hopefully.
He leaned close and spoke into her ear so she could hear him above the noise of the train. “The last car is a private one. I‘m sure they would be willing to share theirs with a lady of your quality.”
Amelia smirked at that, she was half insulted and flattered. Another gust of foul odor filled the car as the door opened and released a rather white faced man and a green faced one took his place.
Amelia nodded her thanks and made her way back to her own car. She passed her seat and again went outside to cross over to the last car. She wondered what kind of people could afford their own private compartment. Well she would soon find out she rationed.
By the time she arrived her hair was completely lose and billowing around her in the wind and she really, really had to use the bathroom. The outer door was locked so she had to hold onto the railing as the wind threatened to rip her hair from the roots and knocked with her other hand.
When knocking didn’t work she resorted to pounding.

***

Chase was somewhere between consciousness and sleep. His eyes drifted shut as he finally relaxed to the swaying sensation of the train. After all the travel and bustling about it was nice to finally unwind.
His peace was interrupted by a droning sound. The resonance could be heard over and over again above the clank of the wheels. Ever alert, he slowly lifted an eyelid.
He gazed around the car to see if anyone else had heard the odd noises coming from the doorway. They had not.
Aggravated not a soul seemed to notice the eerie sounds he climbed sleepily to his feet and opened up the inner door.
Grabbing the swaying wall for support he stepped up to the outer door.
He was startled to find a white, ghastly face peering in through the small square window. An eerie howl arose from its mouth and a chill stole through him. The whipping hair reminded him of a childhood legend his mother used to tell him about: It was a banshee. Had he angered the Gods somehow?
An amazingly human like hand smacked the glass in front of him and he quickly wiped the sleep from his eyes. Taking a brave step forward he unlatched the door and the beast was upon him.
He instinctively grabbed it and wrestled it to the ground as his family scrabbled over to see the disturbance.
“Are you insane?” It screeched in an unearthly voice. Chase felt a sudden pain in his ear as his mother quickly summed up the situation and twisted. With a yowl, he was forced off the creature so that his ear would remain intact. He watched in slow motion as Thomas and Jaelyn hurried over to help it up to its feet.
“I am so sorry, Miss. My brother is a dimwit. Are you okay?” Jaelyn asked the sputtering girl who was still trying to claw her way to Chase’s face.
Taking a deep breath to try and force down her anger. Amelia closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down. She tried to smooth out her petty coats and windblown hair.
Chase watched the scene from behind his mother. Before his eyes she seemed to transform from a windswept creature into a beautiful young woman. Chase sat and stared in bewilderment.
“Just fine thank you. I am very sorry to intrude upon your family. The conductor suggested I might be able to use your privy? The one nearest to my car is unserviceable.” She blushed trying to explain her situation.
“Oh, of course!” Jaelyn said elbowing the still dazed Chase out of the aisle so she could show their guest to the back.
“What is wrong with you?” Anna badgered her son as he slumped into a corner like a beat down dog.
“I don’t know, I was trying to sleep. I thought she was a banshee.” He mumbled, the words sounding ridiculous even to his own ears.
“A banshee?” Anna asked with a scowl.
“You know like the legends.”
“Of course I know the legends; apparently you’ve been running around in the woods for way too long. That poor woman.”
“Poor woman? She almost ripped my eyes out!”
“Was that before or after you manhandled her to the ground?” his father, Jonathan, asked with an amused chuckle.



To find out more about my books please visit
My website: www.lynnhubbard.com

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Lynn Hubbard, Author
Thank you for inviting me!

8 comments:

  1. Lynn, I love trains. I would like to travel on one again. I haven't ridden a real train since I was a teen. Nice post.

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  2. Hi, Lynn--I love Trains! You have a wonderful post about them, too. I say I love them--mostly the old ones in novels. Sitting at a RR crossing is not fun, and our town has four tracks crossing it from south to north, with about 54 trains coming through each day. Fortunately, I don't live close to any of them.
    Once we took the Amtrak Texas Eagle from San Marcos, TX to Chicago, and from there another train line to Ann Arbor, MI. It took 36 hours. We didn't get a berth, just dozed when we could in our seats. The good part is that it was only 1/4 full, so I got two roomy seats to myself, and so did my husband, across the aisle. I raised the arm rest in the middle, and made myself a little bed. He's 6'1", so he had a little trouble. What a ride that was.

    I enjoyed your excerpt very much--humorous and sexy, too.
    Thanks for being our guest today..

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  3. What is it about trains? I love riding them as well. Never been in a train in the states. We got to ride a vintage train in Canada and it was great. Our train rides in Europe are the best way to travel. It always made the trip more fun to watch the scenery passing by.

    Fun post.

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  4. Thanks so much for this post. I'd love to hear more about your research on train travel in the old west.

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  5. Thanks for the little history lesson! I really enjoyed reading it.

    My mom, brother, sister & I took an Amtrack train from Chicago (I'm guessing) to somewhere near our home in the late 1970's. We have one photo - of us eating breakfast on the train. What a great experience!

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  6. Ok here's some more train info, I had to research bathrooms, and what one would call a bathroom on a train during that period.I like "Loo" the best. Gives skipping to the loo a whole new meaning. There was no water just a seat with a hole that went all the way through, Yup right on the tracks. One reason why they closed the toilets when at the station.

    Poor Sabrina doesn't fair well on Trains either in Run into the Wind or Chase the Moon. She'd rather be on a horse.

    Thank you for all of the awesome comments!

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  7. I always thought it would be a bit breezy on the sit-down. :)

    Trains are fun, although coach in those days wouldn't be very comfortable--hard benches and nowhere to sleep. Still, it would've been a whole lot better than a 6-month wagon journey. Thanks for the post, Lynn!

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