Thursday, February 6, 2014
Today I decided to pull from the archives of another blog I'm on. I had great intentions of posting an entirely different entry but I'm buried right now with school stuff so my good intentions kinda took a u-turn.
The cowboy did much to settle the old west. For most Americans, he's the ultimate hero because he paved the way for generations to come, but he had help.
Travelling across the country in a covered wagon was slow and dangerous. As soon as towns became connected by steel tracks, the migration of settlers exploded. Not only did the train help people populate the west, but it helped commerce by providing an easier way to haul goods from point A to point B, including cows. Just recently toured the coast and spent time in a small town called Fulton where our hotel overlooked the ruins of the Marion Packing Plant.
The railroad came to the coast around 1872. At first only processed meat would be sent to the East but later, small herds were put in cars or in the holds of ships as a means of getting fresher meat to buyers. Several years later, shipping cows via train would become more cost efficient than the arduous cattle drives. By the 1890s, only a few cowboys used drives as a method of moving the cows.
For me, the train has a romantic aura. I've ridden on one twice now. I traveled with my parent from Bryan, Texas to Midland, Texas when I was in Middle School. The length of the journey required that we spend the night on board. Oh my, now that was an experience. The cabins are very small. I slept on a top bunk, but the constant sway and clackety clack of the train lulled me to sleep. The second trip was made in November of 2005 when the George Bush Library offered an excursion to Dallas on a restored Union Pacific Train. Getting to experience the motion, speed, and smells associated with the train enhanced a scene I wrote.
They have a wonderful train museum in Galveston where I roamed several of the antique cars. Just imagine sleeping on these benches with no air conditioning.
I think the real trick though when writing historical westerns, if discovering if your characters had access to a train for their travels. Thankfully the Internet is a wonderful source for finding maps and such. I'm working on a story now that took a lot of digging in this regard but I finally located a tiny blurb and while the train ran east to west at the time, my hero and heroine have to travel from Oklahoma to Texas. Unfortunately they will have to do so by covered wagon as the train they would have taken won't be ready for boarding until a year later.
Yeah, you have to agree, there's something fascinating about trains and the old west.