Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Early Passenger Car Blinds

From: Larry Mullaly

Today I came across a description of another SP passenger car ride down the San Francisco peninsula. The year was 1879, and the account seems to challenge the accepted understanding that window blinds on these early cars could not be "opened" or "closed." It reads:

"We leave San Francisco on Christmas Eve, a brilliant, sunshiny day, and take our seats in cars of the South Pacific Railway [sic], with a protest against the heat, for December being a winter month according to the division of time, the stoves are lighted at either end of the car; the blinds are closed to keep out the burning rays of the sun, but they keep in the stifling hot air of the stoves till the crowded car becomes uncomfortably close and warm. The rest of the passengers sit and bake in uncomplaining calm; to us the suffocating air grows unendurable; we get out and sit upon the steps of the rear platform, and are whirled along through pretty home scenery at the not especially rapid rate of twenty miles an hours...."

Lady Duffus Hardy, Through Cities and Prairies Lands: Sketches of an American Tour (R. Worthington, New York, 1881), p.212.