Thursday, September 22, 2005

Emigrant Trains


I thought the following may be of interest to the discussion group:

November 25, 1887 Ashland Tidings [San Francisco dispatch, Nov. 16] -

"The new move in the Central Pacific, whereby the immigrant train from here eastward is made faster than the passenger train, calls attention to changes that have taken place in emigrant railroad travel during the past ten years. As late as the year ' 81 third-class passengers from Omaha to San Francisco traveled in old coaches built for the Camden & Amboy railroad, forty years before. These ancient cars were attached to slow freight trains, which made the run from Omaha to this city in nine to eleven days. About five years ago the Union and Central Pacific substituted new emigrant sleeping cars for the wornout coaches. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe began to command a large share of the traffic by running its emigrant cars attached to express trains, and to meet this competition the Union and the Central Pacific were compelled to do likewise. This arrangement continued up to Sunday of this week, when both of the latter roads began the running of emigrant trains on fast time, beating the regular east-bound express into Omaha by fifteen hours, and the west-bound express into this city about the same time. In less than five years emigrant travel has forged to the front as the most important factor in overland passenger traffic. When it is considered that faster time is made by emigrants than by first-class passengers, the difference sinks to a mere question of preference by passengers, many of whom no longer disdain to travel in third-class cars, taking to them quite readily when they can save $10 to $15 by doing so."

(the article went on to describe current competition between the Southern Pacific and the Northern Pacific for overland travel)

—John Sweetser