Tag Archives: Timetables

Getting from Here to There

8 Mar

Isabella Alden lived during the golden age of train travel, and her books reflected the time. At the turn of the last century, an intricate systems of railroad tracks and heavy, powerful locomotives connected nearby towns and far-away locations.

Train travel ad from Harper’s Monthly magazine, 1909.

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Railroads made it possible for people to easily travel to summer resorts, as Eurie, Marion, Ruth, and Flossy did in Four Girls at Chautauqua. Advertisements made distant American destinations sound exotic and adventurous.

Preparing to board, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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But railroad travel also made it possible for people to quickly and economically travel short distances between towns.

In Christie’s Christmas, Christie Tucker set off on a simple, twenty-mile train ride to visit her relatives for the day in a neighboring town.

The rural station at Galion, Ohio.

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Christie’s parents arranged the trip based on the arrival and departure times that were posted at the train station closest to their farm. Christie’s mother told her:

“You are to go up on the train that passes at seven in the morning, and come back on the six o’clock, and that will give you nine whole hours at your Uncle Daniel’s. I’m sure that will give you time to see a good many things.”

The arrival board at London’s North Western Railways station, 1905. The large numbers displayed on the right indicate the platform number of the arriving train.

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The trip was a thrilling adventure for a girl who lived on a farm miles from the nearest neighbor or school.

And though train travel was fairly economical, Christie’s parents had to scrimp and save to afford the fare:

“Eight-five cents there, and eighty-five cents back; that’s a dollar and seventy cents! It seems a good deal to spend; but it is your birthday, and it is Christmas day, and you’ve worked hard, and father and Karl and I think you ought to go.”

To accomplish her day trip, Christie probably traveled in a standard Pullman car, with its narrow seats that faced both front and back.

Interior of a standard Pullman car, 1910 (from the Library of Congress).

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By contrast, Miss Mary Brown (in The Browns at Mount Hermon) could afford to travel in luxury. When Mary left the mid-western village of Centerville, it took her two full days to travel by train to California. Her accommodations probably included a seat in a very nice club car during the day.

A posh car on the Chicago and Alton Railroad, 1910.

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For the overnight portion of her journey, Mary could have secured a berth in a sleeping car.

No matter how long the journey, travel by train usually took preparation. Travelers had to consult departure timetables and plan for connections between railroad lines.

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In those days, travelers had to visit their local train station to obtain printed routes and schedules. But if an in-person visit wasn’t possible, they wrote a letter to the railroad’s passenger agent to ask for help in planning their journey.

The station master wrote back with instructions, usually accompanied by printed schedules.

A printed timetable for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad.

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An 1881 timetable for Nantasket Beach Railroad (from WikiMedia Commons)

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Once on board, train passengers were ruled by the train’s conductor. It was his job to ensure the train arrived on time at each stop, and that his passengers’ needs were taken care of.

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For the most part, train travel was incredibly efficient. The Georgia Railroad claimed their trains were so timely, residents in the city of Atlanta could set their clocks by the sound of trains going by.

It was also a relatively safe mode of travel. An in an age when few women walked a city street without a chaperone, many women felt comfortable traveling alone by train.

Women traveling alone, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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No matter how long the journey, train travel could be tedious; and it was up to the passengers to find ways to entertain themselves.

Passing time with a magazine and a deck of cards, 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

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With the exception of Caroline Bryant, who slept through her train ride in Twenty Minutes Late, Isabella’s characters usually accomplished their journeys by making new friends of their fellow passengers.

A game of chess on board, 1905 (from the Library of Congress)

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That’s what Christie Tucker did. When her twenty-mile train ride came to an unexpected halt because of trouble on the tracks ahead, she set out to make herself useful to her fellow passengers, and reaped unexpected rewards in the process.

Many more of Isabella’s books featured travel by train than those mentioned in this post. Do you have a favorite Pansy character who road the rails? Please use the comment section below to share your favorite.

All aboard! Passengers prepare to depart on the California Limited, part of the Santa Fe Railroad, in 1905 (from the Library of Congress).

If you’d like to learn more about train travel in Isabella’s time, visit Rails West.
Be sure to view their page on overnight accommodations, where they have some interesting illustrations of sleeping cars on trains.

 

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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