Tag: Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels Towns

Nothing is more fascinating than the temporary towns that sprang up as the intercontinental railroad worked its way across the United States. For the most part, they were dirty and contained the dregs of society. But the fascination lies in how much people could tolerate in the way of creature comforts for some pretty good money. The buildings were comprised of nothing but canvas or sod and provided temporary homes for the workers and as the tracks progressed, so did the town. The businesses just pulled up stakes and moved, following the iron ribbon cutting across the prairie.

These places had just about everything—dentistry, hardware supplies, saloons, mercantiles, cafes. And of course, dance halls and prostitutes.

Most of the workers were single and veterans of the Civil War. They needed a job and the railroad needed men. All nationalities worked together.

The town of Benton, Wyoming was one such temporary town. It only existed for three months but it had a population of over 3,000. It had twenty-five saloons. I can’t even imagine this many people.

But many of the merchants were visionaries and saw great opportunity, therefore built sturdy structures. They stayed put when the temporary establishments moved on. They had faith that as long as the tracks remained, the people would come. It was also an exciting time for land developers, but such an atmosphere also planted seeds for the unscrupulous who cheated people out of their hard-earned money. They’d sell them land they didn’t own or they’d sell the same land to several different people which resulted in a nightmare.

Everyone wanted to cash in on the wealth that the railroad created.

A few of the cities that got temporary starts were: Billings, Laramie, Cheyenne, Reno, Tacoma, Fresno, and North Platte, Nebraska. There were hundreds more.

The historical western series Hell on Wheels was set in temporary towns as the Union Pacific laid down tracks in the race to Promontory Point where they drove the golden spike.

Fortunes were made and lost in creating the transcontinental railroad.

The human toll was staggering. Fifteen thousand men worked to build it. 1,500 died. White men earned $35 a month and that included room and board. The rest made $25 plus room and board. Using today’s inflation rate, that $35 amounts to $657.32.  Not much at all for the amount of backbreaking, dangerous work those guys did. The conditions were deplorable.

In which sector do you think the new boom will come from? Oil? Land? Technology? Maybe colonizing Mars or other planets?

Margaret Brownley and I have Christmas in a Cowboy’s Arms releasing on October 3rd. Six stories that will warm your heart and put you in the Christmas spirit. I’ll offer several in giveaways next month so be watching! 

 

 

Hell On Wheels

How much do I love SuperChannel?

A friend mentioned that I would probably like a new series called Hell On Wheels. I checked it out (On Demand) and the husband and I watched the first episode and LOVED it.

 

 

It all starts with a Union Soldier in a confessional, seeking absolution for things he did during the war. In particular, what happened to a woman. When the confessional is over, both man and priest emerge, but it’s not a priest at all. It’s Cullen Bohannon – the woman’s husband. And he’s out to get every man that brutalized and then murdered his wife.

It takes a cold dude to kill a man in a church and then walk out with his greatcoat flapping.

His search takes him to Hell on Wheels – the travelling camp of the men building the Union Pacific railroad. As you can imagine, it’s rough. A good portion of the workforce is freed slaves, and as we all know the term free was a formality more than anything else. He’s hired as a supervisor to the crews, and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Elam Ferguson (played by Common).

The whole thing is ruled by Thomas Durant, who’s a bit greasy and not above manipulating senators and stocks to see that the railroad gets built. Durant’s chief surveyor, Bell, is killed in an Indian attack but his wife, Lily, survives – and it’s Bohannon who brings her back to camp. And all the while Bohannon is trying to find the last of the men responsible for the death of his wife.

It’s a great story, a fantastic setting, wonderful, complex characters (The Swede as Durant’s “muscle” is deliciously creepy). Of course the cast isn’t hard to look at either. My husband is rather partial to Lily Bell.  I, of course, adore Bohannon (played by Anson Mount). In fact, there may be a reclusive rancher in a story soon that bears a striking resemblance.

And I’ll admit it – best of all was the night Bohannon and Elam had to fight each OTHER. I looked at my husband and said, “I hope they fight with their shirts off.” Yes, I’m just that shallow.

The result?

A bit of history, a bit of romance, a lot of action. Can anyone say “All aboard!”

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