Kaki Warner: Bride of the High Country

In my latest release, BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY, I had to get my main characters from NY to Heartbreak Creek, CO.  Since the Transcontinental had been finished the previous year (1869), I picked the train.  Oops.


Even though train travel had been available in the east for three decades, cross-country hauls were rare.  Amenities, rarer.  No bathrooms, for instance.  But that was OK since the trains had to stop every twenty miles to fill the tenders with water.  If the passengers were lucky, there might be an outhouse beside the tracks.  Or if they had a dime, they could purchase a box lunch from an enterprising local, or enjoy a hot meal of beans, bacon and stale biscuit.  Then back on the train and the hard bench for another lurching, bouncing twenty miles. YIPEE.


But, of course, my characters were rich, so they traveled in style in a Pullman Palace Car, which was as plush as a gamblers’ steamboat, complete with velvet couches, carpet and wooden inlay around the windows.  There was even a washroom in every four-berth car, which emptied directly onto the tracks (and you thought it was hunters who decimated the buffalo—HA!)  Also included on the luxury runs were a parlor car and dining car, which served mostly-edible meals when your plate wasn’t sliding into your lap as the train clickety-clacked along.


Ah, the beautiful scenery and fresh air—if only you could see through the soot-streaked windows or breathe through the billowing smoke wafting back from the locomotive.  Still, it was faster than a three-month trip by wagon.  Plus, you got to shoot at stuff as you careened along at ten, twenty, or—OMG—even thirty miles an hour.  What a treat!


FACT:  Each Pullman Car was owned and operated by the Pullman Company, and was serviced by a white-jacketed Negro man universally named “George” in deference to his employer, George Pullman.


The West would have been a vastly different place without the influence of the railroads.  For one thing, they offered incentives for people to settle along the right-of-ways, thereby creating permanent customers for the goods they were hauling.  They also carved routes through impossible country, built thousands of trestles, bridges, and culverts, or—since anything steeper than a 3% grade was prohibitive in fuel, construction, maintenance, and equipment costs—they laid tracks miles out of the way to avoid them, thus opening up even more country.


FACT:  In constructing the Transcontinental, Irish immigrants laid tracks west from Nebraska, while Chinese workers came east out of Sacramento—and they arrived at the EXACT SAME SPOT at Promontory Summit!  Amazing!


FACT:  The standard width between rails was determined by the Romans when they built stone roads in England.  4’ 8.5” was the width between the wheels of a two-horse chariot.  Over time, those wheels wore such deep grooves into the stone that later wagon-makers had to space their wheels to fit them.  Then somebody figured wheels roll easier metal-on-metal, so they laid down metal-capped wooden rails, put flanged, metal-treaded wheels on their horse-drawn wagons, and soon coal was rolling out of Newcastle at record rates.  And all because of the width of two horses’ asses pulling an old Roman chariot.  Who knew?


So there you have it.  More than you ever wanted to know about the joys and hazards of riding the rails west.  Have you ever taken a cross-country train trip or slept in a Pullman?  Would you do it again?


Leave a comment, and your name will be entered for a signed copy of BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY.  Thanks for coming by, and my thanks to you, too, fillies, for letting me chat with your readers.

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45 thoughts on “Kaki Warner: Bride of the High Country”

  1. Enjoyed reading this about trains. When I was younger my family went from Portland, Oregon to Minnesota. It was an interesting experience. I really liked it. You book sounds really good too!

  2. I’ve never been on a train. Sounds like a gorgeous way to enjoy the scenery which you can’t do when you are driving.

    I haven’t read any of your books yet. I will remedy this soon.

  3. Amy, I hear they’re not so nice since the government took over. (Duh). But I’d still like to travel cross-country just once. But if you ever get a chance to travel from Anchorage to Fairbanks through Denali in a dome car–it’s a beautiful trip. I highly recommend it.

    Thanks for coming by, Anon1001. I wish you and Amy good luck in the drawing. Have a great weekend.

  4. This was a great post, Kaki! I never knew that about the width of the rails and their ties to the Romans. Always nice to learn something on a Saturday!

    I’ve only ridden a train in Alaska and not overnight. I think it would be a fun way to travel…today.


  5. Oh That sounds like fun! I’ll have to look into it!
    It figures they wouldn’t be as nice since the government take over!

  6. Really interesting facts about the wheels. It also took a whole 7 days, early on, to travel from where the Transcontinental started to San Francisco. I can’t imagine, but that was better than 3 months or more walking. Those early years were pretty fascinating. How they managed to meet in Utah and not be off by a mile or even a foot. I can’t believe the engineers were really that good, but who am I to say?
    Great post. Your book sounds great too.

  7. Kaki, it’s always such a joy to have you blog with us. We look forward to each time. I’m chomping at the bit to read Margaret aka Lucinda’s story. She has such dark secrets that you hinted at in the previous books of this series. Can’t wait to read about them. After I finished the Blood Rose trilogy I didn’t think you could top those three books but you certainly have in these women. Love it! You such a talented writer.

    You asked when I have time to read…I always cap my day by reading just before I turn in. I just find it so relaxing and gives me a chance to clear my head of the day’s events. I fear my reading appetite will always be insatiable. 🙂

    Good luck and much success!

  8. Of all the wonderful facts you shared I can’t get past the whole “emptied onto the tracks” part. LOL

  9. Can’t wait to read it. I always believed I lived in the 1800’s in another life. I would so love to go back to those days. I’ve only ridden one train in my life and loved it. Good luck everyone!

  10. Kirsten Lynn, great to “see” you again! Thanks for coming by.

    Mary J, the schedules were so erratic, and the tracks so rough, and the eauip[ment so cranky, it was a real challenge. But just think of it! What a monumental achievement! I’m still impressed.

    Linda, you’re so kind. You’re also a great pimp–thanks for the wonderful encouragement. I need to find some duller books–if I try to read at night, I get so caught up in the story, I keep reading just one more chapter…and on and on.

    Tracy, that “dumping on the tracks” continued into the 1960s on some runs. It was freaky, but certainly eliminated any odors–except for the men who had to maintain the tracks. Ick.

  11. A fascinating post. Loved learning about this topic. I never took a train trip. The one in the Canadian Rockies would be fabulous.

  12. Hi, Kim! Great to “see” you again. Thanks for coming by. I often wonder if my head still isn’t in the 1800s, too. My grandmother (1887-1998) sure had some tales to tell. I have a pic of her in Colorado with a gun on her hip and wearing a Stetson and long split riding skirt. Pretty adventuresome for a su-thun lady from Vuh-gin-yah.

  13. The Rocky Mountaineer, Ellie? Yes, I’ve heard wonderful things about that one, too. The only drawback is you don’t sleep on the train, but off-load to local hotels each night. Still, that’s gorgeous country–we’ve driven it many times–but we’ll looking into see it from a train window before long.

  14. I’m looking forward to reading your book. And the cover is so inviting!
    I traveled to Chicago by train many years ago. A few years later I got to ride about 150 miles on an old fashioned train, complete with steam engine and hard seats. That was so much fun! It was hot and sooty/smoky with ashes blowing in the windows. It would have been totally miserable traveling in a long skirt.
    My Mom got to move a train onto a siding one time. When she was in high school she waited tables in a cafe where the engineer stopped to eat every day. One day he asked if she would like to drive the train just to see what it was like. Not an experience likely to happen these days!

  15. Great memories, Judy. My husband is a bit of a train freak, so we’ve ridden a lot of old steam excursion trains, but never one for 150 miles. That must have taken most of a day! What fun. And even he’s never gotten to run a locomotive. Thanks for coming by, and good luck winning a copy of BOTHC. You might like the train details.

  16. First, I’d like to say the cover of BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY is ABSOLUTELY beautiful and I would love to be entered to win a copy.

    I’ve never taken a cross country train ride but have always thought it would be a wonderful way to see the country. I’m a big advocate of vacationing right in our own beautiful states. Maybe when we retire we will do it…we’re only a few short years away!

    Thank you for the history on trains.

    😀 Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  17. I’ve been on a train plenty of times here in Finland. It’s the best way to go to Helsinki. Too bad it’s so expensive these days.

  18. Man O and I are deeply in love with trains. My grandfather worked on one. My husband models them. We are going on a trip to Switzerland and traveling via train around the country.

    Next dream trip is across Canada.

    I try to focus on the beauty and not the mess of the past when I think of train travel!

    No need to put me in for the book. I have it and just have to snuggle down with it.

    Peace, Julie

  19. Wonderful blog. Kaki, I just love the facts you pull from in your books. Amazing. Have to share this with a train lover friend of mine. You never said, or if you did, what did you think of this cover. Thank goodness your characters were rich, they might have never got to their destination! 🙂

    To the wonderful blog owners, I tried to tweet this, wasn’t successful. So I’ll tweet Ms. Warner’s fantastic blog on my own.


  20. Hi Cindy. Thank you so much. I love the cover, too, especially the colors. And if the model is a little “sweet” for Lucinda, I like to think it’s what she MIGHT have looked like if she hadn’t had such a hard start. Good luck winning a copy.

  21. Minna, I envy you your eruo travel. Those are wonderful trains, I hear, and the scenery must be breath taking. It’s expensive over here, too, especially if you get a 7 X 7 berth. The trains over here make a lot more money ferrying freight, than people, so we’re not as advanced in our passenger service. Thanks for coming by.

  22. Hi Julie. What gauge does your husband model in? Mine is N-scale steam. Boys and their toys, I guess. At least it keeps them out of our hair while we write. Thanks for getting my book. I hope you enjouy it. And thanks for coming by. Have a great weekend.

  23. Kaki, Thanks for the fun blog. I knew some of the information, like the Roman chariot wheel ruts influence on future roads and wagons. How odd to make all the Pullman car attendants use the name George, even if it was the “Founding Father’s” name.
    I have traveled by train several times, but most trips were only a few hours long. It is actually a pleasant way to travel. I have taken a few excursion rides on trains here in the US and we will be going on one next week from Lake Placid, NY to Saranac, NY. The Durango to Silverton trip in Colorado is a beautiful ride. The coal cinders and smoke do add to the “atmosphere.” You end up with smelly clothes and hair, and cinders all over everything. The cog railway up Mt. Washington, NH is an experience. If you are lucky enough to get one of the old coal fired engines, you will be covered in soot and cinders. Our daughter has a tiny scar on her cheek from a hot cinder that hit her the first time we rode it when she was 6.

    The longest trip I took on a train was in Indonesia in 1971. It was a trip of about 12 hours or so with meal service, but I wasn’t in a sleeper car. The train arrived at my stop after midnight. A station in the middle of nowhere with no lighting past the station and few if anyone speaking english. That is a wholestory in itself.

    I have enjoyed your books and look forwar to reading BRIDE OF THE HIGH COUNTRY. I hope the release is a big success.

  24. Hi Donnell. I’m so looking forward to seeing you at the Crested Butte Conference next week, and am delighted you’re taking time off from your busy writing schedule to come. Yes, I love the cover, although someone commented that instead of the pose being sweet, maybe Lucinda was scouting for a place to bury a body. LOL. I wouldn’t put it past her. Thanks for coming by, and for tweeting the blog. You’re a peach.

  25. Hi Melinda. The name is a nickname given to me at birth by my then two-year-old brother. He couldn’t say the “th” in Kathy. I always thought it would be a great pro golfer’s name–had I the talent. Thanks for coming by and good luck in the drawing.

  26. What a beautiful book cover! It is truly lovely to look at… love the horses in the background!
    Train travel… nope never experienced it… the only trains I have been on are ones in amusement parks… thanks for sharing today Kaki! 😀

  27. Hi Patricia. Thanks for the first-hand knowledge about the soot and cinders. Yet it must be fun because you keep going back, right? I love those excursion trips, but that long haul across Indonesia might have been a bit adverturesome for me. Thanks so much for reading my books, and for coming by. I really appreciate hearing from readers. Have a great weekend.

  28. Thanks, Colleen. I think the colors and the pink tint really set it off. They seem to put horses on most of my covers–which I’m fine with. I used to own and raise horses a few years back and they’re magnificent animals. You’re certainly braver than I if you’ll ride those rollercoaster train-things. I almost hork just thinking about it. You must be the coolest mom/grandmom on the block. Thanks for coming by.

  29. Oh, what a lovely cover! As a child we took a field trip which was a short ride on a train. I knew a couple of people that have taken long train trips and it sounds lovely (but expensive). It’s always nice to learn new facts, especially while reading a wonderful story.

  30. Hi Kaki,
    Wow, so maybe we can’t include all the neat facts learned in research, but you made entertaining use of them here! VERY interesting.
    How bigoted that the men who served aboard the train had to be called George–after the founder–GHEESH, what an ego, but as I have a horrible memory . . . even I could remember one name, so I’d appreciate that aspect of it.
    Come to think of it, I had an old drunk great uncle who called me and my 15 cousins all “Bub”–’cause he never knew our name. And I sense that evil grin, Kaki. Don’t even TRY it! It’s a l-o-n-g walk from the Denver airport to Crested Butte, Pal.

  31. Okay, okay. I’ll be nice. For now. Thanks for coming by T., and CAN’T WAIT to see you and the gang in CB next week. It’ll be a great conference. Some of you lovely commentors should try to come next year. It’s a blast!

  32. My MIL sent me this… did have photos..

    Railroad tracks…………..

    Some may have seen this one before.

    If so then just remember that in Nov.2012.

    Railroad tracks.
    The U.S. standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number.
    Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England , and English expatriates designed the U.S. railroads.

    Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

    Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

    Why did the wagons have that particular Odd wheel spacing?
    Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England , because that’s the spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So, who built those old rutted roads?
    Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since.

    And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels.

    Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore, the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. In other words, bureaucracies live forever.

    So the next time you are handed a specification, procedure, or process, and wonder, ‘What horse’s ass came up with this?’, you may be exactly right.

    Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.

    Now, the twist to the story:

    When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, you will notice that there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah.

    The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit larger, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses’ behinds.

    So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s ass.

  33. I love the premise of your story and series. I’ve read a few Wild West stories and the railway tracks did have an influence in the world-building. It means the characters have places to go and more people to meet. Taking a cross-countrip via rail is on my bucket list. What a splendid way to view the country!

  34. Wow, thanks CatesS. Great info, especially about the narrow tunnels. They probably would have had an even harder time going by highway with the low overpasses here and there. Thanks for sharing, and for coming by. Have a great weekend.

    Hi, Na S., rail travel is a great way to see the country, especially since railroads usually follow streambeds because of the gentler grades. So oftimes you see country you never would have seen otherwise or from a steeper highway. Good luck winning a copy of my book. Glad you dropped by.

  35. Really interesting comments. Your book sounds really good and I love the cover.
    I have been on a couple of nice train rides-the Grand Canyon Railroad trip from Williams to the South entrance of the Grand Canyon and the Durango-Silverton Line in Colorado. Those are trips thought beautiful wooded areas and at high altitudes.

  36. Thanks, Joye. Those do sound like nice trips. I’d like to take them someday. Thanks for coming by and good luck winning a copy of BOTHC. Have a great rest-of-the- weekend.

  37. Hi Kaki, not stalking you here I always visit this site. Love your books and you know it. When I was in the second grade of school we took a trip to Lexington Ky and road back by train, it was just wonderful at the time. I was raised in a small community called High Bridge and it had the highest railroad bridge across a waterway until the early 20th century. Its a historical landmark today. I think they started building it in 1850 but it was never finished until 1877 not sure my facts are right. It was redesigned and opened in 1877. The bridge is still in use today and below is a link to a youtube video of the bridge today.


  38. Great info, Quilt Lady. I’ll have to check it out. My husband is quite a RR bridge fan, so he probably knows about it. What a fun school trip. And hey, you can stalk me all you want. Thanks for leaving a comment, and again, good luck winning a copy.

  39. Hi Kaki~ So I’m a bit late here, but I was just remembering riding across Missouri and Illinois on an Amtrak to visit my grandparents. It was quite exciting because I was by myself. It was during the ‘great flood of ’93’ in the Midwest– when I looked out, the floodwater on the fields came right up to the track! They closed down the trains right after we got to our destination. Anyway, your train info has been very helpful!

  40. I’m glad I help, Christina. That must have been a frightening ride. Hopefully you can use it in your own writing. Thanks for coming by. I really appreciate the support. Good luck!

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