At the end of January, I had the chance to travel to historic Jefferson, Texas for a writer’s retreat. It was a history-lover’s delight! We stayed in an 1867 home, shopped in a 19th century mercantile, and stopped in at the oldest continuously run hotel in Texas. It was at the Excelsior Hotel, that we secured a tour of the authentic 1888 Pullman car stationed across the street.
Pullman cars offered sleeping berths for train travel in the 19th century. Usually only the wealthy could afford this luxury. But if you found yourself in the super-wealthy category, you might be able to afford a custom-built private sleeping car for personal use. Such was the case with railroad tycoon, Jay Gould.
Believe it or not, this tiny town of 2,000 was once the 4th largest city in Texas. Back at the height of the riverboat era, Jefferson was a bustling port with a thriving cotton culture and a population around 8,000. Jay Gould came to town and tried to convince them to let him run his railroad through Jefferson. Unfortunately, the town wanted nothing to do with his Yankee money and turned him down. Mr. Gould predicted the destruction of the town on his way out and decided to build his railroad through the tiny town of Dallas instead. Rather ironic that the town that once sent Jay Gould away made the effort to secure his Pullman car as part of their history years later. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.
The Pullman car was a wonder to behold. The lighting was both electric and gas. Electricity would be generated while the train was in motion, and gas would be piped in when the train was stationary.
You will notice jay birds featured in much of the decor. Jay Gould used the jay bird as his symbol. It was even part of his signature visible on the register in the Excelsior Hotel. You will see it etched into the glass globes around the lights and most decadently on the side of his bathtub.
Here are other pictures I took. You might see some authors you recognize along the way.
Even today this would be a luxurious way to travel.
What museums have you visited that made you want to travel back in time?