The Transcontinental Railroad

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. According to my This Day In History Calendar, today is the 152nd anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (May 10, 1869), an event that had a profound effect on everything from commerce to the environment of this country.

So today I thought I’d share a bit of history and trivia around this event.

First a timeline of key events:

  • 1832 – Dr. Hartwell Carver made his first push for construction of a railroad to connect the east coast to the west coast. That proposal didn’t make it through, but Dr. Carver didn’t give up and over the next several years continued to write articles supporting his proposal.
  • 1853 – Congress commissions a survey of 5 possible routes. These were completed by 1855
  • 1862 – The Pacific Railroad Bill signed by Abraham Lincoln. The act offered government incentives to assist “men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest” in developing the nation’s first transcontinental rail line.
  • 1863 (Jan) – The Central Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Sacramento. They lay the first rail in October of that same year.
  • 1863 (Dec) – The Union Pacific Railroad breaks ground in Omaha. But because of the Civil War it isn’t until July of 1865 that the first rail on the eastern end is laid.
  • 1869 – Transcontinental Railroad completed

Now on to some other Interesting facts and trivia:

  • The railroad line followed a route similar to that used as the central route of the Pony Express primarily because this route had been proven navigable in winter.
  • There were two main railroad companies involved in constructing the historic line. The Central Pacific Railroad received the contract to construct the line from Sacramento to points east. The Union Pacific Railroad was awarded the contract  to forge the path from Council Bluffs, Iowa west. As noted above, construction began in 1862 and in the early days the place where the two legs would meet up and become one was not decided.
  • As the project neared completion, President Ulysses Grant set Promontory Point Utah as the place where the two rails would meet. On May 10, 1869, the final spike was driven and the Transcontinental Railroad was deemed complete.
  • The final spike driven is often called the Golden Spike. However the spike was actually gold plated, a solid gold spike would have been much too soft to drive into the rail.
  • The total length of the rail line was 1,776 miles. 1086 miles was laid by the Union Pacific crew and 690 miles by Central Pacific. At the time of its completion it was one of the longest contiguous railroad in the world
  • The chosen route required 19 tunnels to be drilled through the mountains. This was no easy task during this time period and it managed to push forward barely a foot per day. Even when  nitroglycerin was introduced to blast through the rock it only increased their progress to 2 feet per day.
  • When completed, the Transcontinental Railroad allowed passengers to cross the country in just one week as opposed to the four to six months it had taken before.
  • The fare to travel from Omaha to San Francisco was $65 for a third class bench seat, $110 for a second class seat and $136 if you wanted to ride first class in a Pullman sleeping car.

And there you have it, a short and sweet lesson on the Transcontinental Railway. So what about you, do you have any experience with trains and railways you’d like to share? If not, would you like to ride a train someday?

My only personal experience was on a vacation to the Grand Canyon – we road the train from Williams AZ to the south rim, a trip of about 2 hours. It was a really fun addition to our vacation experience.

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a choice of any book from my backlist.

 

Chapel Cars – Reprise

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. I have a book due at the end of this month and the last few weeks heading toward a deadline are always pretty intense for me. So I hope you will forgive me for pulling out an old post and dusting it off to share once again. This one appeared during my first year as a filly, 2009. Wow, hard to believe I’ve been part of this fabulous fun group for 11 years now!! Time really does pass fast when you’re having fun 🙂

 

‘Saving’ The West

I came across an article when researching circuit preachers for a minor story thread in one of my books.  The article covered a unique tool utilized by missionaries who were attempting to do their own brand of ‘taming the west’ – namely Chapel Cars.

These were railroad cars that were modified to serve as traveling churches.  They rode the rails from town to town, shifting over to sidings for as long as they were needed, then continuing on to the next stop.  They included modest living quarters for the missionary and, if he had one, his wife.  The rest of the space was utilized for the church itself.

Most western movies and tales glorify the gun-toting lawman or vigilante, portraying them as the tamers of the wild and woolly west.  In actuality, the peace-minded missionaries who rode the rails played a larger, more influential part in bringing peace to the lawless west than any of their more aggressive counterparts.  They traveled in their mobile churches to remote areas of the country, bringing spiritual direction and a civilizing influence to people who were starved for something to offset the violence and loneliness of their existence.

These Chapel Cars traveled throughout the west and mid-west – including North Dakota, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon and Colorado.  They stopped at mining towns and logging camps, tent cities and newly established towns, bringing their gospel message and the reminder of civilization to people who had seen neither for a long time – if ever.

And, given the unfettered existence of those in the camps and towns, their appearance was surprisingly well received more often than not – especially by the ladies of the area.  The arrival of these Chapel Cars signaled not only the chance to attend Sunday services, but brought with them someone to perform weddings, funerals, baptisms and also a welcome excuse for social gatherings.  In addition, many a rough and tough cowboy who would have balked at attending a traditional church, seemed to feel differently about these side rail services.  In fact, the very novelty of the Chapel Car brought folks from miles around just to have a look.

Of course, they didn’t always receive a warm welcome.  There are recorded instances of the Chapel Cars being pelted with eggs and refuse, defaced with graffiti and even set on fire.  But these were rare instances and the cars and their custodians survived to continue their mission.

These repurposed rail cars were furnished with pews, a lectern, an altar table and in some cases an organ.  Depending on the construction, they could seat over 70 people inside.  The Chapel Car was a multipurpose unit, serving as a home, church, Sunday School, social hall, library and meeting place.  They carried bibles and tracts which were distributed all along the lines.  The missionary and his wife, in addition to their usual ministerial duties, were expected to function as singer, musician, janitor and cook.  They helped organize permanent churches, including raising the necessary funds and helping to construct the buildings.

There are records to support the existence of eleven Chapel Cars in all, though there is some evidence there may have been as many as seventeen.  Of the eleven known cars, three were utilized by Catholics, seven by Baptists and one by the Episcopalians.

Chapel cars remained in use throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  With the advent of World War I, however, the railroad tracks had to be kept clear for troop movement.  In addition, new regulations prohibited the railroad companies from giving ‘free rides’ to the Chapel Cars, something that had been common practice up until that time.  And as paved roads and the automobile became more prevalent it became easier for folks to travel longer distances on their own to attend church.  Thus, the Chapel Cars that had brought their spiritual message and civilizing influence to the rough and tumble west faded into history.

So, where’s the most memorable place you’ve attended a church service?

 

And on the good news front, Love Inspired is re-releasing one of my previous titles this month in a 2-in-1 volume with former Filly Cheryl St.John.  Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a signed copy.

 

SECOND CHANCE FAMILY

Mitch Hammond is a man of his word. And as far as Cora Beth Collins is concerned, that’s a problem. The stubborn sheriff has vowed never to love again, for fear of wounding someone else. The most he can offer Cora Beth is marriage in name only. And with no other way to adopt two runaway orphans and keep her patchwork family together, she accepts.

Mitch is doing the honorable thing. So why does it feel so wrong? Despite his intentions, Mitch is starting to want more from Cora Beth…and from himself. For in her trusting eyes he sees everything he hopes to be—as a lawman, a father and a husband.

 

 

Orphan Train Sweet Romances, and Train Travel in 1855

Hello everyone, Wendy May Andrews here. When I was planning this series I had to give a great deal of thought to the timing. I chose to set the series in 1855. I didn’t want to address any of the issues connected with the war so I had to make it as early as possible, but I also needed the train to go far enough West to be interesting. And, of course, there was the orphanage too. That’s the only place I took “creative license”. Mr. Charles Brace established the Children’s Aid Society in 1853 but in my first book, I have it that my heroine, Sophie, was a resident at the orphanage for ten years before she became one of the workers there. So the timing of that doesn’t quite jive. But other than that, everything else was perfect. And, too, there’s the fact that orphanages did exist in New York City ten years before 1855, just not one’s organized by Mr. Brace as he was only born in 1826.

The history surrounding the Orphan Trains is fascinating! I’m sure there are many sad tales in the annals of its history, but for the most part it afforded the opportunity for children to have a better life than what they would have had as abandoned orphans in the stews of the big city. Mr. Brace’s theory was that every farm table had room for at least one more, so he arranged for new homes out West with families who promised to house and educate the children. Unlike some other similar arrangements, Mr. Brace did not place the children in any sort of indentured circumstances so they had a better prospect for a happy future.

I also enjoyed researching what their new town might be like. This is a four book series. The first one, the prequel, takes place exclusively in New York, but the rest are set in their new town in Missouri. All three young women are city bred. The first, Cassie, had no intention of staying in the small town. She had just grown attached to the orphans and wanted to ensure they were getting good homes. Being a socialite from New York, she was a little appalled by the circumstances of the new town. But the other two young women, who planned to make new lives for themselves out West, were relieved to find it wasn’t as primitive as they had feared. Perspective is everything!

The rail construction boom also resulted in the development of new villages and towns along the way. The readier access to supplies with the train going through helped these new towns grow and thrive. I can’t say I would have loved to live back then, but it’s certainly a fascinating time to visit through research and good books.

Thank you for stopping by my guest visit here at Petticoats & Pistols! I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of Book 1 in the Orphan Train series. (Buy link for Sophie – Book 1

 

      SOPHIE

Blurb:

His pursuit of her threatens everything – except her heart:

Sophie Brooks has lived at the orphanage since she was ten years old. Now nineteen, she’s not only a resident, she works there as well. It’s the only true home she can remember and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep it safe.

When her budding relationship with the son of one of the orphanage’s benefactors threatens the charity’s funding, Sophie must choose between her loyalties and her heart.

 

 

I’d love it if you check out the whole series page on Amazon

I can be found in various places around the web and I’d love to stay in touch: 

 

 

 

 

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! 

 

 

Railway Post Offices and a Giveaway

Hi,  Winnie Griggs here. I was doing some research the other day on how long it would take a letter to reach Texas from the east coast. As usual, I stumbled on an interesting little tidbit of history that I wasn’t looking for that took me down a fun little rabbit trail.

Did you know that from 1862 until 1977 there existed Railway Post Offices (RPOs).  These were not just rail cars that carried the mail, but were actual rolling post offices.  Between stops, the mailbags, which had heretofore sat untouched during travel, sometimes for days at a time, were now opened and the contents sorted and processed as the train sped toward its destination.

 

Originally, the railroad cars that housed these rolling post offices, were converted baggage cars that were furnished with wooden furniture.  Soon, however, a Railway Mail Service employee named Charles Harrison designed a set of fixtures that were a vast improvement over those. It consisted of cast-iron hinged pieces that could be folded and unfolded as needed and set in a number of different configurations to hold racks, mail pouches and a sorting table based on needs for specific routes and volumes of mail. These fixtures could also be completely folded away to leave a wide open space, thus converting it to a general baggage car if needed.

Letters that were cancelled aboard one of these RPOs received a postmark that indicated the route’s endpoints, the train number and the designation R.P.O.  A railway mail route could range in length anywhere from a few miles to over 1,100 miles.

Railway mail clerks had to undergo strict training.  Each clerk was expected to know the post offices and rail junctions, as well as local delivery details for the larger cities served along their route.  They had to undergo periodic testing to keep them sharp.  This testing included gauging speed and accuracy in sorting mail on a moving train, and a score above 96% was expected.

 

At the height of their use, Railway Post Offices were installed on over 9,000 train routes covering more than 200,000 miles.  Some dedicated mail trains were known to carry over 300 tons of mail daily.

The railway post office network began to decline at the end of WWII.  The last railway post office traveled between New York and Washington D.C. and was discontinued on June 30, 1977.

I hope you enjoyed this little bit of post office and railroad history. And speaking of mail, do you have any mail-related stories to share – letters from exotic locations, favorite postcards, a pen pal story?  Please do share.

And because I’m so very excited about my upcoming June release, A Tailor-Made Husband, I’m going to give away one of my advance copies to one of the commentators on today’s post.

A TAILOR-MADE HUSBAND

From Bachelor Sheriff to Family Man 

Tired of pining for handsome sheriff Ward Gleason, seamstress Hazel Andrews plans to head East for a fresh start—until Ward finds an abandoned child. Hazel can’t turn down his request that she watch the little girl while he investigates a spate of crimes. But spending time with Ward is sending local gossips—and Hazel’s heart—into turmoil.

Nothing in Ward’s world is the same since he took charge of orphaned Meg…and that includes his growing feelings for Hazel. A fake engagement will allow them to care for the child together until Hazel moves away and finds someone more worthy. But with little Meg convinced she’s already found her forever family, can Ward and Hazel dare to make her dreams come true, along with their own?

 

E. E. Burke: A Bonfire, S’mores, and Eight Western Romance Tales

EE Burke headshot

We’re so delighted to have E.E. (Elisabeth) Burke come to visit. This lady knows more about steam engine trains and Kansas history than anyone I know. She’s written a whole series around trains and is in the middle of a bride train series about mail order brides. She’s a fantastic, award-winning writer of historical western romances. Please make her welcome.

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What’s more fun than a bonfire and s’mores? Having a sizzling story to read while you’re enjoying the fall foliage. How about eight sizzling tales from the Old West?

I’m delighted to be part of a multi-bestselling author publishing project, HEARTS ABLAZE, a collection of eight Western historical romances set during the autumn months and blazing with passion and adventure. This set is available on Oct. 18 for just 99 cents, but you can preorder it now. Here’s the link: http://amzn.to/2ek7pL6!!

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When the eight of us first came together to work on this project, we quickly realized we had something very special–a collection that represented the varied and vibrant tapestry of the Old American West. From the wild Pacific forests to the lonesome prairies, on wagon trains and at frontier outposts, you’ll fall in love with lumberjacks and soldiers, trailblazers and trick riders, courageous warriors and rugged cowboys.

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For my part, I’m re-releasing an updated version of my debut novella, KATE’S OUTLAW, which is set against a historic railroad race. The race took place primarily in 1870, when two railroads were laying track through Kansas as fast as they could to be first to reach the border of Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma). Congress had promised the winning line free land and the exclusive right to pass through Cherokee lands into cattle-rich Texas.  The owners were ambitious men willing to do just about anything to secure the prize. Spies, saboteurs and even outlaws disrupted the competition and turned the contest into a battle.

map-of-race

Most of the activity took place in southeastern Kansas in an area dubbed the Cherokee Neutral Lands because it was supposed to serve as a buffer between white settlers and the Indian Territory. As early as 1850, whites began to settle there, and by 1865, shortly after the Civil War, thousands of immigrants were pouring in.

The Tsa-la-gi (Cherokee) people had suffered setback after setback. Thirty years earlier, their homelands in the Southeast had been taken from them and they’d been forcibly marched west and relocated. They’d been dragged, divided, into the Civil War, and subsequently lost more land as a result. By the time the Katy showed up on their doorstep, they were sick and tired of the white men’s lies and broken promises.

The 1866 treaty gave one railroad the right to pass through their territory, but said nothing about giving land away, so when Congress promised free grants to the railroad, the Cherokee Nation objected—strenuously. A bitter lawsuit ensued. How the poor Indian nation paid for this legal battle isn’t mentioned, but I came up with a few theories, which led to my idea for Kate’s Outlaw.

heartsablazecoverIn the meantime, the Katy Railroad struggled to keep building so it didn’t go bankrupt after exhausting most of its resources to win the race. The line eventually crossed the Red River into Texas and became, for a time, a thriving railroad.

Today, the Katy no longer exists and portions of its rail bed have been turned into scenic hiking and biking paths. The Cherokee Nation has survived and thrived, ironically adapting to modern times much better than the railroad it challenged so many years ago.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Hearts Ablaze and check out my updated version of Kate’s Outlaw, along with seven other tales from bestselling authors.

In Whispered Love, bestselling author Kathleen Ball takes you to the wild Pacific Northwest, a land bristling with handsome, well-muscled lumberjacks. Foreman Samuel Pearse has only one rule; no women allowed. Until he finds one asleep in his bathtub—Pat Clarke, the company cook. With her secret revealed and her virtue at stake, Pat turns to the only man who can help her…the one man who sets fire to her heart.

The Officer and the Bostoner, from USA Today bestselling author Rose Gordon, follows the adventures of a well-to-do lady traveling cross-country to meet her intended. Instead, she finds herself stranded at a military fort and forced into an unwanted marriage. Can a hot-blooded officer spark love in his wife’s cold heart?

Fools Rush from USA Today bestselling author Ciara Knight. A young woman, desperate for independence from all men, embarks on a crazy cross-country wagon train adventure disguised as a man. Instead of finding her independence, a bounty hunter captures her under the guise of horse thieving, a crime punishable by hanging. Will a man she’s lied to for months save her, or will he surrender her to a monster with a badge?

Ridin’ For A Fall by Kirsten Lynn immerses you in a fiery tale of forever love. When circumstances force best friends and Wild West Show performers, Lena Boden and Kyle Allaway to marry and return to Wyoming, they must stand together against internal doubts and external forces seeking their destruction—or risk a fall that will knock them out of the saddle for good.

In A Warrior’s Heart, bestselling author Amanda McIntyre brings to life the passionate story of a bold Cherokee warrior and the brave white woman he rescues from certain death. Thrown together by circumstances not of their own making, they overcome betrayal and tragedy to find a love strong enough to bring nations together.

The Rancher, by bestselling author Hildie McQueen, transports readers to 1870s Montana Territory and into a sensual encounter between an injured rancher and a woman running for her life. Sometimes love enters at the worst moment…

In The Drifter, bestselling author Elizabeth Rose takes readers on an epic journey across the plains, as drifter Chase Masters shows up wounded at Nessa Pemberton’s stagecoach relay station mistaken as the bandit who killed her husband. Can a single mother learn to love again and put her trust in a man who is nothing but a drifter?

 

hb-partyJoin the party!

On Thursday, Oct. 20, from 6-10 p.m. Eastern, we’re rounding up lovers of Western historical romance for a big party on Facebook to celebrate the release of Hearts Ablaze.

Joining as hosts:  E.E. Burke, Hildie McQueen, Amanda McIntyre, Kathleen Ball, Rose Gordon, Ciara Knight and Elizabeth Rose. We’ll be turning up the heat (on each other), and providing readers with excerpts, fun facts, Flash giveaways, and a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card!

Hope you can make it! Here’s the link to RSVP and join the partyhttp://bit.ly/HeartsAblazeParty

What are some of your favorite characters in Old West stories? Cowboys? American Indians? Soldiers? Outlaws? Tell us why.

Today we’ll be giving away a FREE boxed set to a lucky commenter.

About E.E. Burke:

Weave together passionate romance and rich historical detail, add a dash of suspense, and you have books by bestselling author E.E. Burke. E.E., also known as Elisabeth, has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart®. Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to living the dream–writing stories readers can get lost in.

Find out more at E.E. website: http://www.eeburke.com

Sign up for her newsletter and start her Steam! Romance and Rails series FREE: http://bit.ly/SteamFreeBook

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Jobs That No Longer Exist

MargaretBrownley-header

Recently I came across a list of occupations that some experts say will be obsolete in the next ten years.  Occupations on the line include postal workers, farmers, ranchers (yikes, we’re talking cowboys here!), cooks and cashiers.

Self-service checkouts are slowly taking over the stores and restaurants in my area.  You can even check out your own books at my local library, and meter readers have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  All this got me to thinking about occupations from the past that no longer exist.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

Bone man public domain
Bone man public domain

Rag and Boneman

Following the great buffalo slaughter of the 1800s, bleached bones covered the prairies.  It didn’t take long for homesteaders to figure out what the real money crop was.  Bones were used for cosmetics, glue, lubricants and sugar cane filters. During the height of the bone trade, eastern processing plants purchased an estimated billion-dollars’ worth of bones.    

Iceman

Icemen made daily rounds in wagons, carts or trucks delivering ice for ice boxes.

Knocker-Upper (it’s not what you think)

How did workers get to work on time before alarm clocks?  A knocker-upper banged on doors or windows to wake people at the appointed time. Some used peashooters aimed at second story windows.  It makes you wonder who woke the knocker-uppers?

Gandy Dancer

Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia
Gandy dancers 1917 source: wikipedia public domain

This jobs sounds more fun than it was.  Railroad workers or gandy dancers, as they were called, laid thousands of miles of railroad tracks across the U.S.

Leech Collector

Bloodletting was a popular method by which to treat disease or infection. Doctors used millions of leeches during the 19th century and let’s face it; someone had to collect those suckers.

Pettifogger

Shyster lawyer (some people might argue that this profession still exists)

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Wikipedia public domain

Lamplighter

These workers lit gas streetlights with the aid of a long pole. In some communities, the lamplighter also served as night watchman.

Lector

Lectors were hired by factories to educate workers and eradicate boredom. They did this by reading newspapers and even novels aloud. Should a lector read anything too radical or controversial, he could expect to be tossed out on his ear.  Hmm. Sounds like some college campuses today.

 

 

 

Do any of you remember milkmen?  What about gas station attendants who used to pump gas, clean windows and check the tires?  It wasn’t that long ago that people came to the door selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners. Most of us could probably do without the salesmen, but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone fill our tanks on occasion?  I would also miss not having my mail delivered, and can’t imagine a world without cowboys.  What about you?  What profession or occupation do you or will you miss?

                              Left at the Altar

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverWelcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good.

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Guest Kari Trumbo Talks Train Wrecks

Kari Trumbo is one of those people who sneaks up on you — in a good way. She’s not loud or rowdy (like some of us who won’t be named…ahem). Dig beneath the surface, though, and you’ll find a warm heart, a passion for family and fiction, and a sincere desire to live the precept “love thy neighbor.” She’s come to visit with a “story behind the story” of her new western historical romance.

****

To Love and ComfortIn my latest novel, To Love and Comfort, Margot must face a train disaster. Now, I had only read minimally about train accidents in history with my children (we homeschool). When the story started veering in that direction I had to stop and do some research.

Most of the big train accidents happened earlier than the setting of my story. That is not to say they didn’t happen in 1901, just that the majority of these incidents happened earlier in history. They happened by and large because of brake systems that could wear out and bridges that were built quickly and not maintained well. Trains weren’t new, but what had to be done to maintain a 50-year-old bridge was.

I also had to research what large river my character was likely to cross and what the terrain might be where it crossed. This proved to be incredibly difficult, as the U.S. has a lot of rivers and the terrain varies a lot even within small distances. In the end, I ended up going with the terrain the way my character described it and made the disaster over the Ohio river, as that was the river it was most likely they would have been traveling over.

In the end, I found the train disaster fascinating and terrible to research. Putting my character through that situation was daunting. I am so thankful for history and survivor testimonies to help us know that our writing about feelings and what situations would be like are as accurate as they can be.

To Love and Comfort

Margot Fleur is devastated by a secret kept by the man she’s known as her father, tearing her heart to pieces. Struggling with feelings of isolation, she desperately wants to be part of something more; to be whole.

Tyler Wilson longs to sweep Margot off of her feet. Seeing past her imperfections, he loves her for the sparkling spirit and bright dreams she once held so dear and only wants to see her smile again. Strong and determined, he sets out to win her heart but will a stubborn unwillingness to hear the call of the Lord forever keep them apart? And if he doesn’t learn, will Margot be lost forever?

Excerpt

“Where did the 72 depart from?” But he knew the answer before he asked. His face pinched with pain before the answer was even given.

“Philadelphia, sir. The wreck is about thirty miles straight west of here. Follow the tracks out of town, but be careful. They’ll be trains coming along soon to bring those passengers back. You might want to wait here if you knew someone on the train. Might miss them.”

Tyler backed out the door, his mind a mess of what he’d just heard. She had to be alive. He’d know if she were dead, wouldn’t he? That dreadful feeling meant she needed him, not that she was gone…right? He turned as Jax approached him.

“What did you learn?” He grabbed Tyler’s shoulder and shook him.

“I need a horse, a fast one.”

Jax grabbed his other shoulder. “Just where do you think you’re going?”

Tyler looked up at him and shrugged his hands off. “I have to go get her and the stage will slow me down.”

“You’re sure you know where you’re going?”

“I’ve never been more certain of anything in my life.”

 

Kari TrumboKari Trumbo is a writer of Christian Historical Romance and a stay-at-home mom to four vibrant children. When she isn’t writing, editing, or blogging, she homeschools her children and pretends to keep up with them. She is the author of the Western Vows series and co-author of the Best-Selling Cutter’s Creek series. Kari loves reading, listening to contemporary Christian music, singing with the worship team, and curling up near the wood stove when winter hits. She makes her home in central Minnesota with her husband of nineteen years, two daughters, two sons, and three cats.

Places to follow Kari:

Website           Facebook        Twitter            Pinterest          Amazon          BookBub

 

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Taming the West One Meal at a Time

MargaretBrownley-header

Nothing changed America as much as the iron horse. People were finally able to travel across country in relative comfort and not have to worry about the weather, Indians, or some of the other mishaps that plagued early travelers. A train passenger’s greatest fear was food poisoning. That’s how bad meals were along the rails.

It took one efrednterprising Englishman to change the way travelers ate. His name was Fred Harvey and his Harvey House restaurants eventually stretched along the Santa Fe railroad tracks from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles and San Francisco—one every hundred miles.

Hear That Whistle Blow

Fred Harvey invented the “fast-food” concept long before Ray Kroc. Passengers were allowed only thirty minutes to get off the train, eat and board again, so time was of the essence. He devised a system in which train conductors would telegraph passenger food orders to the restaurant in advance. This allowed the restaurant staff to prepare the food before the train pulled into the station.

From Dishwasher to Household Name

Harvey learned the business the hard way. After traveling to America at the age of seventeen, he landed a job as a dishwasher at a famed New York restaurant, working his way through the ranks from dishwasher to line-cook. He eventually landed in St. Louis where he took over the Merchants Dining Room Saloon. His success lasted only a short time. The winds of war could not be ignored and after his partner joined the secessionist army, taking all the money the two men had saved, Harvey’s restaurant was doomed.

After a series of jobs and personal losses, he eventually took over an eating house at the Santa Fe depot in Topeka. He arranged for fresh fruit and meat to be railed in from Chicago and other states. His food was so good that railroad officials worried that no one would want to travel past Topeka.

First Female Workforce

As the number of his depot restaurants increased, so did his troubles. Black men were hired as waiters, but this often created conflict with cowboys. After one unpleasant midnight brawl at the Raton Harvey eating house, Harvey’s friend Tom Gables suggested a radical idea; why not replace black male waiters with women? Harvey decided to give Tom’s idea a try.

Harvey ran ads in newspapers for “young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30, to work in the Harvey Eating Houses.” He offered a salary of $17.50 a month, a tidy sum for a young woman. Soon he had all the help he needed.

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This Harvey House is in Barstow, CA. It’s now a museum. I used it as a model for my story.

The women lived in dormitories above the restaurants under the watchful eye of a house mother. Their uniforms consisted of a black dress, black shoes and stockings, and a crisp white apron. The women had to adhere to strict rules and were not allowed to marry for six months.

His new female staff was a great success and helped ease racial tensions. Even the roughest of cowboys and railroad workers were willing to don the required (and dreaded) dinner jacket just for the pleasure of being served a good steak by a pretty girl.

He Kept the West in Food—and Wives

That quote from Will Rogers says it all; Among his other talents, Fred Harvey not only “civilized the west” he was indirectly responsible for more than 5000 marriages. That’s enough to make you want to forgive him for inventing fast-food. Almost….  

What’s the best or worse meal you had while traveling?

                   

 

Calico SpySomeone is killing off the Harvey Girls. Undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.

 

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Chapel Cars

Photo WG2 smallHi!  Winnie Griggs here.  The past several weeks have been over the top busy for me – I’ve got TWO book deadlines in March and I’m the coordinator for a writer’s conference that falls the weekend of March 6th.  So, with apologies to all of you wonderful readers, I’m going to reprise and older post for you today.  And to make up for my shameless lack of originality, I’m going to give one of today’s visitors who leaves a comment here their choice of any book on my backlist.

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In trying to come up with a topic for today’s post I pulled up my lagniappe file.  That’s the folder where I stash all the interesting stories and factoids I come across during research – the unexpected little tidbits that have nothing whatsoever to do with my actual story need, but that spark my imagination and get my ‘what if’ meter vibrating big time.

The piece that jumped out at me this time was an article I came across when researching circuit preachers for a minor story thread in one of my books.  The article talked about a very unique tool utilized by missionaries who were attempting to do their own brand of ‘taming the west’ – namely Chapel Cars.

These were railroad cars that were modified to serve as traveling churches.  They road the rails from town to town, diverting to sidings for as long as they were needed, then moving on to the next stop.  These cars were outfitted with very modest living quarters for the missionary and perhaps his wife.  The rest of the space was utilized for church services.

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Most western movies and tales glorify the gun-toting lawman or vigilante, portraying them as the tamers of the wild and wooly west.  In actuality, the peace-minded missionaries who road the rails played a larger part in bringing peace to the lawless west than any of their more aggressive counterparts.  They traveled in their mobile churches to remote areas of the country, bringing spiritual direction and a civilizing influence to people who were starved for something to offset the violence and loneliness of their existence.

These Chapel Cars traveled throughout the west and midwest – including North Dakota, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Louisiana, Texas, Oregon and Colorado.  They stopped at mining towns and logging camps, tent cities and newly established towns, bringing their gospel message and the reminder of civilization to people who had seen neither for a long time – if ever.

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And, given the unfettered existence of those in the camps and towns, their appearance was surprisingly well received more often than not – especially by the ladies of the area.  The arrival of these Chapel Cars signaled not only the chance to attend Sunday services, but brought with them someone to perform weddings, funerals, baptisms and also a welcome excuse for social gatherings.  In addition, many a rough and tough cowboy who would have balked at attending a traditional church seemed to feel differently about these side rail services.  In fact, the very novelty of the Chapel Car brought folks from miles around just to have a look.

Of course, they didn’t always receive a warm welcome.  There are recorded instances of the Chapel Cars being pelted with eggs and refuse, defaced with graffiti and even set on fire.  But these were rare instances and the cars and their custodians survived to continue their mission.

 

These repurposed rail cars were furnished with pews, a lectern, an altar table and in some cases an organ.  Depending on the construction, they could seat over 70 people inside.  The Chapel Car was a multipurpose unit, serving as a home, church, Sunday School, social hall, library and meeting place.  They carried bibles and tracts which were distributed all along the lines.  The missionary and his wife, in addition to their usualExterior ministerial duties, were expected to function as singer, musician, janitor and cook.  They helped organize permanent churches, including raising the necessary funds and helping to construct the buildings.

There are records to support the existence of eleven Chapel Cars in all, though there is some evidence there may have been as many as seventeen.  Of the eleven known cars, three were utilized by Catholics, seven by Baptists and one by the Episcopalians.

Chapel cars remained in use throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  With the advent of World War I, however, the railroad tracks had to be kept clear for troop movement.  In addition, new regulations prohibited the railroad companies from giving ‘free rides’ to the Chapel Cars, something that had been common practice up until that time.  And as paved roads and the automobile became more prevalent it became easier for folks to travel longer distances on their own to attend church.  Thus, the Chapel Cars that had brought their spiritual message and civilizing influence to the rough and tumble west faded into history.

 

So, what is the most memorable place where you’ve attended a church service and what made it memorable for you?