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Nostalgia & History > Emigrant Cars

Date: 01/22/10 08:05
Emigrant Cars
Author: flynn

The website for the Kansas State Historical Society Western Trails Project is,


On the above website there is a link, “Free Sleeping Cars for Emigrants…” If you click on this link you will go to a webpage with a picture of the cover of a 4 page booklet, “Free Sleeping Cars For Emigrants Carried On Express Trains, and Leaving Kansas City Both Morning and Evening, on the Santa Fe Route. - Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Nov. 05, 1884”


On the booklet webpage there is a picture of the cover on the booklet [page 1] and links to pages 2, 3, and 4. On page 4 there is a map of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. [Did the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad extend into Mexico?]

Picture 1 below, is the picture of the cover to the booklet above.

Picture 2 below, is an enlargement of the passenger car on the cover of booklet. .

On the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Learning Station 2: Public Space on the Rails, website there is a picture of an Emigrant Sleeping Car.


Picture 3 below, is the Emigrant Sleeping Car from the above website.

On the above website there is a link to Robert Louis Stevenson’s "Across the Plains,"


On the above webpage you can read the story of “… Stevenson’s journey from the emigrant depot in New York to California in the late 19th century. Stevenson describes the conditions upon his arrival in New York and his railroad journey through Pennsylvania to Chicago. On the eastern lines, Stevenson rode in mixed-gendered emigrant cars with diverse ethnic groups. On the western lines, he encountered a different protocol for immigrant travelers--women and children rode in one car, single men in another, and Chinese travelers in the front car.”

On the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Learning Station 1: Working on the rails, website there is a picture of a 1914 “…gathering of 329 Italian employees on the Monongahela and Pittsburgh Divisions, in the P.R.Y.M.C.A in Pittsburgh…”.


Picture 4 below, is the 1914 photo above. I copied the 1914 photo just in case a member of Trainorders has a relative in the picture.

On the ExplorePAHistory.com website there is a picture of a number of railroad workers on a steam engine.


Picture 5 below, is the picture from the above website. Perhaps a member of Trainorders has a relative in this picture.

In a reply to my posting Colorado and Kansas Railroad,


patd3985 asked “Is that 5’ gauge in the last picture?” [Picture 11, “Railroad yard at Wyandotte, Kansas. 286 miles west of St. Louis Mo, 1867.” from the following website,
http://www.kshs.org/research/collections/documents/online/westerntrails/exhibits/railroads.htm ]

There are a number of pictures of rails on the above website.

Picture 6 below, “Section men at Salina, Kansas. (The extreme distance is five miles off,) 470 miles west of St. Louis Mo. 1867.” is an additional picture from the above website. Perhaps it is possible to better guess at the rail gauge from this picture.

I did some Google searches to try and find the gauge of the Colorado and Kansas Railroad in 1867 the date when the texts of the above pictures state the pictures were taken. I did not find a direct answer to my question but I did find a number of very interesting websites on the subject of railroad gauges.

AmericanHeritage.com has a web page on rail gauge.


The following two excerpts are from the above web page.

“As the 1880s opened, the only important holdouts to standard gauge were in the Southern states, where about 80 percent of the region’s track remained in the 5-foot gauge. The Civil War and Reconstruction had kept the South isolated from the rest of the country; also, for a long time there were very few cities where Northern and Southern lines met in the same yard, so standardizing gauge would not have made transfer of freight any easier. Still, as the South recovered, a few of the 5-foot Southern lines shifted to standard gauge early in the 1880s.”

The Illinois Central changed the gauge of its Southern rails in one day on in one day, July 29, 1881.

“James C. Clarke, general manager and vice president of the Illinois Central, got the task of changing the gauge of the IC’s 547-mile Southern line, known as the Chicago, St. Louis & New Orleans, which ran from East Cairo, Kentucky, to New Orleans. Clarke used more than 3,000 men for the gauge change, about 600 more than the road’s normal total work force. Detailed orders and plans went out to officials, roadmasters, and section foremen in early July 1881. Shortly before the big day most of the inside spikes of the west rail were removed, and spikes for the new gauge were put in place. Starting at dawn on Friday, July 29, 1881, the workers—roughly a section crew (half a dozen men) for each mile of track—started to move the west rail 3.5 inches east. Each crewman either pulled spikes, moved the rail, or drove spikes home to fasten it in place. By three that afternoon the job was done. The Railroad Gazette called it one of the great events in the history of American railroading; the Chicago Tribune estimated that the total expense might reach $300,000.”

The other southern railroads changed the gauge in two days on Monday, May 31st, and Tuesday, June 1st, 1886.

The website “The Days They Changed the Gauge” has an interesting story of this change.


The following two excerpts are from the above website.

“May, 1886. President Grover Cleveland was making final preparations for his wedding. Jefferson Davis, in a rare public appearance, was drawing large and enthusiastic crowds of admirers. Throughout the nation, final preparations were being made for the celebration of Memorial Day. And in the South, plans were nearing completion for one of the most complex and dramatic two-day periods in railroading history-changing the gauge of an estimated 11,500 miles of track.”

“But the real drama lasted only two days-two days in which the fields and villages of the South echoed the clanging of countless hammers driving thousands of spikes - the days they changed the gauge.”

Picture 7 below, is from the Wikipedia webpage on The Great Western Railroad and shows a railroad switch on a track with two gauges.


I tried to find out if Kansas and or Missouri were considered southern states.

The Wikipedia webpage, Confederate States, has a table that shows Kentucky and Missouri as states having two governments.


Wikipedia has a webpage Kansas in the Civil War.


I could not find any information on the rail gauge on railroads in Kansas in 1867.

I did find the following excerpt on the webpage of the Missouri Pacific Railroad History.


“In 1868 the Eads Bridge over the Mississippi River was started at St. Louis, thus beginning what Kirkwood had thought impossible, a railroad bridge over the Mississippi River. To permit the free interchange of cars with those eastern railroads which had standard gauge and which expected to use the new bridge, in 1869 the Pacific Railroad changed its original ‘wide gauge’ track to standard gauge. The change was also of advantage at Kansas City where the Pacific connected with the newly started Kansas Pacific, which later became the Union Pacific. The completion of Eads Bridge in 1874 extended the new standard gauge track through St. Louis to the Atlantic states.”

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/22/10 08:15 by flynn.

Date: 01/22/10 08:07
Re: Emigrant Cars
Author: flynn

Pictures 4, 5, and 6.

Date: 01/22/10 08:08
Re: Emigrant Cars
Author: flynn

Picture 7.

Date: 01/24/10 00:20
Re: Emigrant Cars
Author: Thomas

Thanks for the research! Love that last pic ...switch with the two gauges!


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