Monday, October 3, 2016

All Aboard the Jarrett-Palmer Express


After 1869, when Leland Stanford drove the ceremonial Golden Spike connecting the Union Pacific and Central Pacific rail lines to create the first transcontinental railroad in America, passengers could travel from coast-to-coast by rail. The voyage took approximately one week, at speeds averaging 20 mph.

The week-long trip was incredibly fast for the time, but in 1876, the trip was accomplished--one time only--in just eighty-three hours.

Henry Jarrett & Henry Palmer are the duo responsible for coming up with this amazing event. One might suspect they were in the railroad business, but in fact, they managed a New York theatre company. Eager for a way to promote their troupe, they determined they'd travel to the west coast by rail in four days, where the actors would get off the train and perform Henry V in San Francisco.
Image result for jarrett palmer express train
Train pass, found here
It was an incredibly complicated, cooperative effort that required tremendous planning and expense. Naturally, the trip received a good deal of press in the months leading up to the departure--which Jarrett & Palmer must have enjoyed, since tickets to Henry V sold well, too. At last the big day came, and with much fanfare, the train pulled out of the station in Jersey City, New Jersey, on June 1, 1876.
Currier & Ives, The Lightning Express Train Leaving the Junction

To complete the journey in the four-day time frame, trains would have to move at high speeds, and necessary stops would have to be as short as possible. All the way to California, rail workers ensured as smooth a path as possible, clearing the way of debris and diverting other trains onto side tracks so the Lightning Express could zip by. At every scheduled stop, supplies, water, and coal were ready for quick loading, as were staff, including conductors, brakemen, firemen and engineers. Likewise, the engine was switched out five times to avoid mechanical issues.

The Lightning Express must have caused a great deal of inconvenience for the railroads and passengers on other trains, but if anyone minded, they seem to have been in the minority. Day and night, people lined the tracks to get a gander at the train, and several towns shot off fireworks when it passed. Reportedly, a man's funeral was interrupted by the coming of the train; everyone went to look at it and returned to the church to finish the service afterwards. 

Businesses and agencies got in on the act, too. The New York Times shipped its newspaper to Chicago on the train, Wells Fargo put a safe in the baggage car, and the USPS created a postmark for mail that went on the train. 

Being a passenger on the Lightning Express wasn't the most comfortable experience, however. Traveling at a high rate of speed wasn't as smooth then as it is on modern trains. The jarring and jolting made it difficult to sleep, walk, or cook, so most food was served cold. When passengers did manage to catch a few winks, they awoke to cinders on their faces.

To be a coast-to-coast trip, the passengers took the train as far as it would go, Oakland, California, and boarded a ferry to take them to San Francisco. A mob was waiting, even though the train was twelve hours early.

The train's arrival in Oakland, CA
At last, the passengers arrived in San Francisco. Despite a few difficulties with equipment and weather, the Lightning Express completed the trip in just three days, eleven hours, and 39 minutes--an astounding achievement in technology.

The production of Henry V was a success, too, just as Jarrett & Palmer hoped, but the legacy of the express train known by their names is far more lasting as a mechanical achievement, national source of pride and celebration, and a stepping stone for more efficient travel in America. 

For more, read: The Jarrett-Palmer Express of 1876, Coast to Coast in Eighty-Three Hours, by J. C. Ladenheim, Harvest Books, 2008.


GIVEAWAY:

The Jarrett-Palmer Express inspired the train in my new novella, The Honeymoon Express, just released as part of The Rails to Love Collection by Barbour Publishing.

Enter to win a copy of The Rails to Love Collection by expressing interest in the comments and including a way to reach you before 11:59 pm EST Oct 6, 2016. A winner will be announced here on Oct 7. (Sorry, US only, please.)



BIO: Susanne Dietze is the author of nine new and upcoming historical romances. She has a special affection for trains because her father is a railroad enthusiast who pegged the engine on the book cover as being from New Zealand. You can learn more about her on her website at www.susannedietze.com.

41 comments:

  1. Wow! Sounds impressive. Can you imagine the whole country participating in ANYTHING like this cooperatively these days :) Interrupting the funeral was a funny note....thanks for the information!
    bcrug(at)myfairpoint(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Connie! Isn't the story about the funeral interesting? Makes you wonder, LOL!

      So glad you could come by and say hi. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  2. What an amazing and informative post about Jarrett-Palmer express. I can only imagine all the discomforts back then for those aboard. Glad it all turned out well even with the performance. marilynridgway78[at]gmail[dot]com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marilyn, I'm with you about the discomforts the travelers must have endured. I'm grateful for modern technology that allows us a much smoother ride nowadays! From what I understand, by day 2 of the journey, the novelty had worn off for the passengers and they were tired and dirty, and I imagine a little grouchy!

      You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  3. What an impressive feat this was for that time! So much planning and cooperation for each stop. If they could see it now.

    missionwife AT hotmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was indeed an impressive feat, Melody, and I think it was so difficult that they didn't attempt it again (except in my novella, LOL). I wonder what the cost turned out to be! It sure did require a lot of cooperation and coordination.

      Thanks for visiting. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  4. Wow, I have never heard of that before! Crazy to think they could accomplish that way back then. I tend to agree that being a passenger probably wasn't too much fun.
    lattebooks at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't heard of it, either, Susan! I was doing research and a little tidbit caught my eye. I can't imagine how uncomfortable it must have been. Waking up with cinders on your face? Ugh, LOL.

      So glad you dropped by! You're entered into the drawing.

      Delete
  5. It's amazing how many cool stories we didn't learn in history class! I feel bad for all of those people who literally got sidetracked by the Lightning Express, though, lol. Hopefully no one was seriously affected. I mean, that poor guy had already passed, so at least it was just his funeral being interrupted. 😂

    mylittlebirdie (at) yahoo (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel so badly for those sidetracked people, too! Can you imagine! And I bet plenty of them were on hard wood benches, not the plush Pullman seats like in the Jarett-Palmer. I wouldn't wonder if they got cranky!

      Thanks, Karen. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  6. Thank you for this most interesting post. I always enjoying visiting.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So nice to see you, Melanie! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  7. Wow, what an achievement for that era! I can certainly understand why it was only done one time. I wonder how many passengers signed up to be on that amazing trip and then were glad for a much slower speed going home. ;-)

    blessings,Tina
    KINGsDaughter5683 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tina! I agree with you...it was probably an adrenaline-filled, exhausting trip and I imagine I would have needed a very long nap or two afterwards. :)

      Thanks for coming by. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  8. I LOVE this website! All these articles are always so fascinating! I also love the Barbour Collection books. Please enter me in the giveaway!
    Elly -Indiana-
    jcservantslaveATicloudDOTcom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Elly! I learn so much from this website, too. The articles are wonderful. I also love Barbour collections. Sometimes it's nice to read a shorter story, and I like reading things from authors who are new to me.

      Hope you're having a great day. I've entered you into the drawing.

      Delete
  9. Fascinating history, Susanne! Funny it mentions San Francisco because that's where I happen to be right now on vacation with my hubby! You can see the various railroad tracks just down the street from where we are staying and the old time street cars run on them. We rode one to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf yesterday. I don't know if the tracks are the same as what the trains took, but it's neat to think they might be! This city has SO much history :-)

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of the Rails to Love collection! I love these kind of books.

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ohhh! Say hello to San Francisco for me! I haven't been in a long time, but it's a delightful place and there's so much to see. Those street cars are amazing, aren't they? They go so fast!

      I'm so glad you could pop in on your vacation to say hello. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  10. What fun it must have been to watch the train go by, standing by the rails wishing you could go along. I have travelled from Toronto to Salmon Arm, BC. It was a long trip, but I am grateful for that experience. This book sounds wonderful - thanks for the giveaway.
    bettimace(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Betti! Your train trip sounds delightful--you must have enjoyed some spectacular scenery. I'd love to do something like that in the future.

      You're entered into the drawing! Thanks for coming by.

      Delete
  11. This sounds fantastic! I love historical books that involve trains! I've never gotten to ride on one, but books make me feel as though I have! Mpierson1313@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Miranda! If you love historical stories with trains, this could definitely be the collection for you! I hope you get to ride on a train sometime soon. It's a rare event for me, but it's always special!

      Thanks for coming by. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  12. This sounds fantastic! I love historical books that involve trains! I've never gotten to ride on one, but books make me feel as though I have! Mpierson1313@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow, not sure if I would have wanted to be on that train. This was quite fascinating and this collection sounds really good...please include me in the drawing.
    debsbunch777(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if I'd have wanted to be on that train, either...it certainly seems like it was an experience, for sure!

      I hope you enjoy the collection! You're entered into the drawing. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  14. FANTASTIC collection!!! on my Best of 2016 list! Congrats on such a great story and collection!!! Signed ` unabashed Susie Dietze fangirl!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carrie, you're the greatest! Thank you! LOL. I'm your fangirl too. So glad you could come by and say hi!

      Delete
  15. Sounds interesting. .can imagine traveling this way...blessings on the new release

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Dawn! I appreciate it.

      Yes, the trip must have been quite an experience! Thanks for coming by to say hi!

      Delete
  16. Susie, congrats on your newest release! I LOVE these collections! I've never ridden on a train. It must have been an amazing experience. Thank you for the giveaway!
    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Caryl! I hope you can get on a train sometime soon. It is a really neat experience! I rode Amtrak this past summer and I loved the views.

      Thanks for coming by. You're entered into the drawing!

      Delete
  17. What a fascinating chronology and glimpse into the organization required to pull it off! Definitely not an overly comfortable experience for the passengers, but it was so much better than stagecoach travel! Cathy. dixiedobie at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great point about stagecoach travel, Cathy. I used to think it looked fun, but then I learned how hot, stuffy and uncomfortable they were, and all the jostling gave people motion sickness. The train would have been a much better way to go.

      You're entered into the drawing! So glad you stopped by.

      Delete
  18. Hi Susanne! I've always wanted to take a train trip and I'm so glad that, when I finally do take that trip, it'll be air conditioned and I won't have to wake up from a nap with cinders on my face! Thanks for a fascinating post.
    Kristen Anissa
    kam110476 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hooray for air conditioning! I'm with you, Kristen. Climate control, padded seat, and a little bit of legroom. I hope you can take that train trip soon!

      I've entered you into the drawing. Thanks so much for coming by!

      Delete
  19. Fascinating post, Susanne. I love riding trains even with the jolts and jarring. I've never been on a stagecoach, however I was sitting in the back of a rubber-tired wagon that took a 30 minute shortcut through a field and even though I was wearing a bra, my boobs ached for about a week after.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL! You crack me up, Anita! Ouch!

      I am sure more than a few stagecoach journeys were like that, too. They didn't have very good shock absorbers!

      So glad you could come by!

      Delete
  20. Fascinating post, Susanne. I love riding trains even with the jolts and jarring. I've never been on a stagecoach, however I was sitting in the back of a rubber-tired wagon that took a 30 minute shortcut through a field and even though I was wearing a bra, my boobs ached for about a week after.

    ReplyDelete
  21. My husband and I love, love, love trains and reading stories with trains in the stories. I would love to read this collection. I can be contacted at ahenderson312(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Melissa! So nice to meet a railfan! You're entered into the drawing. Thanks for coming by!

      Delete
  22. Thanks to all who entered to win a copy! The randomly-chosen winner was...Kristen! Congratulations!

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    ReplyDelete