Monday, April 2, 2012

All Aboard!


Dang, I always thought it would be fun to be a conductor for a day and it seems very appropriate to welcome everyone here since this will be the first post made by new participants in Cowboy Kisses. Every first Monday of the month, I'll be adding my wee bit of wisdom regarding the cowboy in addition to posts made by other wonderful authors of the genre.

That said, I thought it would be a hoot to open with trains. What - you say? No horses? No mules? You want to talk about trains? Oh yeah. I do. The cowboy did much to settle the old west. For most Americans, he's the ultimate hero because he paved the way for generations to come, but he had help.

Travelling across the country in a covered wagon was slow and dangerous. As soon as towns became connected by steel tracks, the migration of settlers exploded. Not only did the train help people populate the west, but it helped commerce by providing an easier way to haul goods from point A to point B, including cows. Just recently toured the coast and spent time in a small town called Fulton where our hotel overlooked the ruins of the Marion Packing Plant.

The railroad came to the coast around 1872. At first only processed meat would be sent to the East but later, small herds were put in cars or in the holds of ships as a means of getting fresher meat to buyers. Several years later, shipping cows via train would become more cost efficient than the arduous cattle drives. By the 1890s, only a few cowboys used drives as a method of moving the cows.

For me, the train has a romantic aura. I've ridden on one twice now. I traveled with my parent from Bryan, Texas to Midland, Texas when I was in Middle School. The length of the journey required that we spend the night on board. Oh my, now that was an experience. The cabins are very small. I slept on a top bunk, but the constant sway and clackety clack of the train lulled me to sleep. The second trip was made in November of 2005 when the George Bush Library offered an excursion to Dallas on a restored Union Pacific Train. Getting to experience the motion, speed, and smells associated with the train enhanced a scene I wrote for Once Jilted. Once Jilted is a Historical Western set in Indiana in which the heroine was once an orphan train rider.

They have a wonderful train museum in Galveston where I roamed several of the antique cars. Just imagine sleeping on these benches with no air conditioning.

Yeah, you have to agree, there's something fascinating about trains and the old west.

15 comments:

Caroline Clemmons said...

Ciara, I also love trains. I did tons of research for a couple of books I wrote, The Most Unsuitable Wife and The Most Unsuitable Husband, and visited museums in North Texas and corresponded with those too far to visit. I have a thick notebook of research I've saved. You never know...
When I was a small girl we lived in CA and traveled by train several times to visit my grandmother. I would love to take Amtrack now. Thanks for resurrecting nice memories. I'm definitely downloading Once Jilted now!

Devon Matthews said...

I've never ridden on a train, except for a ride in the wild west section of an amusement park when I was a kid, and I don't think that counts. :) Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

Lorrie said...

When I was younger, I always traveled by train. Such friendly people to meet, the nice dining cars and lounge. It was always a thrill.

As a side note, my hubby was an engineer for our local RR until he retired. So yes, great post and thanks for sharing.

Kirsten Arnold said...

Ciara, Great post! I love trains, there's just something so romantic about traveling on the rails. I got to ride a train in Alaska, and it was a wonderful way to see everything. Thanks for sharing.

Lauri said...

Fun post! We now have a light rail train that takes us into Mpls/St. Paul, and it's a wonderful way to travel. No traffic, no parking, etc. etc. BUT, it's doesn't hold the romanticism of an 'old west' train.

Meg said...

You are soooo right, Ciara! Trains brought about westward expansion, although cowboys did their part too. I loved researching the transcontinental railroad for DOUBLE CROSSING, my historical western suspense, and the time difference from spending *months* crossing America to a mere four-five days?? AMAZING.

My grandfather worked on the RR in Michigan, for a time. Always love hearing the whistles too.

Lyn Horner said...

Ciara, you brought back memories for me too, of when I was a schoolgirl riding a train on a field trip. It was a wonderful, eye opening experience. Beyond that, you also reminded me of all the research I did for my first book, Darlin' Druid. My main characters travel west via the Union Pacific. I can't tell you how many hours I spent pouring over books, looking for details to make their trip come alive.

I agree with you, trains are as important a part of our history as the cowboys. Thank you for reminding us of that.

Paty Jager said...

Great post! I traveled on a train from eastern Oregon to eastern Idaho with my grandmother when I was about ten. I don't remember a whole lot about the trip unfortunately. Only getting off and being hugged by a big bosomed woman I'd never met. (I'm not a hugger). But I've done extensive research about railroads in Oregon in the 1800's for two of my books.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I love trains! My husband and I have ridden on several narrow-gauge steam trains, and what fun that is! And we've even used AmTrak a few times. There's just something about a train that surpasses nearly every other mode of transportation. As for their part in history, wow, settling the West sure did speed up after 1869. Everything changed. Lots more women came out here, for one thing, and that's nothing but good for a romance novelist. :)

Alison E. Bruce said...

Great post Ciara! I got sidetracked by the Orphan Train (love the embedded links) but I was almost at the end of the line by then.

Happy to be on board with you.

Ciara Gold said...

Too fun. Sorry I'm responding late. We used to have Amtrak here for a while but they closed this as a stop around 1995 or so. I loved reading through all the comments. I purposely took the George Bush Presidential Library train to Dallas because I was writing Once Jilted and I wanted to "feel" what my heroine would have felt. I think the experience greatly enriched how I wrote those few scenes. I don't hardly remember the trip I made when I was young.

Maggie said...

That was a great ride Ciara! I come from a long line of railroad workers, seems I grew up on a train. Was lucky enough to watch the re-enactment at Promontory Point in Utah once, that was too cool.

Ginger Simpson said...

I stopped in earlier and shared on FB and Google, but then left for the day with hubby. I wanted to mention an earlier train trip I took through the Sierra Nevada mountains from Sacramento to Reno. My softball team made the trek and we had the most fun. The train moved so slowly along the tracks at some points, we actually scooped snow from the mountainside and had snowball fights. I loved everything except the tunnels. That was a little scary. Thanks for bringing back a fun memory.

Ciara Gold said...

Thanks so much for opening the blog to all the western romance writers, Ginger. You're the best!

Ellen O'Connell said...

Great kickoff post, Ciara. My mother and grandmother took me on a local train as a small child, and I remember my mother saying she wanted me to have the experience because she didn't think trains would be around when I grew up. That turned out to be one of the few things she was wrong about. :-) A few years ago I took off on vacation by Amtrak. I thought it would be romantic and especially looked forward to the dining car. Big disappointment. For someone like me, who doesn't like to be cheek by jowl close with strangers, it was not a great experience. But I do appreciate what the coming of the railroads meant to the settling of the West.