Purveyor To The West

To a culinary wilderness Fred Harvey brought civilized cooking—and pretty girls to serve it.

A not inconsiderable number of agencies have been credited with bringing what passed for civilization to the Old West. First and foremost is the United States Cavalry, with the assistance of Sam Colt’s single-action frontier model pacifier and the Winchester magazine rifle. The peace officers and city marshals of the Kansas cow towns, again with an assist from Colt and Winchester, also rank high in popular esteem as agents of sweetness and light.


In a thousand tank towns and junctions across the land, he was a man boys wanted to be when they grew up.Read more »

Railroad In A Barn

Snowshed crews on the Central Pacific, battling blizzards and snowslides, built “the longest house in the world”

The Boomer Brakeman, a Paul Bunyan of western railroad lore, is supposed to have made the run over the Sierra Nevada mountains just once. For nearly forty continuous miles, in the 1890’s, the main line of the Central Pacific Railroad was covered by wooden snowsheds—a railroad enshrouded in one long, twilit forty-mile tunnel protecting the tracks and the transcontinental trains against some of the heaviest snows known to man.

Great Days Of The Overland Stage

Opening the mail route to California, the Butterfield coaches flew across the rugged, wild Southwest in twenty-five exhausting days

For a town which had been surveyed only a few months earlier, Tipton, Missouri, began life with a creditable little bang on October 9, 1858. That was the day the first Overland Mail stage arrived, twenty-three days and four hours out of San Francisco—a day that marked the beginning of regular mail service across the continent. Tipton was 160 miles west of St. Louis at the end of the Pacific Railroad, and from this tiny dot on the map, mail and passengers from the West were put aboard the trains to St. Louis, Cincinnati, and New York, completing a transcontinental journey in approximately four weeks.

The Great Rail Wreck At Revere

Single-track lines run by one-track minds gave the reformers of Boston their biggest cause since abolition

So long as it remained in public consciousness it was known as the Great Revere Disaster. Written or spoken it deserved the adjective, and the capitals. Worse railroad wrecks had happened before; worse were to come after. But none had such far-reaching results as this tragedy which in 1871 took place in the small Massachusetts village whose name sought to honor the state’s incomparably best-known hero. Read more »

How Rails Saved a Seaport

John W. Garrett turned the pioneer Baltimore & Ohio into a great instrument for tapping the treasure of the West


On June 1, 1881, the morning train from New York arrived in Baltimore on schedule at 2 P.M. Its most distinguished passenger, a large, heavy-set man in his early sixties, stared eagerly from the window of his private palace car as the train was broken up and shunted aboard the ferry steamer Canton for the trip across Baltimore Harbor to the B&O piers at Locust Point.

Varnish For The Nabobs

For decades the private railroad car was the great symbol of wealth. Here is what it looked like in its heyday.

When, in the Colorado mid-Seventies, the Rocky Mountain News of Denver reported that aboard “Nomad,” the narrow-gauge private car of General William Jackson Palmer, builder of the Rio Grande Railroad, there was both hot and cold running water, the old gentleman was outraged. Not only did the discussion of such intimate matters constitute a violation of privacy: it also made him—an old campaigner—out to be a sybarite and downright softy.

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