W. Fraser (William Fraser) Rae.

Westward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons online

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are permitted to hold office and to deal with the
funds at their disposal in the manner most pleasing
to themselves.

In my opinion scant justice has yet been done to
New York on the whole. It has its drawbacks, as
has every city on the face of the globe, but it pos-
sesses excellencies which more than outweigh them.
The man of business finds it as good a centre for
his operations as London. The pleasure-seeker
can amuse himself as well as in Paris, while men
of letters and students of art affirm that the pros-
pects of New York becoming an honoured home
of literature and art grow brighter every day.

Before beginning my journey by rail from the
Atlantic coast to the Pacific slope, I had to ascer-
tain various particulars as to the route. There was
no difficulty in purchasing a through ticket. In
most of the hotels and in numerous shops the
tickets of any railway in the United States can be
bought. Although the Pacific railway is constantly
spoken of as a line which actually runs between
New York and San Francisco, yet this is merely a
conventional way of stating the fact that there is
communication by rail between the two cities. A
traveller can journey in a railway carriage from


Dover to Inverness, but there is no such thing as a
Dover and Inverness Railway. He has the choice
of two lines of rail between Dover and London,
of three between London and Edinburgh and of
two over a part of the remainder of the route. If
a stranger to the country, he may be embarrassed
with this variety and be at a loss what selection to
make. So it is at New York. The stranger sees
innumerable advertisements in which Union Pacific
Railroad is conspicuous, but in which the names of
various lines are enumerated as being in connection
with it. He reads in one that the ( Allentown Line '
is the shortest and the best; in another that the
1 Great Central Route ' is indisputably without a
rival ; he may even see the advantages of the ill-
fated Erie Railway extolled to the skies. As the
fare in all cases is the same the puzzle consists in
ascertaining the respective merits of the competing
lines. He learns that in any event he must first
reach Chicago. If, as is possible, the name of
Niagara has an attraction for him and if, as is very
natural, he is curious to become acquainted with
the far-famed ' Pullman's Cars,' he will probably
decide upon travelling by the ' Great Central
Route ' and in doing so he will have no reason to
repent of his decision. Should time be no object,
he cannot do better than ascend the Hudson River


in a steamboat to Albany and enter the train there
instead of at New York. The scenery of the
Hudson has been highly lauded, but not over-
praised. It is quite as romantic as that of the
Rhine. In the autumn the aspect of the woods on
the river's banks and heights clothed in the gor-
geous tints of that season is a spectacle of wonder-
ful beauty. The vine-clad hills between Coblentz
and Bingen, when seen at their best, cannot match
the Hudson in its most picturesque parts. Nature
has done much for that river. One thing, however,
is wanting to render it as famous as its European
rival ; the Hudson has not yet had its Byron.
While no great poet has rendered it attractive by
his inspired verse, a steamboat company has endea-
voured to create an interest of a more prosaic and
more practical kind. The steamers which ply
between New York and Albany are marvels in
their way. To call them ' floating palaces ' is not
the language of hyperbole, but is the simple truth.
Let me suppose that the ( Great Central Route '
has been chosen and that the traveller bound for
the Far West starts from New York in the evening
by the Pacific Express. On the morning of the
following day he arrives at Rochester, where
( Pullman's Palace Cars ' are attached to the train ;
he gets a good view of Niagara Falls as the train


slowly crosses the bridge over the boiling rapids,
sees a large portion of the Western section of
Canada, and then, after having passed two nights
and one day in a railway carriage and traversed a
distance of 900 miles, he arrives at Chicago.

The lines of Railway over which this train runs
are the Hudson River, the New York Central, the
Great Western of Canada, and the Michigan
Central. The present was the first occasion on
which I had travelled over the Great Western of
Canada. By Canadians I heard this line very
highly praised. Like the Grand Trunk it has been
constructed with English capital and belongs to an
English company. Its shareholders are much more
fortunate than the investors in the Grand Trunk,
inasmuch as, while the directors of the Great
Western declare dividends, the directors of the
Grand Trunk apologise year after year for their
inability to do likewise. The reason is that the
Great Western runs through a dividend-producing
country and has enjoyed an immunity from the
trials which have crippled the hands of the mana-
gers of the Grand Trunk.

The misfortune of the latter is, that, owing to
various circumstances, it has been a bone of conten-
tion between opposing political parties. One side
has upheld and assisted, while the other has de-


nounced it. Having had to look to the Govern-
ment for assistance, its managers have heretofore
been compelled to keep on good terms with the
Ministry of the day, and have more than once as-
sented to propositions which, if wholly free agents,
they might have declined. As a natural conse-
quence, not only has the company had to make
many sacrifices, but its efforts to give satisfaction
have proved futile. Of late years the company
has endeavoured to break away from an alliance
which has proved the source of injury and discord.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Canadians
have ceased to revile the Grand Trunk ; yet it is
certain that the desire to give it fair play is more
generally manifested now than at any former period
in its history, while its prospects are brighter and
more encouraging than they have ever been before.
Its more fortunate competitor, the Great Western,
has had no trials of an equally severe kind to
endure. The losses occasioned by the depreciated
American paper-money have been the chief draw-
backs to its prosperity during the past few years.
It is a dividend-paying line. Probably in conse-
quence of this it is in many respects superior to
others which have considerable difficulty in pro-
curing the capital requisite for the purpose of
keeping the permanent way in good repair and


condition. The train whirls along the Great
Western line not only at a rapid rate, but also
without the immoderate jolting and oscillation
which are common incidents on Canadian and
American railways.

Hamilton is the first Canadian city of note at
which a stoppage is made. Situated at the western
extremity of Lake Ontario, and having communi-
cation by water and rail with the principal cities of
Canada and with the capitals of the Eastern States of
America, the city of Hamilton has many chances in its
favour. It has prospered hitherto, notwithstanding
the mistakes made by those of its citizens who, in
their eagerness to advance, incurred an amount of
indebtedness which they found it difficult to dis-
charge to the perfect satisfaction of many English
bond-holders. However, the days of rash specula-
tion are said to have passed away, and the lessons
learned have been profitable. At Hamilton station
the passengers dine, with the exception of those
who are so fortunate as to have secured seats in the
Hotel Car attached to the train. The occupants of
this car take their meals f on board.' I had heard
much said in praise of ( Pullman's Palace Cars,' but
I was unprepared for the reality. The first trip in
one of these cars forms an epoch in a traveller's life.
To one accustomed to English railway carriages


they are specially welcome. The contrast between
the waggon in which Roderick Random journeyed
to London and a modern carriage is not much
greater than the contrast between life on the rail in
an English first-class carriage and in a Pullman's
car. In order to form a fair notion of the character
of the latter it is but necessary to recall the descrip-
tions of those luxurious saloon carriages which the
directors of our railways have had constructed for
the use of the Queen. No Royal personage can be
more comfortably housed than the occupant of a
Pullman car, provided the car be an hotel one.
In the train by which I travelled, one out of the
three sleeping cars was of the latter description.
The Hotel Car is divided into sections, forming state
rooms, wherein parties of four can be accommodated.
Between these rooms are seats arranged in the
usual way. At the rear is a kitchen, which, though
small, contains every appliance necessary for cook-
ing purposes. There are water tanks, in which is
stored a supply of water for washing and drinking
sufficient to last the journey. A wine cellar con-
tains the liquors which are likely to be in demand,
and an ice-house preserves ice for the gratification
of those who prefer cold beverages. At stated
intervals the conductor walks round, taking the
passengers' orders, who make their selections from


the bill of fare. The choice is by no means small.
Five different kinds of bread, four sorts of cold
meat, six hot dishes, to say nothing of eggs cooked
in seven different ways, and all the seasonable vege-
tables and fruits, form a variety from which the most
dainty eater might easily find something to tickle
his palate, and the ravenous to satisfy his appetite.
The meal is served on a table temporarily fixed to
the side of the car, and removed when no longer
required. To breakfast, dine, and sup in this style
while the train is speeding along at the rate of
nearly thirty miles an hour, is a sensation of which
the novelty is not greater than the comfort. An
additional zest is given to the good things by the
thought that the passengers in the other cars must
rush out when the refreshment station is reached,
and hastily swallow an ill-cooked meal. It is pro-
posed to construct dining cars which will be at the
service of all who travel by the train, and when
this is done, the limit to improvement will almost
have been reached. Yet it would be a mistake to
assign any boumds to the possibilities connected with
railway travel in the United States, and in the
Western States in particular. No prejudices exist
against novelties, nor are the directors of the several
companies able to scorn the demands of the travel-
ling public for increased comforts and conveniences.


S many railways run between the same points that
competition forces each company to outbid its rivals.
In other countries reduction of the fares would be
the course adopted under like circumstances. Here,
the lowness of price is less considered than the
amount of comfort obtainable on a particular line,
as well as the shortness of the time occupied by the
journey. Thus the rivalry has taken the form of
providing cars resembling that described, and thus
it is that railway travelling in America is assuming
the form of luxury tempered by accidents. The
wonder is that more accidents do not happen.
Many of the railways are single lines, hence the
risks are multiplied as the traffic increases. The
probability of a wrecked train being ignited by
the burning embers scattered from the stove adds
another horror to the prospect. Still, when due
allowance is made for all things, it must be admitted
that the comparatively small number of railway
accidents is very remarkable.

Meantime, the train has been speeding on its
course towards Chicago. Paris has been left behind,
a place of which the name alone recalls the capital
of France. More familiar to an English ear is
London, with its river Thames and its Middlesex.
At last Windsor is reached. This is the frontier
town of this part of Canada. The river Detroit


separates the United States from the Dominion, and
across it the train is transported on a large flat-
bottomed steamer. From Detroit the journey is
made on American soil through the State of
Indiana and of Illinois. The country as seen from
the window of the railway carriage is not prepos-
sessing. The land may be very fertile, but it is
certainly very swampy. Many of the farmhouses
must be unhealthy places of abode. Contrary to
Bicardo's theory of rent, the least valuable lands
would appear to have been first brought under
cultivation. When Lake Michigan comes in sight,
the objects that arrest attention are the sand-
hills, which, for a considerable distance, line its
shore. These heaps and flats of sand give to the
lake a maritime aspect, which the waves rolling
shorewards tend to increase. . Indeed, it is hardly
possible to realise the fact of these huge sheets of
water forming no part of the great ocean. The
vessels which navigate them are to all appearance
the same as the vessels which sail across the
Atlantic, while the storms on these lakes are as
terrific and disastrous as any which make the open
sea the theatre of ruin and terror. Finally, the
train runs in front of handsome dwellings, which not
only represent Chicago, but which line one of its
most fashionable avenues. A man appears who sells


tickets to those who purpose going by omnibus to
an hotel, the price being half a dollar. He also
takes charge of the luggage checks. By taking a
check from him in exchange for that procured at
starting, the traveller finds his luggage safely
deposited at any address he may give. In this way
much subsequent confusion and inconvenience are
saved. At the station, a notice in a conspicuous
place arrests the attention of the traveller. It is a
warning against lending money to strangers. This
excites a suspicion adverse to the sharpness, and
favourable to the generosity of the travelling public
in America.




IF the Michigan Central Railway express train
arrives punctually at Chicago there is no difficulty
in continuing the journey towards the Pacific.
Seventy-five minutes are allowed for getting from
the station of arrival to the station of departure.
In my own case the times of the trains did not
correspond ; the one train had started an hour before
the other arrived. This was not the only illustra-
tion in my experience of a want of punctuality on
the part of American railway companies. My
fellow-passengers took the disappointment very
quietly, regarding the shortcoming as a matter of
course. This failure involved a delay of twenty-
four hours, as there is but one through train daily
over the Pacific line. As I had intended to make
a brief sojourn in Chicago, I was even more uncon-
cerned than my philosophical fellow-travellers.

By the residents Chicago is often styled the
' Garden City.' Both its citizens and its admirers


sometimes claim for it the still more dignified title
of the ( Queen City of the West,' or the ' Queen
City of the Lakes.' The pride they take in it is
extreme, and the language in which they express
their feelings is high-flown. This appears quite
natural to the traveller who has journeyed from
England to the United States in order to witness
the marvels which human industry and energy have
wrought on the surface of the vast American con-
tinent. Books and newspapers may have prepared
him for an extraordinary spectacle, yet neither
tables of statistics nor any printed statements can
enable him to realise the grandeur of the impression
produced by a stay, however short, in the modern
city of Chicago. With a sensation of incredulity
hardly to be repressed, he listens to the stories
which tell of the city's foundation and history.
Forty years have not yet elapsed since the site of
palatial dwellings was distinguished from the sur-
rounding wilderness by a log fort, in which two
companies of soldiers were stationed for the protec-
tion of a few traders who collected furs from the
Indians in exchange for trinkets. In those days
civilized men regarded a visit to the shores of Lake
Michigan much in the same light which many per-
sons now regard a visit to the sources of the Nile.
Those who made the journey had to brave the

D 2


attacks of ferocious animals ; had to face the perils
incident to an inhospitable and uncultivated region;
had to live in constant dread of an attack from
Indians more deliberately cruel than any beast, and
more crafty than any other enemy in human shape.
The wild men and wild animals have both dis-
appeared. The land which once yielded a pre-
carious subsistence to the hunter now repays the
skilful farmer one hundred-fold. Where weeds
formerly throve in rank profusion, peach trees are
now heavy with precious fruit. A city of palaces
has taken the place of a few miserable hovels.
Similar transformations have occurred in other parts
of the globe. Venice and Holland do not fall short
of Chicago as evidences of what man can achieve in
his struggle with rugged Nature and hostile ele-
ments. Yet the growth of either city was the work
of many years, as well as of much toil ; whereas
Chicago has waxed great and famous within the
memory of men still living, and not yet old. If
another Queen Scheherazade were compelled to re-
hearse a tale of enchantment for the gratification of
an exacting husband, she might find in the au-
thentic story of the rise of Chicago materials which
would produce a result as striking as that caused by
a recital of the fabulous doings of Aladdin.

Although figures convey but an imperfect notion


of the wonders performed by the spirited and enter-
prising inhabitants of this city, yet, in default of a
better medium through which to supply information,
they must be employed. In 1830 the population of
Chicago was about 100 persons, of whom a small
proportion was white, the majority being black men
and half-breeds. It was incorporated as a city in
1837, when the census was taken, and the number
of inhabitants found to be 4,170. Ten years later
the number was doubled ; twenty years after its in-
corporation it contained 100,000 citizens, and at
this moment the estimated number is 300,000.
Nor is there any prospect of a stoppage in the rate
of increase. In every quarter hundreds of work-
men are labouring at the erection of new houses or
the substitution of larger for smaller dwellings.
Nor is the rapidity of the city's growth less extra-
ordinary than the way in which natural obstacles
to its progress have been confronted and overcome.
Situated on a low-lying part of Lake Michigan's
shore, it was found to be very unhealthy. In order
that neither damp foundations nor bad drainage
should breed malaria in any of the houses, the
entire business quarter of the city was elevated
eight feet above its original level. This was done
without interference with domestic comfort, stop-
page of traffic, or injury to trade. While houses


and shops were rising upwards, families slept se-
curely in their beds, sat at ease in their rooms, took
their meals as if the even tenour of their lives was
undisturbed, while merchants conducted their daily
business, and the public made their daily purchases.
For some years complaints had been made about
the lack of good water for drinking purposes. The
water supply obtained from the Lake was adequate
in quantity, but was by no means wholesome. This
was owing to the place from which it came being
near the shore, and, in consequence of this, being
contaminated with the sewage and refuse accu-
mulated not far off. It was resolved in 1864 to
remedy this defect by means of a tunnel carried
under the water for a distance of two miles, and
open at its farther extremity to the pure water of
the Lake. Three years afterwards the new water-
works were in active operation, and they are ca-
pable of supplying 57,000,000 of gallons daily.
Even this is hardly sufficient, and it is proposed to
build a second tunnel. In addition to the supply
from this source there is a large quantity of pure
water obtained from two Artesian wells, one of
which is 700 and the other 1,100 feet deep. An-
other great work is the Washington-street Tunnel,
an undertaking quite as noteworthy as the tunnel
under the Thames, which used to excite the admi-


ration of country cousins and intelligent foreigners.
Finding that the amount of traffic in the Chicago
river seriously impeded traffic over the bridges,
which had to be opened whilst vessels were passing,
it was determined to construct a tunnel under the
river, and a short time after the project had been
mooted the work was executed.

The rapidity with which Chicago has attained to
the commanding position now held by it in the esti-
mation of Americans is due to the way in which
opportunities have been turned to account quite as
much as to any natural advantages it has enjoyed.
The situation is certainly a most favourable one.
There is communication by water from this city
to the Gulf of Mexico and to the mouth of the
St. Lawrence. The lines of rail which centre here
embrace fifteen trunk lines, and they run to every
part of the Union. Agriculture flourishes in the
vicinity, and the farmer finds in Chicago both a
market where his grain always commands a price,
and a storehouse, whence he draws whatever he re-
quires for the purposes of husbandry or for the
comfort of his home. There is thus a continuous
current of produce streaming through Chicago on
its way to the consumer in the Eastern States or in
Great Britain. How speedily the trade in grain
has been converted from an insignificant industry


into an industry of unprecedented importance, let
the following facts bear witness. In 1838 the ship-
ments of grain were 78 bushels ; in 1848 they were
3,001,714 bushels; in 1858 they were 20,035,166
bushels; in 1868 they were 67,896,760 bushels. If
these figures did not appear in official returns of
unquestioned correctness, they would be read with
incredulity. As it is, they excite wonder, and this
is intensified when it is found that in other depart-
ments of commerce, such as the trade in cattle and
lumber, the like progress has been made. Not long
ago Cincinnati took the lead of every city in the
Union as the place where the largest numbers of
pigs were slaughtered, salted, and packed for ex-
portation. On this account, the city was commonly
known by the name of Porkopolis. But, if the
statements of the citizens of Chicago are to be ac-
cepted, the glory of Cincinnati has passed away,
and the Garden City must henceforth be regarded
as the one which lovers of bacon and ham are bound
to honour.

The abundance, excellent quality, and moderate
price of peaches, apples, and other fruit sold here in
the autumn excites the admiration of the visitor.
In some streets the pavement is encumbered with
boxes of fresh peaches. I learned that these are
produced in the southern part of the State of


Illinois. The soil and climate of that locality
render fruit-growing as profitable there as it is
in the southern parts of Germany. During the
strawberry season five cars filled with strawberries
arrive at Chicago daily. When the peaches are
ripe the supply sent to market every morning fills
twenty cars, each carrying five hundred boxes of
peaches. Egyptian Illinois is the name of this pro-
lific fruit-bearing region. Intersected by railways,
the market is within easy reach of the cultivator's
door. It is seldom that a crop fails, the climate
being equable and temperate. Thousands of acres
are still to be had by the settler. When I add that
this land may be purchased for less than 21. the
acre, I have said enough, I think, to excite the
desire of many to possess and cultivate it.

Material prosperity and rapidity of growth have
made Chicago a city of note, yet other things have
made it a city of influence. Its newspapers are
quite as remarkable and worthy of praise as its
splendid streets and magnificent buildings, its ex-
tended commerce and public works. Among the
magnificent edifices which, in different parts of the
United States, are monuments of successful jour-
nalism, the office of the Chicago Tribune commands
admiration. Situated at the corner of one of the

Online LibraryW. Fraser (William Fraser) RaeWestward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons → online text (page 4 of 27)