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American Antique Weather Vanes
by A. B. & W. T. Westervelt

The weather vane found a welcome home in the expanding America of the 18th and 19th centuries. It served an important function, but also had humorous and homespun motifs, bold and vigorous design, and spirited air of American individualism and independence.
                                   
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The Trials and Travails of Victorian
Train Travel

by Bob Brooke

 

Six years after Queen Victoria began her long reign as England’s monarch, train travel began its long slow climb to become the chief mode of transportation not only in England but in America.



In fact, the first railroad train, the “DeWitt Clinton,” pulled out for its first run along 17 miles of track from Albany to Schenectady, New York. Everyone marveled at the new invention. But no one sitting in the stagecoach-like rail cars even dreamed that they could some day cross this great land.

Up until that time, most people traveled by stagecoach and steamboat. The former offered a bumpy, dusty ride while the latter enabled passengers to travel somewhat luxuriously along our country’s great rivers.

From the start, the American railroads had to make riding their trains more comfortable to compete with the steamboats. Early trains carried passengers for relatively short distances, so sleeping arrangements weren’t necessary. But as the distances became longer, a means of providing a place to sleep on board became a prime concern since trains didn’t travel all that fast.

The Cumberland Valley Railroad of Pennsylvania, running between Harrisburg and Chambersburg—a distance of 54 miles—first attempted to furnish passengers with an onboard place to sleep. During the winter, east-bound passengers arrived exhausted at Chambersburg late at night by stagecoach, after a fatiguing trip over the mountains. Since many wished to continue their journey to Harrisburg so they could catch the morning train for Philadelphia, it became imperative to furnish onboard sleeping accommodations. The railroad’s owners divided a passenger car into four sections using transverse partitions. Each section contained three berths– lower, middle, and upper. The car ran from the winter of 1836-37 to 1848 when they abandoned it.

In 1858, George M. Pullman made a trip to Chicago, Illinois, from Buffalo, New York, aboard the Lake Shore Railroad. A new sleeping car, attached to this train, was making its first trip. Pullman stepped in to take a look at it and decided to spend the night in one of its berths. After being continuously tossed about, he sought refuge on a seat in the end of the car. He thought about his experience and figured that in a country of great distances like the United States, railroads should offer passengers cars easily convertible into comfortable and convenient day or night coaches, supplied with appointments similar to those aboard steamboats.

In 1864, Pullman perfected his plans for a car which he offered a marked and radical improvement from previous sleeping cars. He named it the " Pioneer." This car had improved trucks and a raised deck, and Pullman built it a foot wider and two and a half feet higher than any car then in service. In order to introduce a hinged upper berth, which, when fastened up, formed a recess behind it for stowing the necessary bedding in daytime. Before that the mattresses had been piled in one end of the car and had to be dragged through the aisle when needed. Pullman realized the dimensions of the railroad bridges and station platforms wouldn’t allow the car to pass over the line, but he believed that an attractive car, constructed upon correct principles, would find its way into service against all obstacles.

With the tremendous success of the sleeping car, railroads next introduced parlor or drawing-room cars for day runs, which added greatly to the luxury of travel, enabling passengers to secure seats in advance, and enjoy many comforts which weren’t found in ordinary cars. Eventually, these became known as “palace” cars and railroads included them as an essential part of their equipment. The Wagner Car Company of New York was one of the first to furnish them.

After introducing sleeping and luxurious parlor cars, the railroads turned to fulfilling the demand for serving meals on their trains. Why should a train stop at a station for meals any more than a steamboat should tie up to a wharf for the same purpose? So the Pullman Car Company introduced the hotel car—essentially a sleeping car with a kitchen and pantries in one end and portable tables which could be placed between the seats of each section and upon which meals could be conveniently served. Pullman named his first hotel car the “President,” and put it into service on the Great Western Railway of Canada in 1867.

But that still wasn’t enough to supply the wants of the growing number of railway passengers. So the dining car came next. A complete restaurant, with a large kitchen and pantries at one end and the main body of the car fitted up as a dining room, it offered a place in which all the passengers in the train could take their meals comfortably. Pullman named his first dining car the “Delmonico,” which began service in 1868 on the Chicago & Alton Railroad.

With over 30,000 miles of track laid after the Civil War, the comforts and conveniences of travel by rail on the main lines seemed to have reached their peak. The heavy “T” rails had replaced the various forms previously used. Their improved fastenings, the reductions in curvature, and the greater care exercised in laying them had made travel extremely smooth, while the improvements in rolling stock had reduced the jerking, jolting, and oscillation of the cars. The road beds had also been properly ditched, drained, and ballasted with broken stone or gravel, the dust overcome, the sparks arrested, so cleanliness had at last been made possible on a railway train.

And that left one major problem to the be solved—heating the cars. The solution was the invention of a method for circulating hot water from the boiler of the locomotive through pipes running near the floor of the cars. Not only did passengers now have warm feet, but the loss of life from train fires originating from stoves had been halted. However, heating a detached car was still a problem until the discovery of electricity.

Baggage, on the other hand, presented a problem from the beginning. Originally, railways allowed passengers to pick out their baggage at their destination, resulting in a lack of accountability which led to much confusion, frequent losses, and heavy claims against the railroads. The solution lay in the introduction of a system known as “checking.” A clerk attached a metal disk, bearing a number and the destination of the bag, to each article and gave a duplicate to the owner, which acted as a receipt. Passengers then presented these receipts to clerks at their destinations to claim their bags.

Railways soon united in arranging for through checks which when attached to baggage would insure its being sent safely to distant points over lines composed of many connecting rail lines. The check system led to the introduction of another marked convenience in the handling of baggage–the baggage express or transfer company. One of its agents checked trunks at the passenger's home and hauled them to the train. Another agent would take up the checks aboard the train as it neared its destination and have the trunks delivered to the correct address at the passenger’s destination.

Coupon tickets covering trips over several different railways saved passengers from purchasing separate tickets from several railroads over which they had to pass. Their introduction necessitated an agreement among the principal railroads and the adoption of an extensive system of accountability for the purpose of making settlements of the amounts represented by the coupons.



With the tremendous growth of the railroads and the vast number of different rail lines, passengers often found themselves confused. This forced the railroads to find ways to provide passengers with the information they needed to start and continue their journeys. Clocks stood in the stations with their hands set to the hour at which the next train was to depart. Sign boards displayed the stations at which departing trains would stop using horizontal slats. And railroad employees called out necessary information and directed passengers to the proper entrances, exits, and trains. Larger passenger stations included a “Bureau of Information,” in which a railroad employee answers questions about rail routes.

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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

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Provided by: News-Antique.com