The unmistakable new “aura of adventure” created by the opening of the first
Transcontinental Railroad in May, 1869, soon fostered an almost insatiable
public appetite for information about Pacific railroad travel in much the same
way that man’s first footsteps on the moon would do for the interest in space
travel a century later in 1969. And what America’s Nineteenth century “armchair
adventurers” most often sought out and devoured with the greatest of passion
were the colorful “first person” accounts of transcontinental railroad travel,
authored by so many of the era’s most popular writers, which soon began to
appear in the pages of newspapers, monthly literary magazines, and travel books
of the day.
Included within the pages of “Riding the Transcontinental Rails: Overland
Travel on the Pacific Railroad 1865-1881” are of some of the best of these
contemporary accounts of overland rail travel in the West. These gems of travel
literature have been culled from the works of such acclaimed writers as the
noted adventurer and New York Tribune correspondent Albert D. Richardson, the
widely traveled Springfield (MA) Republican owner and Editor Samuel Bowles,
Scottish novelist, poet, and essayist Robert Louis Stevenson, former New York
Evening Post Managing Editor and world traveler Charles Nordhoff, onetime
Chicago Evening Journal military correspondent Benjamin F. Taylor, American
novelist Helen Hunt Jackson, and her close friend and frequent traveling
companion Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, herself a popular author of children’s novels.
These accounts first appeared between 1865 and 1881 in these authors’ own books
as well as in the pages of such widely read periodicals as Harper’s New Monthly
Magazine, Scribner’s Magazine, The Overland Monthly, the New York
Times, and the
New York Tribune.
Also included are two fascinating first person accounts by nonprofessional
writers. James H. Kinkead, a former Under Sheriff of Washoe County, Nevada,
tells the story of how he solved and captured the perpetrators of the first
train robbery in the west, that of the CPRR’s Overland Express which took place
near Verdi, Nevada, in November, 1870. Perhaps most remarkable of all, however,
is a never before published 1872 letter from a 34-year old Boston businessman
named Walter Scott Fitz relating a colorful day-by-day account of his harrowing
36-day winter transcontinental rail passage from Boston to San Francisco — which
he describes as “the most eventful journey in the history of railroading” —
during which he and his fellow passengers were often snowbound throughout
Wyoming over a period of more than three weeks.
Bruce C. Cooper, a veteran professional writer, avid railroad
collector, and amateur historian, is also the great great grandson and
biographer of Lewis Metzler Clement, Chief Assistant Engineer and Superintendent
of Track of the Central Pacific Railroad from 1862 to 1881.
Mr. Cooper, the author of three other books and hundreds of feature articles on
subjects ranging from railroad history to professional ice hockey, is a frequent
contributor to the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum (CPRR.org).
Bruce Cooper's writings and collections appear throughout the CPRR.org website.
He has digitally restored the hundreds of 19th Century photographic images which
appear on the website and created the composite graphics which appear in it’s
exhibits. Mr. Cooper provides a wide variety of professional digital image
restoration and composite graphic services to the public through his independent
online business, DigitalImageServices.com.
Visit the Official Riding the Transcontinental Rails Website -
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