December 21, 2008


In 1978 my family took a trip to New Jersey to visit relatives. My father's side of the family was spread around the state. I believe we were there because my grandmother was going to have surgery on her optic nerve. She was very active with friends and traveled all over the world. Most of her travel was by rail and the majority of it back in the 1930's through the 1960's. The heyday of rail travel. It was extravagant and lavish. Service was the centerpiece of the experience. She knew I had a fascination with trains from a young age and gave me a number of documents and souvenir's from her travels. At the time I wasn't overly enthusiastic. I was a fourteen year old kid that just got a bunch of "old stuff" from his grandmother. Granted it was old train "stuff", but it just didn't have the pizazz that a fourteen year old boy is looking for. I do recall enjoying the look of the publications and the musty old smell of the pages. I really had no clue as to what they would eventually mean to me in the future.

A few months back while looking for something buried deep within the black hole that is most peoples garages (unless you are one of the sicko's that parks a car in there!!), I came across an expandable folder with an elastic closure. I recall having had a few of these style envelopes with keepsake type items inside. They were being discarded at my fathers office and I felt they had a few more miles in them before they were relegated to the trash heap. I knew one folder contained all of my Naval discharge paperwork. Assuming this was that envelope, I casually opened it just to confirm before it placed it back into it's makeshift tomb. The first thing that caught my eye was a large 9x12 envelope. It wasn't the envelope itself that caught my eye, but what was printed on the outside. A blue Nickel Plate Road logo! I knew I was in for a treat. Some 30 years ago, my grandmother gave me some memerobilia and souvenir's that were now in the envelope I held in my shaking hands. I recalled the mild disinterest when she gave them to me thirty years ago. I also remember thinking I would someday come to appreciate their meaning. "I suppose that someday is here", I thought. I had a slight sensation of giddyness. That Christmas morning as a child feeling. I was grateful that my grandmother was able to see the interest within me for railroads, to part with souvenir's of magnificent trips and memories of a lifetime. I slid the envelope out of the folder and saw this.

Some vivid memories came rushing back. I recall looking through this very envelope at the pictures from her trip to Promontory, Utah in May of 1969 for the centennial anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony. That celebrated the completion of the transcontinental railroad. There was a recreation of an original poster on the wall of that room with "old west" style fonts announcing the "Great Event".
"Through to San Francisco in less than four days, avoiding the dangers of the sea!"

The room had a reddish wallpaper with some sort of design, probably paisley. There were toys from her childrens youth and some from her parents. An old wicker baby carriage, handmade dolls and clothes. The poster was placed in a way that it was a centerpiece for the wall.
"Pullman's Palace Sleeping Cars run with all through passenger trains."

Opening the envelope I gingerly removed the contents. Just beneath the envelope there was a dated publication. It was a Burlington Escorted Tours summer 1935 tour book. It described 20 tours ranging from seven to twenty five days in length.

Inside the cover of the tour book was a pocket itinerary

On the front page is the name of the Burlington escort, T.W. Coover. The itinerary was for tour "P". I didn't put two and two together at first. Later I realized the tours in the tour book were given letters. The pocket itinerary matched that of tour "P" in the larger book. The itinerary description...

What I found amazing, this twenty day trip had a maximum price of $321. Folded up further inside the tour book was a passenger manifest as well as a Southern Pacific passenger ticket for August 29th.

I looked on Google calendar to see what day of the week August 29, 1935 was. It was a Thursday. Looking at the pocket itinerary, they would have arrived in in San Francisco by ferry from Oakland that day. It's possible she took the Southern Pacific commute train that went down the peninsula to some location for the evening. Her ticket was punched for one zone only meaning she didn't travel very far. CalTrain currently uses the same type of zone ticketing. Your fare is determined by the number of zones you will be traveling through.

Digging deeper into the stack of discovery, I found a Pullman brochure from the 1939 World's Fair in New York. This page showing the average fare for a three hundred mile overnight trip.

I wish I could post each page of every item I looked through. They brought back wonderful memories of my grandmother and enjoying the same pages as a child. Unfortunately there is not enough time in the day to blog about all of life's simple pleasures. More fond memories of relatives and childhood will have to wit until another day.

You can see all of the scanned items on my Flickr page!

1 comment:

  1. THAT is utterly cool, Todd! Somehow I missed it on your Flickr--will have to go back. It's funny how simple things like that can drag so many things back from so far ago. Thank you for sharing, and have a very merry one!


Always glad to have some form of reaction/response to my posts. Caustic or otherwise.