Train Routes/Prices West Coast (Seattle) to Chicago

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Train Routes/Prices West Coast (Seattle) to Chicago
Posted by Foolster41 on Tuesday, May 10, 2016 5:18 PM

Hello! I hope this is the right place for this. I'm currently writing a young adult historical/modern fantasy novel that takes place during the great depression (1934).

I was considering having my main characters ride a private car from Seattle to Chicago. I was wondering how much that would cost (in the money of the time) to do so? Were there passengers routes directly from Seattle back then?


The story is about a boy who's planning on running away and riding the rails (as many as 100,000 children did then), when a bird flies through his window and turns into a girl Now he has to help her find her way home and together they escape an alchemist who uses a power that's either magic or science that wants to take her humanity. 

Thanks!

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:52 AM

Yes, there were three routes directly from Seattle to Chicago back then: the Milwaukee Road, The Great Northern/Burlington, and the Northern Pacific/Burlington; all three crossed Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Also, the Union Pacific/Chicago and North Western had through service, which crossed Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Iowa.

I do not have access to any tariffs, so I cannot help you on the cost. A private car did cost more than ordinary travel; as I recall, the standard tariff for this was eighteen first class fares for each private car.

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Posted by timz on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 12:39 PM

In 1929 the schedule betw Chicago and Seattle became 63 hr westward, 61 hr 15 min eastward, same as the no-extra-fare schedule between Chicago and SF/LA. One-way fare Seattle to Chicago might then have been the same as from SF/LA: $79.84 plus the space charge. The RRs to California had reduced their fares by 1934, but dunno if the ones to Seattle had-- probably so.

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:18 PM

Timz, I do not know when competitive fares came into use, but it may well have been at that time if you were traveling between Chicago and one of the four cities on the West Coast that the fare was the same, no matter which--Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, or Los Angeles--was your destination the fare was the same. Thus, even though the C&NW/UP route to Seattle was longer than the other three, the fare was the same. I could write more about some of the niceties of competitive fares, but such would be extraneous to this thread.

Johnny

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Posted by MidlandMike on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 9:52 PM

The Milwaukee Road SEA-CHI also strayed into South Dakota.

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:29 PM

MidlandMike

The Milwaukee Road SEA-CHI also strayed into South Dakota.

 

Yes, Mike, how did I forget that it crossed South Dakota--in much the same way that the Nashville and Chattanooga wandered back and forth between Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia as it came into Chattanooga from Nashville?

Johnny

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Posted by timz on Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:15 PM

In 1933 and 1935 the three eastward trains left Seattle 2030, 2130 and 2145-- arrived Chicago 0845 to 0900. NP left first-- it was slowest.

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Posted by Foolster41 on Thursday, May 12, 2016 1:41 PM

Thanks for all the replies! 

 

So it looks like it'd cost around $80, which is a lot of money for the time! 

 

it'd take about 3 days to from Seattle to Chicago?

 

Trains (going east) typically left at night, and arrived at monring? Or was there trains running

all day? 

 

Wouldn't it be if it was 60 hours, the trip would end at about the same time of day as start?

 

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, May 16, 2016 9:30 AM

The faster trains took three nights and two days--leaving late in the day, and arriving the third morning. Depending upon the road, there was at least one other train, which took longer--perhaps with a morning departure and an arrival earlier in the morning than the deluxe train arrived, taking three days and three nights.

 

Johnny

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Posted by timz on Monday, May 16, 2016 12:36 PM

In 1930 one-way fare Chicago to SF/LA was $79.84, but in 1934 the coach one-way to SF/LA was down to $34.50. One-way first class was $65 I think, plus the charge for the bed/room. Dunno if Chicago to Seattle likewise reduced.

Excursion round-trip fares in 1930 were less than double.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 11:47 AM

Just to amplify a couple of things....

The Milwaukee was the only railroad that ran from Chicago to Seattle on it's own tracks. It's line went north to Milwaukee, then westacross Wisconsin until it crossed the Mississippi. It then followed the west bank of the river to Hastings, MN. There it crossed over the east bank for the final 15 miles to St.Paul MN. It then ran west from there to Seattle.

Trains of the Northern Pacific and Great Northern were hauled by the Burlington Route (which the two railroads co-owned) west from Chicago across Illinois to the Mississippi, where it followed the east bank of the river to St.Paul. At St.Paul Union Depot, the CB&Q engines were cut off, and NP or GN engines hauled the trains the rest of the way west.

BTW today's Amtrak Empire Builder uses the old Milwaukee route from Chicago to St.Paul, then former GN trackage to Seattle.

At that time, each railroad would have several trains covering the route. Prices for tickets would depend on whether you were in a compartment or berth on the Empire Builder or North Coast Limited, or in a coach seat on a lesser train.

As Deggesty noted however, hauling a private car would be a different matter. If it was the private car of an individual, it would be quite expensive. If you could afford to own (or hire a car from Pullman), you probably didn't need to ask how much it would cost.

If it's a private car owned by the railroad and assigned to a President, Vice President, Division Superintendent etc. for his use, it would be a different matter....

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Posted by timz on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 12:19 PM

wjstix
At that time, each railroad would have several trains covering the route.

One Seattle-Chicago train on each route in April 1935-- NP also had the Alaskan with thru coaches and sleepers Seattle to St Paul.

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Posted by rcdrye on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:26 PM

Most railroads would handle private cars, especially company business cars, on secondary trains, particularly if the premier train had its own observation.

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Posted by dakotafred on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 5:07 PM

The Milwaukee Road's Pacific Coast Extension "strayed," rather, into North Dakota, nipping only the southwest corner, as the tracks do to this day on the surviving segment owned by BNSF.

The route's main Dakotas trackage is in South Dakota, via Aberdeen, Mobridge and Lemmon.

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Posted by Foolster41 on Thursday, August 03, 2017 7:13 PM

I hope it's alright to bump this after so long, rather than makihng a new topic.

I refound this when I picked this story back up recently. 


I feel I should note, when I said "private car" I meant private booth/compartment (Two benches with a door to the hall). Sorry for the confusion.

Also, thanks again for the infromation. What I have is:

 Two kids hire a simple compartment for $160. The trip takes about 3 days, leaving evening and arriving in the morning on the final day. 

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Posted by wjstix on Friday, August 04, 2017 12:30 PM

OK, if they're just travelling in a Pullman sleeper, not a private car, they'd probably just get berths, not a private compartment / room. Pullman car primarily had open sections - pairs of seats facing each other. The backs folded forward to create one berth, and the other was pulled down from it's suspension up above. (If you've seen the movie "Some Like It Hot", it has some good interior scenes in a heavyweight Pullman.)

The kids could sit together during the day, then one use the upper berth and one the lower. Not sure of the exact cost, but would be a lot less than a stateroom / compartment / drawing room. Some railroads, like Great Northern, had some Pullman "tourist sleepers" that were a bit less fancy - and less expensive - than the normal Pullman cars.

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Posted by timz on Friday, August 04, 2017 12:31 PM

What was called a "compartment" in the US had two beds, but not two facing bench seats. One bed became a bench seat and the other passenger had a chair during the day. Dunno how common double bedrooms were in 1934-- that would be two beds, one bench seat and no extra chair-- a little less room and a slightly lower charge.

As I recall the Chicago-California fare in a compartment was a bit lower in 1934 than it had been before 1932-- maybe ditto Chicago-Seattle.

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Posted by Deggesty on Friday, August 04, 2017 3:00 PM

In a Pullman section, just as in Amtrak roomettes, the part of the seat on which you sat was pulled away from the back, and the back of the seat dropped down to form one half of the berth--and the same action was performed on the facing seat. Then a mattress was taken down from where it was stowed in the upper berth. This was a real mattress, not a thin pad such as is used in Amtrak roomettes. The porter would bring you a ladder when you wanted to get up to, or down from, the upper berth.

In 1930, a compartment was essentially an enclosed section that had more floor space than a section--and had a toilet and a washbasin in the same room and a ladder. A drawing room also had two berths arranged in the same way (and with a ladder), plus a sofa with a back that swung down to provide a third berth--and the toilet was enclosed in an annex.

The cars that were rebuilt with bedrooms (for two) in the thirties had the berths at a right angle to the sides of the cars, and the lower berth was essentially a sofa seat during the day, I believe. These rooms also had the toilet in the room itself.

When the car builders began building lightweight sleepers, the section berths were essentailly the same, though in the fifties new cars had a folding ladder by each upper berth so it was no longer necesary to ring for the porter when the passenger wanted to get up to or down from the upper berth. also, the bedrooms and compartments in thse new cars had the toilet in an annex, just as the drawing rooms did. Some bedrooms were built with two chairs for day use and the bed swung down from the wall for the lower berth (just as it did in a real roomette). Other bedrooms had a transverse sofa seat which became the lower berth when the back was folded down. A real roomette had a berth that swung down from the wall, covering the seat and the toilet seat.  Some washbasins had to be swung up  and out of the way of the berth. At first all such roomettes required that you zip a curtain hanging in the doorway shut and back out into the aisle to get the berth down or up; later at least one builder cut a portion of the side the berth away at the foot so you could stand there alower or raise the berth. Once the bert was down, you could close the door and secure it for the nightj.

I know of two variations on the sections in heavyweight cars. One was the enclosed section, which had real walls between the berths and the aisle. The other was the private section, which was an enclosed section--and there was a washroom assigned to each of these sections. Not many of these cars were built.

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Posted by MidlandMike on Friday, August 04, 2017 10:20 PM

wjstix

OK, if they're just travelling in a Pullman sleeper, not a private car, they'd probably just get berths, not a private compartment / room. Pullman car primarily had open sections - pairs of seats facing each other. The backs folded forward to create one berth, and the other was pulled down from it's suspension up above. (If you've seen the movie "Some Like It Hot", it has some good interior scenes in a heavyweight Pullman.)

The kids could sit together during the day, then one use the upper berth and one the lower. Not sure of the exact cost, but would be a lot less than a stateroom / compartment / drawing room. Some railroads, like Great Northern, had some Pullman "tourist sleepers" that were a bit less fancy - and less expensive - than the normal Pullman cars.

 

I don't know if this was still the situation in the 1930s, but in the early days, the Pullman lower berth was sold for 2 passengers, and the upper berth for 1 passenger.  The 2 boys would have shared the lower berth, and the upper sold to some one else.

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Posted by Deggesty on Saturday, August 05, 2017 7:13 AM

The price of a lower was the same, no matter how many slept in it. Likewise, the price of an upper was the same. Two boys probably would not have been crowded.

Remember that the standard berth occupancy on troop trains was two to a lower and one to an upper

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Posted by timz on Saturday, August 05, 2017 3:29 PM

In 1935 a compartment for two people Chicago to San Francisco or Los Angeles cost $66.53 per person plus $44.50 for the compartment.

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Posted by Foolster41 on Sunday, August 06, 2017 1:25 AM

So, trains with a door (Usually with a window) into a hallway with two facing benches wasn't a thing in US trains? That's what I was picturing. That might be more a european train thing maybe.

A berth room would work just as well. I wanted somewhere they knew they could get privacy (because of the transformation). Having a room that they'd possibly have to share with someone else wouldn't really work, so mabye they'd have to get both beds.

@Timz: So it'd cost around $177.56?

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, August 06, 2017 9:56 AM

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

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Posted by Deggesty on Sunday, August 06, 2017 1:47 PM

If you bought a private room in a sleeper in this country, you did not have to share it with a stranger; the entire room was yours for the trip. The same holds now with Amtrak accommodations. If you bought only a lower berth, someone else may occupy the upper berth (and if you bought only an upper, someone else may well occupy the lower)

I know of no private rooms that had windows on the aisle side in this country.

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Posted by Foolster41 on Sunday, August 06, 2017 2:58 PM

I think I'm picturing trains from british movies/tv shows.

That diagram is exactly the sortof thing I was looking for, Googling I was having trouble finding something like that.

Agan, thanks for all the help!

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Posted by timz on Sunday, August 06, 2017 3:15 PM

Foolster41
So it'd cost around $177.56?

For two adults in a compartment San Francisco to Chicago in 1935. Probably the same Seattle to Chicago, but can't guarantee that.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, August 07, 2017 12:17 PM

Deggesty

I know of no private rooms that had windows on the aisle side in this country.

 
I don't know about Viewliners, but the bedrooms in Superliners have a large window in the sliding door that allows you to see across the aisle when the curtain is pulled back.
The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, August 07, 2017 2:03 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

 

 
Deggesty

I know of no private rooms that had windows on the aisle side in this country.

 

 

 
I don't know about Viewliners, but the bedrooms in Superliners have a large window in the sliding door that allows you to see across the aisle when the curtain is pulled back.
 

You are right about the Amtrak sleepers. If you have a Superliner bedroom, you an look out the windows on both sides and still have some privacy.

I was thinking about the Pullman cars which were in use back then.

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Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 5:04 PM

Foolster41

So, trains with a door (Usually with a window) into a hallway with two facing benches wasn't a thing in US trains? That's what I was picturing. That might be more a european train thing maybe. 

Yup, very European / British.

Foolster41


A berth room would work just as well. I wanted somewhere they knew they could get privacy (because of the transformation). Having a room that they'd possibly have to share with someone else wouldn't really work, so mabye they'd have to get both beds.

Berths aren't rooms. They're open sections. The only divider is when the seats are made up into beds, there'd be a curtain that could be pulled across for privacy. In old movies, that made for lots of wacky hi-jinks. Guy A goes down to the men's room to brush his teeth, miscalculates where he is on way back and climbs into bed with a strange woman just as her husband shows up etc.

This pic shows a Pullman Porter making up the beds on the left; the sections on the right are still in daytime mode.

http://www.railswest.com/images/pullmanportermkgbednyc.jpg

 

 

Stix
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Posted by RME on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 5:40 PM

In my opinion, the two characters have about zero chance of making it three days, with the making up, security, and taking down of open sections, with the girl turning into a bird periodically (perhaps uncontrollably?) especially if the 'alchemist' gets to the porters with his story about an escaped pet bird on the car somewhere, and a reward for its capture (a quick grab through the curtains at almost any time!) and subsequent caging.

I am wondering if going back to his original premise, either riding or 'stowing away on' a private or business car, might not be more appropriate, or advance the plot better.When a Pullman car was converted to a private business car in Chicago, would it ride west to its 'new home' with no more than a riding maintainer?

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