Screenwriter needs info re: 1925 train travel from Nashville to NYC

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Posted by nycwriter on Saturday, August 26, 2017 3:22 PM

Hello Experts,

First time here, looking for expert information.

I'm a screenwriter working on a screenplay that takes place in 1925. In my story I have two African-American students travelling from historically black Fisk University in Nashville, TN to New York City, which is home for both of them. What route would they take? Which train lines? Where would they switch, if at all? Would they be in a sleeper cars or sitting in seats? Where in New York would they arrive -- Penn Station? Any information you can provide is much appreciated.

I apologize in advance for my ignorance or incorrect vocabulary in asking my questions, but I assume I've come to the right place to get educated. Thanks in advance for your expertise. 

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, August 28, 2017 10:31 AM

I do not have schedules fo 1925, but I would say that the best route for the students from Nashville to New York City would have been to travel coach on the L&N day train from Nashville to Cincinnati, and then they could take a berth on either the Pennsyvania or New York Central System to New York City. Going on the Pennsyvania, they would arrive at Penn Station; Going on the New York Central, they would arrive at Grand Centrel.

Any other route would have been much more difficult, even if competitive fares had been in effect at the time.

Johnny

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 28, 2017 10:52 AM

You might want to see if an Official Guide of the period is available to be more exact.  I am pretty certain that there was a through Nashville - New York Pullman sleeper at the time, interchanged between the Louisville and Nashville and the Pennsylvania at Cincinnati.  The would probably use this if they could afford Pullman, althouhg going coach as far as Cincinnati would save money.  The PRR route was faster and more direct that via the Central.

Coaches of the period were pretty basic, without air condidtioning or reclining seats.  Opening windows brought some fresh air, but also some smoke and possibly other dirt.  Air coniditioning had not arrived, but Pullmans did have filtered air and fans to move it.

In a Pullman, it would have been logical for two students to share one section, one in the upper berth and one in the lower.  During the day, the section would be made into two facing seats, each actually wide enough to seat two, but they would be the only occupants.  If they wished, the porter could provide a plug-in table.

If they put their shoes in the shoe locker while they slept, the porter would shine them before they woke up to require them in  the morning.

Undressing and dressing in an upper berth was quite an art.

Each end of the Pullman car or coach had a wash and other facilities room, women at one end and men at the other.  The section did not have any facilities itself.

A water spigot for drinking with paper cups availabel was also located at each end of the car.  Meals would be in the dining car, unless they brought their own food.  As students, they probably planned to have one good meal in the dining car, and keep from being hungry at other times by food carried with them.

You might google Pullman to get a good idea of the accomodations.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 28, 2017 11:02 AM

Edit button isn't working.  Not a fault of the website, but of the local service provider.  Slepped should be slept, and moved should be move.

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Posted by wanswheel on Monday, August 28, 2017 12:46 PM

Excerpt from NY Times, Dec. 25, 2005

February 1941, Constance Baker, age 19, a bright and ambitious young woman from New Haven, left home for college. She was slender and stylish, wearing a wool overcoat with a fur collar and black leather gloves. Her dark wavy hair fell from under a slanted wide-brimmed hat. She'd found a hometown mentor -- a white philanthropist named Clarence Blakeslee --who had heard her speak up at a community meeting and subsequently offered to pay her tuition. Despite the fact that female lawyers were rare creatures, and black women lawyers almost unheard-of, Constance Baker had set her sights on law school.

Strikingly attractive and full of promise that February day, she toted her suitcase on the train from New Haven to New York and from New York to Cincinnati. In Cincinnati, she disembarked and watched as an older and rustier passenger car was connected to the train. When she tried to return to her seat for the journey across Kentucky to Nashville, home of her destination, Fisk University, the porter blocked her. "You have to go in this car," he said, directing her to the older one. Then she saw the "Colored" sign.

"Although I had known this would happen, I was both frightened and humiliated," she would write in her autobiography 57 years later, by which time she had become one of the most famous lawyers in America: she had worked with Thurgood Marshall on the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund team that overturned school segregation; she had been James Meredith's chief counsel in his battle for admission to the University of Mississippi; she had argued 10 cases before the Supreme Court (and won nine of them); she was the first black woman elected to the New York State Senate and the first woman to serve in the powerful position of Manhattan borough president; and in 1966 she became the first black woman to serve on the federal judiciary and the first to serve as chief judge for the Southern District of New York.

Of her appalling day in Cincinnati, she wrote that having grown up in Connecticut, "I did not know the extent to which segregation affected the daily lives and freedom of movement of all black people south of the Mason-Dixon Line."

There is another part to this story. "Yeah, well, she stole the Colored sign out of that train car," says her only child, Joel Wilson Motley III, a New York investment banker. "She wanted to show it to her parents, a bit of evidence of what was happening in the country. My grandparents were shocked. They weren't surprised by the sign, they knew about the signs; they were shocked by my mother's audacity in stealing it."

 

“The Fisk University Jubilee Singers at a railroad station. They are on route to Windsor Castle to perform for King Edward VIII.”

 

https://archive.org/stream/tennesseecountyh19burn#page/48/mode/2up

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Posted by timz on Monday, August 28, 2017 6:02 PM

They reprinted the Feb 1926 Off Guide. Somebody can look in there and give you a good idea of the choices-- for white people anyway. Like they said, Cincinnati would be a likely place to change trains, but the overall schedule via Washington might be slightly faster.

Turns out in Feb 1926 there were three thru sleepers Nashville to NY Penn, two via Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and one via Chattanooga and Washington. So if they can get on a sleeper they don't ever have to change cars/trains, but if they're riding coach they'll presumably have to change cars at least once.

The trip will take 30+ hours, so they can spend one night on the train, or two. They can leave Nashville at 0725 CST, arr Cincinnati 1630, leave 1700, arrive NY Penn 1535. If they're riding coach they'll change cars in Cincinnati but maybe not thereafter.

One thru sleeper takes those trains; another leaves Nashville at 2005 and arrives NY Penn at 0705 by the same route. The other thru sleeper leaves Nashville at 2130 and arrives NY Penn via Washington at 0635. If for some reason they wanted to ride coach via Washington, they'd have to change cars at Chattanooga, maybe Bristol, maybe Lynchburg too? and at Washington (and they would arrive NY at 0645 instead of 0635).

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Posted by nycwriter on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:22 PM

Thanks so much. Very helpful.

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Posted by nycwriter on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:23 PM
Thanks so much for all these great content. Much appreciated.
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Posted by nycwriter on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:23 PM

Thanks so much. Super helpful.

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Posted by nycwriter on Tuesday, August 29, 2017 7:25 PM
Thank you. Helpful.
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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 2:52 AM

daveklepper

Edit button isn't working.  Not a fault of the website, but of the local service provider.  Slepped should be slept, and moved should be move.

 

But it worked this morning.

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 2:57 AM

[quote user="timz"]

They reprinted the Feb 1926 Off Guide. Somebody can look in there and give you a good idea of the choices-- for white people anyway. Like they said, Cincinnati would be a likely place to change trains, but the overall schedule via Washington might be slightly faster.

Turns out in Feb 1926 there were three thru sleepers Nashville to NY Penn, two via Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and one via Chattanooga and Washington. So if they can get on a sleeper they don't ever have to change cars/trains, but if they're riding coach they'll presumably have to change cars at least once.

The trip will take 30+ hours, so they can spend one night on the train, or two. They can leave Nashville at 0725 CST, arr Cincinnati 1630, leave 1700, arrive NY Penn 1535. If they're riding coach they'll change cars in Cincinnati but maybe not thereafter.

One thru sleeper takes those trains; another leaves Nashville at 2005 and arrives NY Penn at 0705 by the same route. The other thru sleeper leaves Nashville at 2130 and arrives NY Penn via Washington at 0635. If for some reason they wanted to ride coach via Washington, they'd have to change cars at Chattanooga, maybe Bristol, maybe Lynchburg too? and at Washington (and they would arrive NY at 0645 instead of 0635).

[/quote above]
 
African-Americans could book Pullman space in the days of segregation.  Usually, the sections at the end of one car, the end with the men's room, were held for African-Americans, with one on long trips being the porter's sleeping space unless there was a dormitory car, rare before streamliners.
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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 8:12 AM

Thanks, Dave, for getting the schedule information. No, there would have been no change necessary for coach passengers between Chattanooga and Washington; the Memphis Special carried Memphis-Washington through coaches. Coach passengers from Nashville would have had to transfer between the stations in Chattanooga, though.

Taveling coach, the route through Cincinnati would have been far better, with one change for coach passengers there, since the L&N and the PRR used the same station.

Johnny

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Posted by daveklepper on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 9:35 AM

Through sleeper, the route through Chattanooga and Washington is slightly faster, but for coach passengers, Cincinatti is obviously better.  Timex got the schedule information.

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Posted by timz on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 3:27 PM

Deggesty
the Memphis Special carried Memphis-Washington through coaches.

No mention of that in the Guide-- did the timetable say so?

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Posted by Deggesty on Wednesday, August 30, 2017 4:11 PM

timz

 

 
Deggesty
the Memphis Special carried Memphis-Washington through coaches.

 

No mention of that in the Guide-- did the timetable say so?

 

The reprint of the June, 1916, Guide  that I have does not mention coaches at all--but the July 4, 1920, Southern timetable I have does show through coaches Washington-Memphis on the Memphis Special

Johnny

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