Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Date: September 17, 2015 10:51PM
I just picked up a book, Rail City Chicago USA, by George H. Douglas, Howell North Books, La Jolla, CA, 1981, and it has the following description of Parmalee and the inter terminal transportation as follows on page 143:
Franklin Parmalee built and maintained a system of coaches and omnibuses that linked each Chicago station with all the rest. In this enterprise, Parmalee got in on the very ground floor. He was one of the transportation fathers of the city. Parmalee was born in New York State in 1816 and arrived in Chicago in 1853. He already had some experience in the stagecoach business. Now he formed a company to transport passengers from the docts to the hotels or to the railroad station. Two years later he received from the city a charter to build the first street railway in Chicago between Lake Street Bridge and Archer Road. As it turned out, Parmalee eventually gave up the street railway business but he bult and sustained one of the most remarkable transfer companies of all time. Chicago was a city of terminal railway stations and of railway lines that sought connections. What the city needed above all esle was a reputable outfit to join all these stations. In the beginning, of course, there were horse drawn rigs attended by uniformed agents who knew the city well; furthermore, they knew everything there was to know about train schedules. These agents were all rail experts and they were known to be honest. They never hustled a fare. They never took a Union Station passenger over to Van Buren Street if the best train for his purpose was right there in Union Station. Parmalee agents were not only knowledgeable and honest, but stylish as well. They dressed in livery with brass buttons, and for a long time wore a helmet as a hat. For a while they even wore swallow tail coats. Passengers instinctively trusted them, and nobody would ever fear handing over a bag or a package to a Parmalee man. In its great years Parmalee was a big operation. At one time the company has as many as 1200 horses and owned a stud farm at which they bred their own animals. Such a large herd was not without its difficulties, and in the Great Fire of 1871 Parmalee suffered a tremendous loss of animals. Several years after that a horse epidemic almost wiped out the company, but Parmalee managed to struggle along during the emergency with oxen. After the turn of the century the Parmalee Company started converting to motorized omnibuses, and the last of the horse drawn rigs disappeared in 1921. Parmalee died in 1904, but his company continued on for another half century until it was taken over by a firm which provided limousine service to the city's airports--the same kind of service that Parmalee had provided for the railroad stations.
So much an integral part of the city's transportation system was the Parmalee Transfer Company that, in the old days, a passenger could buy a through interline rail ticked with a Parmalee coupon on it. In 1940, say, you could buy a ticked in Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania to Chicago with a Parmalee transfer ticket to the Dearborn Station for connectionwith the Santa Fe for continued travel to Los Angeles. On arriving at Union Station, you could be whisked without fuss and bother to Dearborn Station by a long, low slung Parmalee limousiine with your bags efficiently handled without need for tip, and without interference of a surly cab driver. It was just a service, a nicety. And the cabs were always there, endlessly cruising the streets of the Loops, always knowing when they were needed. Some people think that rail travelers weren't papmered in the old days. But they were.