Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Kchi (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: April 26, 2015 02:43PM

I was always curious about the logistics of moving passengers and their luggage between the various railroads that were serviced by different train stations in the golden age of train travel. It had to be more complicated than just walking across a airport concourse like we do today.

I remember seeing old newsreels of movie stars stopping off in Chicago when they were traveling between the coasts.

Did the passengers have to claim their own luggage and then take a taxi to another train station and check in?

How coordinated where the train schedules? Were most long distance passengers forced with lengthy delays or have to stay overnight in Chicago?

Did most railroads traveling long distance have more than one train leaving daily for the same destination?

Was there a published train schedule covering all trains so your travel could be coordinated or did you have to deal with each connecting railroad independently?

How were private railroad cars for the wealthy moved between the different railroads. Were all the staions connected to a central yard?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/26/2015 02:44PM by Kchi.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Dunning1 (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
Date: April 26, 2015 05:11PM

Kchi-You're bringing up some of my favorite topics here. I love trains, and old trains. The number of railroad terminals here in Chicago led to omnibus companies that specialized in inter-terminal transportation. The big one that comes to mind is Parmalee Transportation, founded by a Frank Parmalee. While I don't have exact information, I would think the level of service you would have would vary with the kind of ticket you had, first, second, or immigrant class, and I believe redcaps would assist in booking your luggage through to the proper railroad and terminal. I strongly suggest you take a look at some of the books written by the late Lucius Beebe. While he was primarily known as a Broadway columnist, and later as a food and travel critic as well as the editor of the Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, NV, he wrote a series of well illustrated books about American railroads from the mid 1930's to the 1960's. Yes, there were multiple trains from one city to another depending on the volume of traffic, and some were slower, that made multiple stops, while others were express runs. Beebe talks about a lot of these in "Trains We Rode. He came from a very wealthy Boston family that had invested in leather and railroads, and through inherited money was able to indulge his fancies. He was one of the last owners of a private railroad car in the United States, and after his death (1966) you are still able to rent his railroad car at a price. He wrote an extensive book on private rail cars entitled "Mansions on Wheels" which details a lot about their operation. I believe many of the private cars which were used were either owned by the individual railroads and used by persons with standing in that railroad, or handled by the Pullman Company. I would assume that Pullman would have also offered storage and servicing for private railcars at their terminals. George M. Pullman, appropiately enough, had a private siding built off of the Illinois Central main line into Randolph Station for his own railcar. I believe there still is, or at least was until recently, a private club car that runs on the CNW North line from Lake Forest to Northwestern Station daily, making the return run at night. I have also heard about private streetcars, and rapid transit cars used on some systems. Beebe spoke out strongly against air travel in his columns in Holiday Magazine. TWA thought it to be quite a coup when they finally convinced Beebe to try flying on one of their planes. After he was comfortably seated, just before takeoff, Beebe ripped off the seat beld, bolted for the door, screaming, "Let me of of this hell bound cylinder of death!" Can't say I disagree.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: ambrosemario (---.hsd1.in.comcast.net)
Date: April 26, 2015 07:37PM

In the early 1970s I commuted on the Rock Island commuter train getting off at the old LaSalle Street station behind the Chicago Board of Trade, where I worked. Interstate train travel was coming to an end, but the Rock, IC, and Pennsylvania were still operating out of this station. Next door, on the SE corner of LaSalle & Van Buren was the Fort Dearborn Hotel, which once upon a time had been an upscale hotel where cross country train travelers would Stay when the next leg of their trip was not until the next day. By the early 70's the Fort Dearborn was a rundown transient hotel, but it had two bars on its lobby leve that served a clientele of street people, tradesmen, and commuters waiting for their next (or last) train of the day. The second, smaller bar still exists. It looks to me like it may have been a private or exclusive bar for high end train travelers back in the day. Though rundown now, it has a fireplace and some fancy woodwork. It's changed ownership many tines and I think it may still be called Jesse Livermore's after a famous 19th century grain trader. The hotel was converted to an office building around 30/35 years ago.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Kchi (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: May 03, 2015 01:48PM

I found the followig article that describes the train stations. In addition it has a map that shows the location and the it lists which railroads used each station.


This website below if you scroll down far enough has a section labeled Chicago Passenger Stations, that indeed mentions Parmalee as having a lock on the trnsportation business.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/04/2015 10:46AM by Kchi.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: davey7 (---.dsl.chcgil.ameritech.net)
Date: May 07, 2015 12:20PM

I believe that Tiger Tanaka had one in Tokyo as it was too dangerous for him to walk the streets of Tokyo.

Dunning1 Wrote:
> I have also heard about private streetcars, and rapid transit cars
> used on some systems.

Actually, Chicago's growth, as a city as well as a retail/shopping destination was, in large part, driven by tourists and travelers breaking their journey's and staying overnight (perhaps intentionally to shop). A lot of the older loop high-rises were essentially vertical malls with tailor shops, etc in them.

Anecdotal story: my downstairs neighbors growing up were from Utah originally (yes, ex-Mormons, but that's another story). They had met briefly through their sisters years before. She was working in NYC (I think late 30's or sometime in the very early 40's, but I'm not totally sure) and he was in Chicago getting his PhD. In those days, you had to change between trains in Chicago as you traveled between east and west, as we have already established. One of their sisters suggested that he come meet her and help her between trains or 'keep her company'- this was all, of course, a matchmaking ploy. Anyways, he dutifully made his way downtown and then realized, he didn't know which station she would be coming through, so he raced and rushed between stations until he finally found/met her at one (which one, I don't know). Anyways, many more trains were met until a proposal was hatched and she didn't need to meet him in the station in Chicago anymore.

So, yes, in a very indirect way, it could be quite a drama to get between stations if you had to.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: olafrance01 (---.hsd1.ma.comcast.net)
Date: July 13, 2015 11:02PM

When I was a child in the 50s my family would take a CNW commuter train into the city and then a taxi from what was then called Northwestern Station to the Dearborn station. We toted our own luggage until we got to the Dearborn station where Redcaps would magically make it disappear, to be found waiting for us when we boarded our Santa Fe train.

I have no idea how individual passengers transferred from one long distance train to another. I do know that there were "through cars" that were taken from one train and moved to another soon to depart train on another railroad with passengers aboard. Union station had special tracks that connected the two sides of the station specifically for this purpose. Other through cars were routed through the appropriate maze of tracks between stations.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2015 11:05PM by olafrance01.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
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Date: July 17, 2015 04:19AM

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Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Dunning1 (---.hsd1.il.comcast.net)
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.

Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Kchi (---.lightspeed.cicril.sbcglobal.net)
Date: January 31, 2016 12:42PM


Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Dunning1 (---.dhs.gov)
Date: February 01, 2016 04:56PM


Re: Old Passenger Train Travel Logistics
Posted by: Anonymous User (---.neo.res.rr.com)
Date: February 03, 2016 12:08AM


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