American Railroad Passenger Car The John H White PART ONE SOFT COVER
American Railroad Passenger Car The John H White PART ONE SOFT COVER
American Railroad Passenger Car The John H White PART ONE SOFT COVER
American Railroad Passenger Car The John H White PART ONE SOFT COVER

American Railroad Passenger Car The John H White PART ONE SOFT COVER

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American Railroad Passenger Car The John H White PART ONE SOFT COVER
 
The American Railroad Passenger Car By John H White JR 690 Pages  Copyright 1978.  PART ONE. SOFT COVER. 371 pages
BACK COVER HAS MINOR CREASING
PREFACE
AMERICANS once spent a considerable portion of their lives in railroad cars. From approximately 1860 to 1930 railroads were the most common means of inland transportation, and at their peak just before the First World War, 98 percent of all intercity travel has by rail. No other means of transportation, not even the automobile, has achieved such a monopoly. Each day millions of passengers mounted the end platform steps of steam cars, some to travel a few miles to a suburban home, others to live within the swaying body of a cinder-laden Pullman for a week as it crossed be continent.
This vehicle that was once intimately intertwined with the lives A all Americans has rapidly receded from view. What was commonplace has grown obscure, even unknown. An abundance of surviving artifacts and documents makes it possible to reconstruct everyday life in the American home of that period in great detail, but information about the railroad car, particularly its early years, is difficult to recover. Early cars were junked when they were condemned as obsolete. Engineering offices systematically discarded old drawings, photographs, and specifications (the historian's enemy is always the fastidious housekeeper). The data that have survived are scattered, incomplete, and occasionally contradictory.
It is the purpose of this book to provide a picture of American railroad passenger cars as they were and as they are now. It will try to answer such basic questions as what they looked like at various periods, how they were made, what materials went into their construction, who made them, how the interiors were arranged, how man of each type were in service, and what they cost. The subject is a complicated one, for the passenger car is the product of many crafts and technologies. Even the day coach evolved into a complex conveyance with a maze of auxiliary machinery and system. Long before steam railroads were envisioned, cabinetmakers, wheelwrights, blacksmiths, upholsterers, foundry workers, drapers, painters, and even silversmiths combined their skills to produce carriages. Some were elegant and light, others plain and rugged. Many were custom-made to suit the buyer's taste or purse. All reflected man's ingenuity in adapting and reshaping natural elements into useful products for human convenience.
Thus the railroad car was born of the established coach maker's tradition. Carpenters and bridge builders soon introduced structural designs that permitted larger cars. In more recent times steelmakers and electrical and aeronautical engineers have contributed their technologies. The evolution of the passenger car has always been dependent on known methods and materials; it has never inspired a major technical breakthrough. Although its progress might be criticized as overly conservative, it has moved forward in a slow but constant series of changes during its 1.50-year development.
In any technical history it is necessary to deal with the origins of important inventions. Establishing who did what becomes a somewhat arbitrary exercise, hut there seems no way to avoid it. Obviously there is little genuine novelty in mechanics, and every inventor has predecessors whose work was close to his. Alexander von Humboldt claimed that an invention goes through three stages: first its existence is doubted, next its importance is denied, and finally the credit is given to someone else.
A more important question about every major invention is when it was accepted into actual practice. The naive assumption of many popular histories is that once an invention is born, it is immediately put into everyday use. Far more often, a sound idea is initially rejected and then reintroduced at a later date. Determining when an innovation became standard practice is extremely difficult because the event was rarely newsworthy; naturally the technical press tends to emphasize new or unusual ideas. It is the plan of this book, however, to trace the popular acceptance of inventions and to concentrate on ordinary standard designs. Novelties and experiments are included, but they are not emphasized.
My main purpose here is to describe the passenger car as a physical object. I have included some information about the economics and history of travel in order to explain the appearance and disappearance of certain types of car-the railway mail car, for example. Also, the general evolution of the passenger car is tied to the growth of the railroad system, since longer trips in turn called for more comfortable cars. And growth brought increasing competition between parallel lines, which courted passengers by introducing such costly luxuries as dining cars and air conditioning. But the reader should not expect a complete discussion of rail travel history, or a description of each class in every railroad's passenger rolling stock.
Some readers may ask why another book on railroad cars should be added to an extensive bibliography which already includes the work of Lucius M. Beebe, Arthur D. Dubin, Robert J. Wayner, and other authorities. Yet the existing books concentrate on name trains and luxury cars, detailing the joys and splendors of first-class travel. It is easy for a reader to forget that the majority of passengers occupied coach seats, ate box lunches, and sat up all night. The more nostalgic literature deals in velvet-smooth rides with sunset vistas of mountain lakes through picture windows. There is no mention of the incessant rattle and clatter, or of the dust and cinders in pre-air-conditioned days. In fact travel by any mode, even by rail, is often a miserable experience, and I have attempted to cover this side of the story as well.
The existing books do not attempt to describe ordinary cars. In addition, they say little about construction, and they ignore design except for the topic of decor. As early as 1894 The Railroad Car Journal pointed out: "Perhaps no branch of the mechanical arts is so poorly supplied with literature as the art of car construction-particularly such as relates to its past history and development." Sixty years would pass before August Mencken's book The Railroad Passenger Car (1957) ventured into these uncharted waters. At that time, railroad historical literature was still confined to the evolution of locomotives and the corporate growth of the railroad companies.
This book emphasizes nineteenth-century developments rather than more recent ones, because the nineteenth century was the formative period when the basic shape, arrangement, and types of car came into being. And whereas little meaningful work is being done on the early period, the trade literature and the increasing number of publications for railroad enthusiasts are abundantly documenting twentieth-century developments.
When I began work on the subject in 1968, the railroad passenger car seemed to be fading into the ranks of antique modes of transportation. Few new cars had been ordered since 1955, and the complete abandonment of long-distance trains seemed inevitable. I felt that I might he writing the preface to the end of passenger car history. But Amtrak was created, and a generous public purse has kept the trains running and has even funded a new generation of cars. The new ones do not materially differ from the established lightweight designs, however, and for this reason I saw no need to go beyond the cutoff date of 1970 which I had originally set.
Most travelers fail to appreciate the passenger train for the miracle it is. In essence it forms a small city on wheels lighting, heating, air conditioning, food services, toil, rooms, a water supply, and sleeping, seating, and lounging for perhaps a thousand people. All these system must be fitted into the cramped spaces available between the side panels under the floor, and in utility closets. Space is at a premium miniaturization a necessity. Dependability, weight, and cost are also crucial factors. Perhaps even more remarkable, ton city on wheels crosses the countryside at 80 mile through all extremes of weather. It is the perfection of able city, a triumph of American technology, that we in the following pages.


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