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The Atlantic to the Pacific: What to See and How to See it (1873), by John Erastus Lester


Homeward Bound.

Homeward Bound.—Finally leaving San Francisco on June 23, we are soon under full speed towards Sacramento. Having disposed of our traps, we look around to see if all our friends are here. Superintendent Sickels has Grace Greenwood (Mrs. Lippincott), and Joaquin Miller the poet, as guests for the journey. Our car is the directors’ car of the Union Pacific Railroad. It is very large and heavily built, probably weighing more than three ordinary passenger-cars. In one end is a complete kitchen, a range, racks for dishes, an ice-box, a sink, &c.; next, and separated from the kitchen, are sections, two on each side, like the Pullman, which can be transformed into beds at night; next—another partition dividing, and occupying, say, one-third of the car —is the drawing-room, dining-room, and by night a sleeping-room. An extension-table occupies one corner; and on either side is a sofa; and a sideboard upon each side of the door towards the kitchen, above each of which is placed a mirror. Beyond this is another room as large as the kitchen, where is placed the heating apparatus; and on the side is a rack of six rifles, and drawers for ammunition—probably added as a defence against the Indians,—now only required for game of other sorts. There are small and well-appointed toilet-rooms partitioned off; and all the sections are covered with a heavy Brussels carpet. The rear platform is surrounded by a railing, making it a safe place where to sit and observe the country. At night the car is well lighted; and the windows are double, to keep out dust as well as the cold. It rests on many springs; and the trucks have six wheels each, so that ease and comfort are secured. Our stores are ample. Tom Cornish is to act as general manager, while Henry Fouré is to preside in the kitchen; and, as they are well trained in the management of a hotel-car, no doubt we shall be well cared for.

We are again in Sacramento, which has arisen from the devastation of floods and fires, and is to-day probably the handsomest city in the State. As all the railroad grandees live here, of course much has been done by them to make this a centre of various railroad lines, and add material wealth by the establishment of the workshops and car-shops of the Central Company. The streets are wide, the buildings in many instances very fine, the trees and herbage magnificent in their almost tropical luxuriance; and the energy and business enterprise of its citizens very notable. The capitol is to be a grand edifice, a pride of the whole State. The city is growing very fast both in population and wealth; and none of those evidences of overgrowth are seen here, which are so lamentably shown in San Francisco.

Along our journey over the Central we found no new interest, save to notice how successfully the trees and plants had been grown in the lands just about the stations in the great desert, which had been subjected to irrigation. Facts and experience are fast proving that the lands which a few years ago were thought entirely incapable of cultivation can be made to grow many of the usual vegetable products of the West. There were some apple-trees which were growing very finely indeed at Battle-Mountain Station, in soil which had heretofore been pronounced entirely incapable of sustaining plant or tree.

We found good company in a ‘Pullman’ with our train. The second night on the road we arranged a little entertainment in our car, and invited the ladies and gentlemen from the other cars into our improvised music-hall. The exercises consisted principally of recitations, with delineations of the characters by Grace Greenwood; and the name assures the success of the renderings. The young ladies sang for us.

The next morning, at Ogden, we make the usual change of cars, and began our journey on the Union Pacific. It requires some time to make up the train for the East, as all the baggage is changed, as well as the mails and express matter. It would seem that the cars ought to be run through; but I am told that the distance between Omaha and San Francisco is too great to keep a car in continued motion,



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