The Fort Dodge Messenger: June 19, 1905
Was Greatest Excursion Ever Run From The West
Yesterday’s Excursion to Chicago Truly a Record Breaker.
Many Go From This City
Trains and Equipment Used Finest Ever Run Through The City.
17 Trains Pass Through
On the Entire Excursion Not an Accident to Life or Property Reported – Many Amusing Incidents Occur on Trans and at Depot Platform.
What was, according to men in positions to know, the greatest excursion ever run from the west, passed thru Fort Dodge Saturday. The excursion was the greatest in several ways, having the largest number of passengers drained from one district and in addition having the greatest number of cars and trains.
The number of passengers handled through Fort Dodge Saturday has been variously estimated by different Illinois Central officials in figures ranging from 7,000 to 10,00o. It seem sthat 7,000 would be altogether too small a figure as there were sixteen trains carrying in all over one hundred and ninety cars. Thousands were also picked up east of here.
Figuring that each of these one hundred and ninety cars carried fifty passengers the total would be about 10,000 passengers. To anyone who went through these trains an estimate of fifty passengers to a car would sound ridiculous, for except on the first and last trains, there was not a train on which all the passengers could get a seat.
In some of the trains people were to be seen sitting on bundles between the seats, while on the vestibuled trains, which were in the majority, passengers made seats int he vestibules by putting bundles there and sitting on these. In nearly all of the vestibules passengers were to be found huddled up in this manner trying to sleep on their long journey. On some trains one could not get through the aisles because of people sitting on the floor.
On all trains were cars that had a seating capacity much in excess of fifty people. The Chicago & Alton cars, which numbered ten had each a seating capacity of eight-four (sic) and in every one of these cars there were about one hundred people.
Another instance of the crowded condition of the trains was that on the next to the last train, the space was all taken before the train arrived here so the crew had some of the men go up into the baggage car and there they rode until the train reached Chicago. The baggage man took pity on them and made seats for them by the use of trunks.
300 From Here.
The business handled out of the local station was the heaviest in the history of Fort Dodge. There were three hundred tickets sold from here to Chicago, while three Pullman sleepers were used to handle the Fort Dodge delegation.
Another indication of the magnitude of this excursion is that the Pullman company were unable to furnish enough sleepers to handle the enormous crowd. Fifty-nine tourist sleepers were at first contracted for and as the Pullman company could not furnish any more the road tried to make this number cover the business.
When the applications for berths began to come in the railroad company made an urgent application for more cars. The Pullman company then offered the use of seventeen standard sleepers for the excursion business and then as the demand became more and more urgent others were sent.
Thus a large number of people rode in Pullman standard sleepers, when they only paid for a berth in a tourist car. There was not a berth left in any train, hours before the first evening excursion started. Late orders from different small towns for berths could not be filled and people had to ride in day coaches. One town sent an order for one hundred berths late in the day and the whole lat had to be turned down.
People left behind.
A crowd of over two hundred people who purchased tickets from points on the Omaha line were unable to get seats, or in fact to get on any of the trains from that line and were left behind. The officials on learning of this fact sent other cars west and these passengers were sent east Sunday morning on passenger train No. 4. Wall Lake had about 100 left behind, while Denison had 150.
The excursion took people into Chicago who had never been there before and many had never even traveled before. People who had never traveled much were constantly changing about and the employees were kept on the jump to see that none were injured.
On everyone of these trains was a train crew composed of five men, besides the engine crew. There were two conductors, two brakemen and a baggageman on each train in addition to the engineer and fireman, and not a man had an idle moment from the time he went onto the train until he arrived at the end of his run.
Men Double The Road.
Because of the enormous business handled some of the men doubled that road two and three times that day. Between Fort Dodge and Waterloo some of the men arrived here early in the morning and went east on the earlier excursion, returned here on extras and again went east on the later excursions.
Because of this heavy work nearly all the employes and officials alike were tired out Sunday. The officials were constant in their vigilance and it is due to these hard working men that everything went on smoothly and that there was not even a single passenger hurt on this division. To employes also is due the greatest credit for their masterful way in doing the work. Everything went along smoothly and well and there was not the slightest hitch in any of the work.
Every train had to be switched in the local yards and the Fort Dodge yard force had to be constantly on the jump to keep the trains moving and to save a congestion in these yards. Added to the hard work of keeping the excursion trains moving was the fact that the Minneapolis & St. Louis had trains running into the local station, which also had to be switched and also had to change engines here.
Cars From a Dozen Roads.
The Illinois Central being unable to get anywhere near enough cars of their own to operate the excursion trains got cars from a dozen different other roads. Practically every road that operated excursion trains into Chicago on the same day rented cars to the Central, which showed that the road through here handled by far the heaviest excursions of any and in all probabilities handled as many excursions as all the other roads combined.
Cars used on the excursion trains were drawn from the following roads: The Chicago Great Western, The Chicago & Alton, Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, the Wabash, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Iowa Central, the Minneapolis & St. Louis, the Des Moines, Iowa Falls & Northern, the Northern Pacific, the Southern Pacific, the Union Pacific and the Wisconsin Central.
The equipment used on all trains was the finest ever used on an excursion and was as good as could be desired. The Pullman tourist sleepers were all vestibuled cars and of the latest type, while the Pullman standard sleepers are always considered the best.
The coaches and other cars were also of the finest types. Among the cars were the best that were to be had from the dozen different roads consisting of chair cars, parlor cars, coaches of the high back seat variety and cars with every convenience.
Some of the most elegant cars ever seen in this city were some Illinois Central cars on the last train. These cars were fitted up with chair revolving on pivots. There were two rows of these chairs extending clear thru the cars, and the chairs could be made to face in any direction. The chairs were leather upholstered and were a very easy chair.
Another class of car that was especially worthy of mention was a parlor car with individual chairs. Others were chair cars of the latest design. Still others were cars fitted up with wide windows, the glass being about twice the width of an ordinary car window.
The trains were nearly all solid vestibuled and the traveler could have been as comfortable in any as it was possible to be had it not been for the crowds. The equipment was much superior to any ever sent through this city on an excursion train and in fact was superior to the trains operated through here daily.
The road had to send many more trains east than was first expected. One train from Sioux City was composed entirely of Milwaukee cars which the road had rented when it was first seen that it was impossible to handle the crowds with the equipment then on hand. The road also sent through several other trains with a few Milwaukee cars on each, thus showing that the road that first started the war had not been able to compete with the Central, which threw the bomb into the Western Passenger Association meeting at Chicago, when General Passenger Agent Hanson on finding that the other roads were cutting rates secretly at first exposed their methods and then gave out that his road would allow a $5 rate to Chicago and return from all points as far west as the Missouri river.
The excursion has realized the wildest hopes of the Illinois Central officials. The crowds were altogether unprecedented while the enormous jam of trains was handled over the road without the slightest accident. Every operator on the western lines was kept at work until the last train passed his station.
Trains Kept a Station Apart.
Each train was blocked a station apart, thus ensuring safety. East of Waterloo, the line is all operated under a block system, but even then all trains were blocked a station apart. The force in the dispatcher’s office was increased by competent men and the movement was both speedy and safe.
Several problems developed during the day, one of which was how to supply such crowds with something to eat. The local lunch counter best solved this problem. Here extra help was employed and men went through every train, with lunches and with hot coffee.
The passengers were thus able to get a warm lunch while their train was waiting here. In addition to this the Railway News Company which operates all of the counters as well as handles the newsboys placed “newsies” on each and every train.
The officials of the News company were nearly all concentrated on the western lines of the Central. Two officials were in this city during the day, and heartily applauded the method used in feeding the passengers here. One officials (sic) who handled the eating business during several big excursion rushes made the statement that he had never seen an excursion which was better operated through this city.
Praise for the Road.
He went further in this statement and said he had never seen an excursion when the equipment could be compared with that used by the Central. A compliment of this kind coming from a man who has spent his life in handling excursion crowds was worth a good deal.
The Pullman porters were loud in their complaints of filling the cars to a capacity as it made more work for them and what was even more worse was that many of the people had never traveled before and were ignorant of the methods used in sleeping cars, and furthermore were ignorant of the fact that a tip was due the porter.
One porter on a standard sleeper who was out on this excursion said that had he known where his car was coming he “would have been the sickest man in Chicago” when the car was due to come here. at the time the last train went thru Fort Dodge at 2:30 some of the porters were still working at making up berths as the crowds had come on them so thick they were unable to do anything.
The whole list of porters were about as disgusted a crowd of negroes as was ever seen for the tips given did not amount to over a few dollars, while the work was about ten fold increased.
In addition to the first five trains sent through Fort Dodge during the day time there were eleven during the evening and as these eleven trains were sent through here within a period of five hours it is easy to see that work was plentiful for everyone during that time.
The first five trains were mentioned in Saturday’s Messenger and consisted of fifty cars. The two sections of No. 6 in the afternoon had twelve and ten cars respectively. The people were congregated on every platform in the train and when it pulled out of here they cheered for Fort Dodge.
Sioux City Advertises.
Hundreds of people were congregated on the station platform and retuned the cheers. The demonstration was a great one and every one seemed to be enjoying themselves to the limit. The Sioux City people on these two trains as well as on the other trains sent through later all wore Sioux City badges. On these were inscribed:
“Watch us grow.”
“Chicago’s only rival.”
The first train in the evening was the first section of No. 32 from Omaha. This train went east at 9:16 and consisted of twelve cars. The next five extras went east at 9:55, 10:15, 10:37, 11:00 and 11:35 p.m. respectively and consisted of thirteen, fourteen, twelve, thirteen and eleven cars respectively.
Then came three sections of No. 2, consisting of eleven, eight and fourteen cars respectively and leaving at 11 p.m.; 1:00 and at 1:55 a.m. respectively. Between the first and second sections was run an extra consisting of twelve cars, which left here about 12:30 a.m. At a little before 2:30 am., was run the last section of No. 2 and incidentally the last excursion train. This train consisted of thirteen cars and after it left the city, the Illinois Central officals who had been grouped on the platform slowly left the station and went home to their beds, to dream for some time, of a mass of cars pulling across the station platform and as the cars would pass by, their eyes would slowly become blurred.
The big crowd which had been grouped on the platform all evening also went slowly home, after an evening well spent as it was an amusement to see the mass of people as well as education to see the well disciplined railway forces handling with such an enormous amount of business without an apparent hitch.
Novelty Attracts Crowd.
The crowd was drawn to the depot by the novelty of the excursion, and to see the large number of cars. Others came to see friends or relatives leave while others were drawn there by letters from friends living further west who were to pass thru this city and who would thus be able to see their friends for a few moments.
There were many humorous incidents recorded at the station while there were also some disgusting spectacles, but as a rule the excursionists attended solely to their own business and paid little attention to the crowd on the platform, except to answer any cheers that might be sent up as the trains slowly pulled out from the station.
Among the disgusting sights that met people’s gaze was the sight of ignorant men trying to be funny by the train pulled out. Men who would (be) drinking beer on the car platforms to indulge in such places were not worthy to be called men and it is only justice to the excursionists to say that there were only a few such incidents to be see (sic).
The trainmen had their hands full in trying to keep the people away from the platforms, but they were badly handicapped in this work by the large crowds.
(Editor’s note: Yes, I did note the racial reference in the fourth paragraph under “Praise for the Road.” I had determined when I started this blog to be faithful to the words as they were written. It does bother me, but I’m leaving it in.
The second to last paragraph puzzles me. This is partly because some of the words are mixed up, and it’s very vague. It appears that the disgust is because some men were drinking beer in public. Is that all? Sadly, today you can see people drinking beer in various public venues, such as concerts and so on.)
Tags: 1905, Chicago & Alton, Chicago Burlington & Quincy, Chicago Great Western, Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul, Des Moines Iowa Falls & Northern, Illinois Central, Iowa Central, Minneapolis & St. Louis, Northern Pacific, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, Wabash, Wisconsin Central