Follow by Email

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Twins, Separated by 3 Years

The pictures on these two post cards are exactly the same; one isn't even a
copy of the other. Notice the moon in the upper left-hand corner. It has the same cloud shadowing on both cards. The round front of each train are identical; the headlight shines in the same manner. There is nothing extremely obvious that is different from one post card to the other at first glance. I can see two differences: 1) the border on the top one is smaller and darker than the second, and 2) the number and title at the bottom, while the same wording, are in different font size and style. Also, one is a bit lighter than the other - but that could just be age. The top card was mailed in 1911 and the bottom one in 1914. The reason that these two cards are the same is because they were both published by the same company.
On the top post card the publisher's name is very difficult to read because the author of the message went out of the borders. The printing going up the side of the post card reads: "PUBLISHED BY BARKALOW BROS. DENVER, COLO. MADE IN U.S.A." The second post card, however, shows the publisher very clearly. I guess that after 3 years in the publishing business, they made some money, figured they would be around longer and paid to have a logo developed for them. It is the circle in the upper left corner of the bottom card.
The Royal Gorge (also Grand Canyon of the Arkansas) is a canyon on the Arkansas River near Cañon City, Colorado. With a width of 50 feet (15 m) at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a depth of 1,250 feet (380 m) in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep gorge through the granite of Fremont Peak. It is one of the deepest canyons in Colorado. On April 19, 1878, a hastily assembled construction crew from the Santa Fe began grading for a railroad just west of Cañon City in the mouth of the gorge. The D&RG whose end of track was only ¾ of a mile from Canon City raced crews to the same area, but were blocked by the Santa Fe graders in the narrow canyon. By a few hours they had lost the first round in what became a two-year struggle between the two railroads that would be known as the Royal Gorge War. The railroads went to court with each trying to establish their primacy to the right of way. After a long legal battle that ended in the U.S. Supreme Court, on April 21, 1879, the D&RG was granted the primary right to build through the gorge that in places was wide enough at best for only one railroad. On May 7, 1879 the first excursion train traveled through the Royal Gorge after years of court battles between the Denver & Rio Grande and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (AT&SF or Santa Fe) railroads.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Two Birds with One Stone...

This post card shows how the Southern Pacific Railroad solved two challenges with one design. The first, and most obvious is the fact that this engine is not running backwards. The front of the train is to the right, where the cab is. In the northern California routes, especially through the Sierra Nevada mountains, the engineers' lives were being threatened. As the locomotive entered the various tunnels, the smokestack led the way. As they continued through the tunnel there was no place for the smoke and gases to escape. The train crew had to drive right through the heavy pollution, breathe in the poisons and, perhaps succumb to lack of oxygen. The solution to this was to move the cab forward. The fireman, in a coal-fired locomotive, was just below the smokestack rather than behind it; thus, he, too, avoided asphyxiation. The first cab-forward locomotive was delivered in 1908.
The second challenge that is solved in the locomotive shown on this post card was the need for power. Some of the grades the Southern Pacific faced were as much as 2.5%. Getting through the steep grades required either many engines linked together - or this solution. This engine is called a "Mallet" (pronounced mal-ay); it was invented by a Swiss (think lots of mountains) engineer Anatole Mallet who lived from 1837 to 1919. A Mallet engine has one boiler that is connected to two sets of driving cylinders; this is also called an articulated engine. What makes this a Mallet engine is that the steam goes through one set of cylinders (rear) at high pressure, the exhaust from those cylinders is at a lower pressure, but strong enough to still be used in the second set of cylinders (front set) before it is sent out the exhaust.

Again, this is an Edward Mitchell post card as indicated by the back of the post card.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Water Just Disappears!

I grew up in Arizona so I know how unforgiving the desert can be. The river to the right of this train as it passes through Palisade Canyon in the desert of north-central Nevada, USA certainly looks full and flowing. Never mind being part of the easy route for building the transcontinental railroad,
the beauty of this canyon in the desert should be enough to choose this route. The river that the train tracks follow is called the Humboldt River. It was named in 1845 by John Fremont. The river starts north of Wells, Nevada and flows westward to Lovelock, 530 kilometers (330 miles) away. It has the distinction of being the longest river that begins and ends within the boundaries of one state. But, it you add the winding, wandering, twisting and turning path through the state it could be twice as long.
Early explorers, settlers and empire builders took advantage of the Humboldt River, each in their own way. It was discovered by Peter Ogden (think Ogden Utah and the Ogden Route of the Southern Pacific) in 1828 while he was exploring for the Hudson's Bay Company; their trappers took beavers from the waters of the Humboldt. The settlers that followed the Overland Trail to California would have probably rejoiced at the cools waters in their trek through the desert. The builders of the Transcontinental Railroad used the path of the Humboldt River to get through northern Nevada on their way to Utah.
The Humboldt River, unlike so many other rivers, does NOT flow into the ocean. It slowly loses all its water to evaporation in what is called the Humboldt Sink. The United States Geological Survey suggests that Palisade Canyon is the point where the river's flow ceases to increase and begins to decrease. The back of the card that you see here, below:
is the typical back of the post card printed by Edward Mitchell of San Francisco. I have written about him in many past blogs, so I will save you the verbiage here. Suffice it to say that the company was a major printer and publisher of view-cards depicting scenes throughout the American West. They temporarily moved to Clay Street when their Post Street office was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, but they later went on to set up a factory on Army Street. Even though they developed a number of their own unique techniques to print their cards like the Mitchell Photo-Chrome Process, many cards were also contracted out to other printers. Likewise they printed postcards for a number of other publishers.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

It's a Heritage Railroad Today

This train line through Niles Canyon near Oakland, California, was part of the Transcontinental Railroad. It was eventually abandoned by the Southern
Pacific Railroad. Today, it is a heritage railroad.
The tracks were laid by the first Western Pacific Railroad Company (formed in 1862 - there was another one formed in 1903). They started construction from San Jose towards Sacramento. They built twenty miles of track that reached into Alameda Creek canyon in 1866. The first passenger excursion entered the canyon on October 2nd of that year. In September, 1869, four months after the famous golden spike ceremony at Promontory Summit, Utah, the Central Pacific Railroad completed the transcontinental rail link between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay, finishing the track through the canyon. The Central Pacific had acquired the Western Pacific and other local railroads and built track to connect them at a waterfront terminal at Alameda Point. The Central Pacific constructed a freight terminal at the west end of the canyon and a town quickly sprang up around it. The town was named for Addison C. Niles, a prominent judge and former railroad attorney. The Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the Central Pacific and slowly, over many decades, finally abandoned this part of their line through the canyon. They gave the right of way to Alameda County. Then, on May 21, 1988, almost 122 years after the first Western Pacific excursion, the Pacific Locomotive Association brought railroad passenger operations back to life in Niles Canyon. Presently, Niles Canyon Railway provides train rides to the public year-round between Sunol, California and Niles in Fremont, California. The above information is gleaned from:

The former Southern Pacific route from Oakland to Tracy via Niles Canyon is now abandoned, except for the portion from Sunol to Niles Station operated by the heritage railway known as the Niles Canyon Railway. This line was the original westernmost section of the First Transcontinental Railroad from Sacramento to San Francisco Bay (by way of Stockton and the Altamont Pass). It was completed in September 1869 by the Western Pacific Railroad (1862-1870), but lost its transcontinental traffic in 1879 to a shorter route through Benicia. The Southern Pacific tracks in Niles Canyon are on the north side of the canyon. Southern Pacific, being the first railroad in the canyon, chose the best route. The Union Pacific Railroad (formerly Western Pacific Railroad) has an active mainline on the south side of the canyon. The Altamont Corridor Express runs along this line on weekdays. This information was taken from Wikipedia.

This post card
continues the Edward Mitchell series (though not on purpose on my account) of post cards in this blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

I blogged about this place - Shasta Springs - back on April 19, 2014; but, there was a different post card picture featured then. It was published by the Newman Post Card Company. These two post cards were both printed by Edward Mitchell out of San Francisco - just like the post card from last week's blog. These both show the very popular tourist spot in northern California, Shasta Springs. In the late 1800s and early 1900s people used to flock to a summer resort on the Sacrament River for their health and enjoyment. It was so popular that the Southern Pacific Railroad built a train station for those who were going to disembark there. It was near the small town of Dunsmuir, California whose population came in at 1,650 in the 2010 census. Dunsmuir is where the Southern Pacific makes a couple of wicked hairpin turns to get up the river valley.

The resort closed in the early 1950s when it was sold and continues to be owned by the Saint Germain Foundation, and is used as a major facility by that organization (you can look up this organization on Wikipedia). It is no longer open to the public and the lower part of the resort - the bottling plant, the train station, the incline railway, the kiosk and the fountains are all gone. The falls that were visible from the railroad tracks and what ruins are left of the lower part of the resort are all overgrown by blackberry bushes.

Here is what the back of the post cards look like - a typical Edward Mitchell look. The bottom post card has a very short message written on it. According to this article, that message is not so innocent....
In the spring of 1909, American popular song got sexy. Of course, love and courtship, and by extension sex, had been Topic A in pop music for decades. But while songwriters had long trafficked in euphemisms and innuendo—coy talk of “sighing” and “spooning” beneath the old oak tree and by the light of the silvery moon—it was a 1909 hit by composer Harry Von Tilzer and lyricist Jimmy Lucas, “I Love, I Love, I Love My Wife—But Oh! You Kid!,” which opened Tin Pan Alley to brasher, bawdier, more raucously comic songs of lust. The comment written upside down and on a slant on the back of this post card is ......... "Oh, you kid."

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Now Begins the Hard Part!

I wonder if the post card was trying to show the train or show what a
passenger could see while on the train. It is a view from Cape Horn looking at the American River in northern California (about 100 kilometers - 60 miles - from Sacramento). Many times the train would actually stop and let the passengers off so that they could admire the scenery and the view. While the notes on the front of this post card tell us that this view is on the "Ogden Route, S.P.R.R." (top right-hand corner of the front), this section of rail was actually built by the Central Pacific Railroad as part of the Transcontinental Railroad. Part of this article in tells us that "By September 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad had extended east from Sacramento as far as Camp 20, which was later renamed Colfax. The real assault on the Sierra Nevada began here. Colfax became a staging area for construction further uphill. Beyond Colfax, construction began in August 1865, with much of the basic work to Dutch Flat completed by year's end. Major obstacles remained at Long Ravine, Secret Ravine, and Cape Horn. Trestles bridged the ravines, but Cape Horn loomed forebodingly. At Cape Horn, aided by a veritable army of Chinese laborers, railroad engineers carved a roadbed around the steep peninsula high above the American River canyon. Construction took a year. More than 300 Chinese workers fell to their deaths in the process. This next article tells us that the "rumour" about Chinese labourers being lowered down in wicker baskets to do the drilling and dynamiting was exactly that - a RUMOUR. There is no truth in the matter. In 1885 the Central Pacific Railroad was purchased by the Southern Pacific. This post card is definitely from after that year!!

The post card was printed and published by Edward H. Mitchell. He was a prolific post card printer, owning several printing companies in the San Francisco area. This back of the post card is very typical of what one of the backs of his post cards looked like.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

California, Here I Come!

It is hard to tell from the picture on the front of this post card, but I think the locomotive is a "Ten Wheel" or 4-6-0 wheel configuration style of engine. The first of this style of locomotive was built in 1847 for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad by the Norris Brothers. This locomotive is parked in front of the new Southern Pacific depot in Santa Barbara, California. The following information can be found at After the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Coast Line in 1901, making it possible for passengers to travel uninterrupted from Los Angeles to San Francisco, rail excursions became popular. The increased rail traffic, however, necessitated larger facilities in Santa Barbara. When the railroad realigned the local tracks in 1905, it also built a new passenger depot, the fourth to be constructed in the city since 1887, when the railroad first arrived. A local architect, Francis W. Wilson, active here from the 1890s to the early years of the 20th century, was engaged to do the new building. The Mission Revival style was selected so that the depot would “conform in general style to the Mission Architecture so appropriate and so popular in Southern California.” The station was sited to allow passengers and their escorts easy arrival and departure by way of State or Chapala streets.
The back of the post card only tells me that it was published between 1907 and 1915; it is from the Divided Back era of post cards. It is representative of the fact that the United States Postal Service finally allowed more than only the address on the back of the picture. You can see that there is a reminder that the message goes on the left and the address is to be written on the right-hand side of the back of the post card. I have looked in many places to see if there is any history on the publisher, California Sales Co. out of San Francisco. So far nothing!!!
I do know that it was published to promote the Southern Pacific Railroad. The theme "ON THE ROAD OF A THOUSAND WONDERS" was used by the Southern Pacific on many, many post cards.