Although she now lives on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Kaki grew up in the Southwest and is a proud graduate of the University of Texas. Her years spent riding horses and enjoying the expansive vistas of Texas became the inspiration for the backdrop of her first novels—the wide-open spaces of historic New Mexico Territory.
Kaki and her husband Joe now live in a hilltop cabin overlooking the scenic Methow Valley in Washington where Kaki spends her time gardening, hiking, reading, writing, and soaking in the view from the deck with her husband and floppy-eared hound dog. Sounds ideal, no?
Long before Kaki and I met and became fast friends at a writer's conference in Seattle last year, I was a fan of her wonderful Western romances. She brings the West to life along with some endearing heroes and heroines. Warner’s Pieces of Sky, book 1 in the Blood Rose trilogy won the RITA award for Best First Book, a real achievement.
Her latest books from the Runaway Brides trilogy feature scenes where the characters ride on the Transcontinental Railroad. Kaki tells me she got the idea for the railroad connection from her husband who is a “railroad freak.” Well, so am I, and I can’t wait to hear what she has to say as she talks 19th century train travel!
Train Travel After the Transcontinental Railroad
Good morning! And thank you, Regan, for inviting me to help celebrate Western Historical Romance month on your blog!
But when I wrote Bride of the High Country—wherein the fiancée of a railroad mogul flees their wedding with a valise full of stolen railroad certificates—I wanted my characters to travel in style—i.e. Pullman Palace Cars.
Ah, the beautiful scenery and fresh air. If only you could see out of the soot-streaked windows or breathe through the billowing smoke wafting back from the locomotive. Still, it was faster than a three-month trip by wagon. Plus, you got to shoot at stuff from the rear platforms as you careened along at ten, twenty, or even thirty miles an hour. What a treat!
FACT: Each Pullman Car was owned and operated by the Pullman Company (not the railroad), and was serviced by a white-jacketed ex-slave universally named “George” in deference to his employer, George Pullman.
The West would have been a vastly different place without the influence of the railroads. For one thing, they offered incentives (like cheap land) to encourage people to settle along the right-of-ways (which had been granted to the railroads at no charge by the government), thereby building a permanent market for the goods they were hauling.
FACT: In constructing the Transcontinental, Irish immigrants laid tracks west from Nebraska, while Chinese workers came east out of Sacramento—and they arrived at the EXACT SAME SPOT at Promontory Summit! Amazing! And the Chinese laborers (mostly farmers imported by the Central Pacific) later contributed to the development of the California vineyards and the highly productive farmland in the Central Valley.
ANOTHER FACT: The standard width between rails was determined by the Romans when they built stone roads in England. Four feet, eight-and-a-half inches was the width between the wheels of a two-horse chariot. Over time, those wheels wore such deep grooves into the stone that later wagon-makers had to space their wheels to fit them. Then somebody figured wheels roll easier metal-on-metal, so they laid down metal-capped wooden rails, put flanged, metal-treaded wheels on their horse-drawn wagons, and soon coal was rolling out of Newcastle at record rates. And all because of the width of two horses’ asses pulling an old Roman chariot. Who knew?
So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about the joys and hazards of riding the rails west. Here’s my question for you: Have you ever taken a cross-country train trip or slept in a Pullman? Would you do it again?