Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Riding (and building) the rails in style

This photo tagged "William Andrews Clark and family" was grabbed from the Web just to show what a private rail car looked like. Clark was headquartered in Las Vegas, Nev.

I lived in Forest City for a while back in the day --- home of Winnebago recreational vehicles. That tends to give a guy some appreciation for how the beasts are designed and engineered --- all the comforts of home packed at great expense into drivable (or towable) packages. Fight among yourselves about whether or not they're environmental disasters and hazards to those in other vehicles on the road.

Two things always have stood between me and the motor home of my dreams --- money mostly but also the fact I can't back any vehicle larger than a wheelbarrow (a factor of being blind in one eye and general ineptness).

Still, now and then --- like Monday afternoon --- I go online to check out current motor home, trailer and fifth-wheel plans and promotional products just to see what's going on.

And that reminded me of a short article I found the other day in The Chariton Democrat of Sept. 1, 1887, about the luxury RV's predecessor --- private rail cars.

The cars under consideration here were owned by the Fitzgerald & Mallory Construction Co., then building the Denver, Memphis & Altantic rail line across southern Kansas and eastern Colorado. Mallory & Fitzgerald was a partnership between Smith H. Mallory of Chariton and John Fitzgerald of Lincoln, Nebraska, major railroading players in their day.

Home base for this construction project much of the time was Winfield, Kansas, southeast of Wichita, but the cars were used as mobile headquarters for Mallory & Fitzgerald general manager Deming J. Thayer, Mallory's son-in-law. (If interested, you can read more about this interesting and utlimately tragic character here.)

The Mallory and Fitzgerald families also used them, too, and for a time the cars hitchhiked around the Midwest and Plains states to other places, including Chariton, where the company was engaged in business.

Anyhow, here's the newspaper report, first published in The Winfield Courier and then reprinted in The Democrat (owned at the time by Smith H. Mallory).

"The special cars of Mr. D.J. Thayer, General Manager of the Fitzgerald-Mallory Construction Company were in the yards at this place to-day and a Courier reporter had the pleasure of examining them. The first is a kitchen and dining car finished throughout inside in oak, containing cupboards, lockers, refrigerators and everything necessary for the comfort and convenience of a traveler. This car also contains a dining room and sitting room.

"The next car contains two state rooms furnished with folding beds and complete toilet sets. Back of this is Mr. Thayer's office. It is a most elaborate room fitted up for the accommodation of the immense business of the Fitzgerald-Mallory Company which will be transacted enroute.

"The company has already built 450 miles of road and has 150 miles of its contract yet to fnish. Most of this is through country in Colorado where towns and accommodations are lacking and these cars have been built to furnish the management accommodations at the front.

"Their General Manager Thayer is an indefatigable worker and his superior skill as an engineer and manager has been many times demonstrated in the rapid and excellent construction of the D.M. & A. system. They have revolutionized railroad building in the State and have accomplished feats in the line of construction heretofore unknown in the annals of western railroading."

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