Question for the old timers

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dcwldct

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
16
I am not personally old enough to remember the pre-Amtrak days, and I am a little bit curious as to the practicalities of travel back then. Specifically, I was wondering how one would handle booking tickets that required journeys on multiple railroads. If I wanted to get from NYP to LAX in 1950 could I call up the Pensy reservations office and have them book my connection to a western railroad on my behalf? Or would I have to call each relevant railroad independently? Was there any such thing as a guaranteed connection between different companies?

I have bought rail tickets in the UK that involved segments on multiple carriers, but that was still through national rail.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,553
The originating road would handle it for you, if you desired, including the RR Transfer Service ticket in Chicago if necessary...
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
262
I am not personally old enough to remember the pre-Amtrak days, and I am a little bit curious as to the practicalities of travel back then. Specifically, I was wondering how one would handle booking tickets that required journeys on multiple railroads. If I wanted to get from NYP to LAX in 1950 could I call up the Pensy reservations office and have them book my connection to a western railroad on my behalf? Or would I have to call each relevant railroad independently? Was there any such thing as a guaranteed connection between different companies?

I have bought rail tickets in the UK that involved segments on multiple carriers, but that was still through national rail.
The originating railway usually arranged the entire trip. That could require a lot of work, which was one of the reasons for city center ticket offices, rail ticket offices at military bases, etc. Usually the agents in those sites were knowledgeable about common connections and gateway cities (such as Chicago, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans). If you were lucky they also knew some obscure routings -- in 1967 I obtained around 1500 miles of free travel added to a PDX-STL round-trip -- due to the knowledge of the NP city ticket office agent in Portland.

Here's what was provided in '67 for $99.75 round-trip, plus a $1.50 seat reservation charge:

Portland - SP&S - Pasco - NP - Minneapolis - CB&Q - Chicago stopover - IC - St. Louis destination - GM&O - Chicago - CMStP&P - St. Paul - NP - Hawley - NP - Winnipeg - CN - Edmonton stopover - CN - Vancouver, BC - GN - Seattle - UP pool - Portland. My suitcase followed the same route, so a customs agent had to walk over to Portland Union Station to inspect my dirty laundry.

This was easier to set up than it looks, as most of the links were unreserved coach.

Connections were a patchwork. Some, as in Portland north-south, would be held for delayed arrivals. On the other hand, an SP&S engineer on Train 1 testified that he often saw the rear marker lights of the SP Shasta Daylight when he missed the 35-minute connection. The SP would depart punctually and then be held at Millersburg to wait for a piggyback train. Most tickets could be used on later trains, but rebooking reserved sleeper, parlor or coach space could be a hassle. Travel insurance could help.

Until the mid-1960's the consequences of missing a connection were usually not as severe as today, because there were more trains. On the other hand, the following train often was handling mail and express and making intermediate stops, which angered some customers. A good ticket agent also knew which routings included Union Stations and good back-up connections for novices; for example, PDX - CHI - NYP would connect best to the Pennsy in Chicago Union Station, with the premiere Pennsy trains in the afternoon followed by two more trains that evening.
 

JRR

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 17, 2017
Messages
912
I am not personally old enough to remember the pre-Amtrak days, and I am a little bit curious as to the practicalities of travel back then. Specifically, I was wondering how one would handle booking tickets that required journeys on multiple railroads. If I wanted to get from NYP to LAX in 1950 could I call up the Pensy reservations office and have them book my connection to a western railroad on my behalf? Or would I have to call each relevant railroad independently? Was there any such thing as a guaranteed connection between different companies?

I have bought rail tickets in the UK that involved segments on multiple carriers, but that was still through national rail.
That is a good question. I used to ride the train back and forth from Powers, Michigan to Cincinnati when in college.. The train from Powers to Chicago was the Chicago & Northwestern and the train from Chicago to Cincinnati was the "James Whitcomb Riley" which I believe was the Illinois Central. You had to change stations in Chicago.

I can't recall the ticketing situation. I don't recall anything special In Cincinnati or Powers re tickets. I suppose one got two tickets but the were bought from the same place ( ticket booth or window) but nothing special because of different railroad being involved.

I guess it is possible that I bought each ticket separately at each station but I don't actually recall doing so.

Hopefully, someone else will have a better memory!
 

jiml

OBS Chief
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
708
I remember multi-page handwritten tickets even on Amtrak. A regular route for our family "back in the day" was Toronto > Hammond-Whiting (International) > Philadelphia (Broadway) or Washington (Capitol) > Florida (Silver). This was a 4-page ticket for each direction x 4 people. It was very tough to get VIA to do it - they'd just refuse, so we often drove to Buffalo (Depew) months before travel, where it seemed to be no problem as long as a train was not due.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,553
That is a good question. I used to ride the train back and forth from Powers, Michigan to Cincinnati when in college.. The train from Powers to Chicago was the Chicago & Northwestern and the train from Chicago to Cincinnati was the "James Whitcomb Riley" which I believe was the Illinois Central. You had to change stations in Chicago.

I can't recall the ticketing situation. I don't recall anything special In Cincinnati or Powers re tickets. I suppose one got two tickets but the were bought from the same place ( ticket booth or window) but nothing special because of different railroad being involved.

I guess it is possible that I bought each ticket separately at each station but I don't actually recall doing so.

Hopefully, someone else will have a better memory!
You arrived at “North Western Station”, now Ogilvie Transportation Center. Then you would go across town to Central Station on the lakefront, and catch the New York Central’s (former Big Four Route) “James Whitcomb Riley”, which began its trip on trackage rights over the Illinois Central until diverting to its own rails just north of Kankakee.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,553
Even on through trains, every railroad had to have its own ticket coupon.
So, if taking the City of San Francisco or California Zephyr from Chicago to Oakland, you would need 3 coupons each way (C&NW or MILW , UP, SP, or, CB&Q, D&RGW, WP). Of course, if you were taking the San Francisco Chief, then “Santa Fe, all the way”, meant just one coupon. There was also a coupon for the ferry or bus ride across the bay...
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
18,969
Good info from these posts!;)

I remember as a boy the handwritten tickets and the coupons that the Class Is issued.

Also the ads for the various Roads actually gave you an actual Reservation Person's Name and address to write in to and make Reservations for your LD Sleeping Car Trips.

The only Roads I didnt have Coupons for different Roads on my LD Trips were The Santa Fe, "Santa Fe All the Way!" to California from Chicago( Super Chief) and the SPbetween San Antonio and LAX( Sundet Ltd) and the short trips between West Texas stops and El Paso.( Locals)

I also remember the friendly Conductors,OBS and Engineers that used to really be friendly to Kids up until the 60s when the "Run 'em off/Train off Days" began. Several times I was invited to ride in the Cab of both Steamers and Diesels on the SP.( my Grandfather was a 40 year SP Hand)
 
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JRR

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 17, 2017
Messages
912
You arrived at “North Western Station”, now Ogilvie Transportation Center. Then you would go across town to Central Station on the lakefront, and catch the New York Central’s (former Big Four Route) “James Whitcomb Riley”, which began its trip on trackage rights over the Illinois Central until diverting to its own rails just north of Kankakee.
You are exactly correct. Thanks for the jog to my memory! I remember having around four hours between train and my sister and I would walk over to the museums from the Central Station.

Thanks for the correction.
 

Palmland

OBS Chief
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
757
Somewhere I have a photo holding my tickets for a round trip on the L&N/C&EI/CB&Q/DRGW/UP/C&EI/L&N that reaches from chest high to the floor. In those days there were tickets for the rail portion as well as Pullman accommodations. While that was fun, today’s tickets on your phone is certainly more convenient.

But, progress hasn’t happened for those making the Chicago to Cincinnati trip discussed. NYC’s James Whitcomb Riley made the trip in 6’40” (including behind steam until mid 50’s) while the Cardinal takes 9’30”. What a shame that route was largely abandoned and we now have the convoluted route that is slow and unreliable.
 

dcwldct

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
16
Somewhere I have a photo holding my tickets for a round trip on the L&N/C&EI/CB&Q/DRGW/UP/C&EI/L&N that reaches from chest high to the floor. In those days there were tickets for the rail portion as well as Pullman accommodations. While that was fun, today’s tickets on your phone is certainly more convenient.

But, progress hasn’t happened for those making the Chicago to Cincinnati trip discussed. NYC’s James Whitcomb Riley made the trip in 6’40” (including behind steam until mid 50’s) while the Cardinal takes 9’30”. What a shame that route was largely abandoned and we now have the convoluted route that is slow and unreliable.
It's such a shame too given how nice the station in Cincinnati is. My wife went to graduate school at Xavier and only once did I take the cardinal to get there to visit her. The timings are just awful and the lack of daily service really limits your options.
 

Willbridge

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
262
Another oddity of ticketing was optional honoring agreements. As with optional routings, in pre-computer days these were useful, but required knowledgeable ticket clerks. In computer days (like today) there is less chance of finding such a set-up.

My favorite: the Pacific Northwest Circle ticket. This was an actual tariff for PDX - SEA - SPK - PDX or reverse. BUT when I made the trip in 1966, there were three of these: Pool - GN - SP&S, Pool - NP - SP&S and Pool - Milwaukee Road - UP. The Olympian Hiawatha had been gone for a decade, but the tariff had not been deleted. However, the Milwaukee had signed a ticket honoring agreement with the GN to accept Milwaukee Road tickets between common points; mostly to accommodate stray passengers who held return tickets for travel after the Hiawatha was withdrawn. I wanted to make the scenic UP Spokane > Portland trip in daylight, so I braced myself for a controversy. I wish that I had a photo of the GN conductor's double-take when I presented the 'foreign' ticket. In my head I was repeating the famous words ("In case of dispute with conductor, pay fare requested and communicate with Accounting Department..."), but he decided to take a chance and accept what was likely the last straggler from the Hiawatha. That left me enough cash for a day round-trip out of Spokane with the NP Youth Fare on the Mainstreeter to Paradise and then the next day I joined a small group of passengers on the dramatic route of the UP Spokane - Hinkle mixed. [It fed the westbound Idahoan and the eastbound City of Portland.]

The SP had a ticket-honoring agreement with Pacific Greyhound Lines (they had a big share of PGL stock and it was their go-to replacement for branch line passenger trains). This carried over into the early days of Amtrak. My wife and I would ride from Salem to Portland on Saturday, and as there was no train on Sunday we would return on GL. The round-trip rail fare was less than a one-way rail plus a one-way bus ticket and we never had a problem with the Amtrak ticket being accepted.

Then Amtrak signed a nationwide ticket-honoring agreement with Continental Trailways. The CT last trip of the evening left Portland for Salem and points south after the last GL trip, which we missed for some reason. When the CT driver checked my Amtrak ticket, he stopped the boarding process and marched me into the ticket counter. The agent said that I had to go over to the GL station and take their wee hours bus. I stood my ground and when someone higher up came, they found a legal form designed for people who had lost their ticket. I filled it out, swearing an oath that I would reimburse CT if necessary. And then we got underway for the 45-mile trip. After that, I carried a Xerox copy of the tariff announcement on our weekenders, but never had to ride that trip again.
 
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