September 12, 1998


As the summer of 1998 draws near to its end, and many of us return from vacation wanderings, it might be a good time to look at past travel conditions, say a hundred years ago. Let's make that 99 years; there's no real magic in an even one hundred.

Travellers around the world found the railroads opening new territory in 1899. On February 18th, Canada's White Pass and Yukon Railway reached the summit of Alaska's White Pass. This year would also see the arrival of the iron horse at Daymer Bay in Cornwall, England, and at Abeokuta, Nigeria. Other improvements were in the works. Construction on London's Marylebone Station was completed (despite opposition from the Marylebone Cricket Club) and western timber baron Alexander T. Sullenberger chartered the Rio Grande, Pagosa and Northern Railroad. Here in western New York construction began September 11th on the Rochester & Sodus Bay Railway Company interurban line. Downstate at the north end of Manhattan, New York Central & Hudson River Railroad staff engineer Robert Giles designed the Spuyten Duyvil Improvement, a swing bridge built to carry trains across the Harlem River. If you were planning to travel into or out of New York City on July 20th, you might have had to travel without the latest news and with dirty footwear; bootblacks and newsboys went on strike, eventually winning higher wages. Even so you were better off than anyone still choosing to travel by canal; in the middle of June the Delaware and Hudson Canal was drained and abandoned.

There are rail travelers who enjoy riding the last car on a train, sitting backwards, observing the scenery pulling rapidly away behind them. Bicyclist Charles Murphy did them one better, riding behind a Long Island Railroad train on June 20th, breaking the 60 mph speed barrier for bicycles and earning the nickname "Mile-A Minute" Murphy. In a different sort of adventure, young Winston Churchill, travelling on a British train in the south of Africa to cover the war, had his trip cut short when his train was captured by a Boer reconnoitering party. He'd soon make his escape, also by rail.

Other military travellers were on the move. British troops out of India were being shipped to South Africa in September and October, as war loomed. Another war was winding down. On September 29th Admiral Dewey returned from the Philippines, arriving in New York City to be greeted with a 36-foot-high electric sign reading "Welcome Dewey" mounted atop the Brooklyn Bridge.

Previously, on May 10th, another traveller arrived in Omaha, Nebraska. Fred Austerlitz, born this day, would travel hundreds of miles, on flashing feet and in front of a camera. Young Austerlitz would one day change his last name to Astaire.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor.


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte