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View Full Version : Jim Crow laws, trains, and "equal" conditions



Barb D
10-09-2009, 07:35 PM
I'm trying to find out what conditions actually were like on "whites only" and "coloreds only" train cars at the beginning of the 20th century. I gather that they were separate and not truly equal, but I can't find any descriptions of what the trains were actually like, other than that the "coloreds" car was typically older and dirtier and got hit by more smoke and cinders since it was closer to the engine. Anybody know of any resources?

Also, I've looked all over for pictures of the signs on the train cars, but haven't found any.

I've posted an excerpt on the Historical SYW board if anyone cares to comment. I'm trying to find out if it sounds accurate enough, and also trying to make sure it would not be offensive in any way.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4129715#post4129715

jclarkdawe
10-09-2009, 08:50 PM
I'm trying to find out what conditions actually were like on "whites only" and "coloreds only" train cars at the beginning of the 20th century. I gather that they were separate and not truly equal, but I can't find any descriptions of what the trains were actually like, other than that the "coloreds" car was typically older and dirtier and got hit by more smoke and cinders since it was closer to the engine. Anybody know of any resources?

Also, I've looked all over for pictures of the signs on the train cars, but haven't found any.

I've posted an excerpt on the Historical SYW board if anyone cares to comment. I'm trying to find out if it sounds accurate enough, and also trying to make sure it would not be offensive in any way.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4129715#post4129715

I don't know anything about segregated trains, but the underlined section makes no sense. Because of the dynamics involved, the closer you are to the locomotive, the smoother the ride. At speed, the smoke and cinders would be coming down fairly far down the track.

Normal long distance passenger train would be baggage car/railway post office, livestock (if being hauled -- horses were more important than the people), sleeping cars/first class, diner car, coach (2nd class), private car if hauled. Private cars were put on the end so that no one had to walk through them, not because of the wonderful ride. This is still the formula used today, although some cars are no longer used.

There are all sorts of exceptions, like for some periods the Boston sleeper for the Lake Shore Limited (NYC to Chicago) would go on the end as it was switched off the train in Albany.

You can feel the sway difference on a lot of commuter rails that use double level cars when they are in pull mode. Riding in the last car usually is a lot worse than the first car (depends also on the ride quality of the cars).

I'd suggest contacting TRAINS magazine (TRAINS Magazine - Trains News Wire, Railroad News, Railroad ... (http://www.trainsmag.com/)). They have a lot of resources and pictures.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

underthecity
10-09-2009, 09:37 PM
I know a man who has written books on railroad history, and he's an authority figure on trains. He would know. I can give you his email if you want it.

Barb D
10-09-2009, 10:48 PM
I know a man who has written books on railroad history, and he's an authority figure on trains. He would know. I can give you his email if you want it.

That would be awesome.

Jim, I went to your website and didn't find anything there. Thanks for the suggestion!

jclarkdawe
10-09-2009, 11:36 PM
That would be awesome.

Jim, I went to your website and didn't find anything there. Thanks for the suggestion!

I'm sorry I didn't make myself clearer. Ask them your question. They have the most extensive book library on the US railroad system in the world. And they're very helpful. (I think your question has been asked before in their magazine.)

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

SirOtter
10-11-2009, 07:20 AM
I can't answer your question, which appears to have been covered pretty well, but I am old enough to remember separate water fountains at the Alabama train station where I disembarked every summer in the early to mid 1960s when I went to visit my grandmothers. I'd like to think we're past that sort of nonsense. I'd like to think that.

johnnysannie
10-12-2009, 03:23 PM
Like the above post, this doesn't relate to train car conditions or the original question but I can recall seperate water fountains through most of the 1960's
in some regions that were not what I would call equal. Same thing for public restrooms; I recall one for men, one for women, and a third - usually in a far worse location and not kept up - for "colored" used for both genders.