A Whole Nation on Wheels.


The Story of the Seven Hundred Million Railroad Passengers
Who Pay $456,000,000 Yearly for the Privilege of Traveling
Twenty-Two Billion Miles in the Land of Unrest.

AMERICA is the land of travel. Nowhere else in the world are people so constantly on the wing. Whether it is business or pleasure, the search for health or the seeking for change, the need of rest or the feeling of restlessness, over eighty million men, women, and children are constantly on the move. The twenty-two billion miles that were traveled on railroad trains in this country last year meant that seven hundred million passengers traveled an average of thirty miles each, or very nearly two hundred and seventy-five miles for every person in the United States. The amount of money paid to the railroads yearly for the privilege of riding about the country is nearly double the total annual revenues of all the governments of South America.

To carry and care for this great army of travelers, another army of trainmen, engineers, firemen, conductors, brakemen, ticket-agents, despatchers, track-walkers, and members of the thousand and one other callings that make up the railroad world is enlisted. Speed with safety is the constant cry of the "nation on wheels," and every energy of the men who rule or serve in the empire of steam is bent to meet the demand.

The result is that we travel in almost as great comfort and safety as though we sat quietly at home. We are fed, shaved, bathed, and amused as we speed across the country at fifty miles an hour. If we wish to read, libraries and periodicals are at our disposal. Games are ready to amuse us. Note-paper is at hand for the letters we would write. At night we sleep as quietly and deeply in our berths as though in our own homes, and at the journey's end we look back with nothing but pleasant recollections, whether it has been across a State or across the Continent.

THE most restless nation is the one having the most extended facilities for the transportation of its people by rail. That nation is America. The sleeping nations are those with little or no railroad mileage. All Asia, with only 40,000 miles of railways, is restful, content to squat on one spot. That nation is awake, progressive, rich, powerful, enlightened whose transportation facilities are the best and most far-reaching. The United States, with 220,000 miles of single track - one-half the total railway mileage of the world - is impatient of remaining long in the same place. As opportunity begets the man, so the very existence of our railways inspires a national desire for travel. The Southern Pacific Railroad pierced the American desert; whereupon the American people began crossing that desert at the rate of 150,000 a year. The Southern negro worked steadily enough until the railroad came his way, with trains spreading broadcast the germ of the white man's disease of railroaditis - a fever, specifically a mania impelling the victim to go somewhere by rail, even if he return the same day. It is the fever to do something. It is in the blood of us, as malaria, the fever to do nothing, is in the blood of people south of the Rio Grande; it is part of the general uneasiness in this land of unrest.

The railroad has reformed the stay-at-homes. There's a new depot at the four- corners - the farmer rushes to the city. Thirty thousand boys and girls from the rural districts came into New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston last year. A cheap excursion to Niagara - people spend their last cent to go. People pay the railroads $25,000,000 annually to travel to the Falls and $100,000,000 to get to Broadway. Railroaditis is incurable. No victim of that malady wants to be freed from its symptoms, for it is itself a cure for a worse disorder - restlessness. It is said that even the tramp, 8,000 of him, rode on the trucks of railways last year to attend an annual meeting of his kind on an island of the Mississippi, in Louisiana.

Two Million Passengers a Day.

The railroad train, then, is responsible for nine-and-ninety per cent of the unrest that pervades this nation. There are 7,000 such trains at this moment speeding over the tracks that gridiron the land or entraining or detraining passengers at certain of the 45,000 railway stations that dot our geography. What restlessness is represented by the 488,000 wheels whirling under the 35,000 cars and their 7,000 locomotives in use to-day!

Let us see exactly what this restlessness means in its material and visible form, this visible gratifying of the national mania for motion, this concrete response to the necessity for change, this tangible expression of the instinct to go, to come, to flit, this proof of a delirium that abates only "on the road." Know you that to-day, as you read this, 2,000,000 passengers are riding the rail, hither, thither, with 250,000 pieces of baggage? Two million passengers! In Indian file they would form a line reaching from Jersey City to Jacksonville, Florida. It is as if all the people of Philadelphia, or all the inhabitants of Saint Louis, Boston, Baltimore, and Cincinnati were to-day passengers on railways speeding through all our States and Territories.

Two million passengers does not mean, of course, 2,000,000 different persons; for that would mean that one in each forty of our population is to-day en routefor some point by rail. Not so. Each commuter, for example, counts for two passengers - a passenger into the city in the morning and a passenger out to his suburban home in the dewy eve. Here is where your local passenger counts. He travels in the proportion of ninety-five to each hundred passengers. So that to-day. out of the 2,000,000 passengers, only 100,000 are through passengers - all the others are classified as "local traffic." As each commuter counts for two passengers, he would, in a month, count for, say, fifty of the sixty million passengers who will ride 1,800,000,000 miles on railways during the period this magazine is for sale on the cars. And during a year that same commuter would be counted as 600 of the 716,000,000 passengers carried in our steam-hauled chariots.

That vast number - 716,244,858, to be exact - is the total of passengers that patronized railroads in the United States last year; a number equal to the entire population of the two most densely crowded countries of the earth - China and India. A little figuring will show that the 2,000,000 given as the number of passengers on the road to-day is the average daily travel based on a year's traffic, though the exact number may be more or less according to conditions on the particular day.

Sixty million miles is the aggregate of the railway mileage our 2,000,000 passengers will cover to-day. This is an average of thirty miles each, or a total distance equal to that of 2,200 trips around the equator. In a year, therefore, this restless nation travels the inconceivable distance of twenty-two billions of miles - 22,174,139,000 miles last year. Running sixty miles an hour, the Empire State Express would take 44,000 years to cover that distance.

$1,200,000 Paid Daily in Fares.

In hard cash, our 2,000,000 passengers of to-day will pay the railroads $1,200,000, which figure naturally represents the average daily income of the railroads from passenger traffic. In a year - last year, for example - the restless nation paid to railroads $456,000,000 - and that stupendous amount of cash came merely from the average charge of two cents a mile.

Some kind of a ticket is held by each of the 2,000,000 passengers this day on the road. All those tickets, placed end to end in a strip, would reach from New York to a point ten miles beyond Philadelphia, a distance of 100 miles. The tickets are sold by 40,000 station and ticket agents and are collected by 7,000 conductors. Agents and conductors together, marching in lock-step, would make a line twenty-eight miles long.

In the proportion of nine to each mile of single track the mighty legion of passengers on railroads to-day (almost equal in number to all the Northern soldiers enlisted in the four years of the Civil War) is distributed over the railway mileage. At the same time six railway employees are looking to the safety and comfort of the nine passengers on each track mile.

Where the Travelers Come From.

The year's passenger traffic is distributed over the mileage in the proportion of 3,200 to each mile of single track, the center of density of traffic varying with the day, the season, or the event. For instance, in the carnival season in the South, when 100,000 persons are set down by the railroads in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras, the center of density of Southern traffic is, of course, in Louisiana. Right after the holidays Florida becomes the center of Southern travel, when a quarter of a million passengers are carried in and out of that State in a month.

Then there's the traffic at the great terminals, which are also central points of departure. At the Pennsylvania terminal at Jersey City 25,000,000 passengers arrive and depart each year, and 20,000,000 at the Grand Central Station in New York. Altogether 500,000 non-residents pour into New York and out again in the course of each weekday in the year, 250,000 coming from New Jersey alone.

A number of passengers equal to the population of the United States twice over is carried by railroads in New York State alone. In the harvesting season in the Middle West, 100,000 harvest-hands are carried in and out again. In summer 1,000,000 passengers are railroaded to and from Saratoga, and between Easter and Labor Day 3,000,000 passengers are carried in and out of Atlantic City. The Maine woods get 40,000 during a short season. A national encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic makes 200,000 railroad passengers, and a Chautauqua Assembly 50,000.

Passengers Who Travel Early and Often.

Again, in accounting for the enormous passenger traffic, there are great groups of railroad patrons that travel constantly during an average of nine months in the year - groups the members of which are not centered but scattered. These include traveling-salesmen, of whom there are 350,000 counted by railroads as 100 passengers each, because they buy 100 tickets each in the course of a year, and hence are counted as 35,000,000 passengers in the yearly total. Also actors and actresses on the road, of whom there are 55,000, are counted in the total of annual traffic at 5,500,000 passengers because they, too, hold an average of 100 tickets each in a year.

Thus the people of the restless nation move about on business or pleasure or in search of health, Colorado and New Mexico alone having enough health-seekers to count as 120,000 railroad passengers a month, until now restlessness is so stretched that it breaks beyond the confines of the United States and extends northward to Hudson Bay, and would go southward, if it could, to Patagonia. In response to this demand for extended outlet for travel, a committee of railroad kings, of which President Cassatt of the Pennsylvania road is the most active member, has in view the building of a road from New York to Buenos Ayres, corresponding as an engineering feat to the Cape-to-Cairo road.

Railroads Rich as the Government.

The dollar mark of the railroad is greater than that of all the trusts combined, and in magnitude of financial operations is almost as great as the government itself.

To illustrate, the uneasy nation to-day is traveling over 1,067 different railways, representing in their total capitalization one-eighth of the total wealth of the nation - the capital of the railways being $12,500,000,000, and the total wealth of the nation $100,000,000,000. This means that for each mile of line the railway capital amounts to $61,490. The capitalization of the railroads of the United States is almost as great as the national wealth of Italy, and is greater than that of Belgium, Spain, Holland, Portugal, or Switzerland, or of the last three combined.

The total track mileage over which our two million passengers will travel to-day is 288,000, including second, third, and fourth rails, sidings and yard tracks. The greater part of these tracks lie within the domains of the seven great railway systems. On the Vanderbilt lines our passengers cover a track mileage of 20,000; over the Pennsylvania system another 20,000; over the Harriman system, 22,000; over the Hill system, 19,000; over the Morgan system, 18,000; over the Gould system, 13,000; and over the Rockefeller system, 10,000.

As for travel over railroads with odd names, our friends will cover 1,725 miles of track on the "Katy," and if you know not that road ask any man from Texas; 523 miles over the "Nickel Plate"; 405 miles over "Natural Gas"; 957 miles over "The Road of Anthracite"; 450 miles over the "Clover Leaf"; and 1,683 miles over the "Big Four."

Altogether, the number of railway miles per 10,000 of inhabitants is twenty-six, and for each hundred square miles of territory we have seven miles of line. Our travelers can pass two whole days and nights crossing Texas, and they have 11,609 miles of track at their disposal in Illinois, 10,933 in Pennsylvania. and 8,297 in New York, these four States having the largest mileage, a combined total of 42,662.

The 45,000 railroad stations, if they could be gathered in one place and only one family of five persons allotted to each building would make a city nearly equal in population to the combined populations of Portland, Maine; Portland, Oregon; and Atlanta, Georgia.

Comparison of our total railway mileage with that of other nations may be interesting to the restless. We have half the total mileage of the world; we have 40,000 more miles of track than exist in all Europe; our mileage is five times greater than that of all Asia; twelve times that of all Africa; seven times that of all South America; and all North America outside of the United States has only 28,000 as against our 220,000.

How the Travel-Mad Are Carried.

To move this travel-mad nation requires 7,000 trains, each train in the course of a year making hundreds of round trips and covering as a whole 441,156,000 miles. The trains are made up during a year of 40,000 cars, not including Pullmans, of which there are more than 4,000. And here it may be stated that our come-and-go people are recorded as Pullman passengers to the number of 14,000,000 yearly, and that they travel in Pullmans an aggregate of 440,000,000 miles annually.

In quelling their restlessness our people make necessary the services of 11,000 passenger locomotives. Imagine the energy put forth by those locomotives! With an average of 2,500 horse-power each, here is power equal to the combined hauling strength of 27,500,000 horses, which is more horses by some 6,000,000 than we've got in the country. One horse, representing the combined height, length, and bulk of the 27,500,000, would be so mastodonic that he could set his forelegs in Honolulu and slake his thirst in the streams of Hawaii, while his hind legs rested on Fifth Avenue whence, with a whisk of his tail he could sweep all the mosquitoes out of the State of New Jersey.

Each of our locomotives hauls in a year an average of 66,000 passengers, and in the same time the average distance traveled by each locomotive is 1,978,000 miles. Those 11,000 locomotives carry bells enough to put one in the steeple of each Catholic church in the land and whistles enough to equip every brewery and all the distilleries in the Union. The dead weight of all these iron horses in the passenger service - at 120,000 pounds each - is equal to that of twenty-six buildings like the twenty-story Flatiron Building in New York City, whose weight is 50,000,000 pounds.

Weight is, indeed, a very important consideration in the hauling capacity of the modern passenger locomotive that must make speed, as shown by the sad story of famous "999." That engine once made a mile in thirty-two seconds, a rate of 112 miles an hour, said to be the fastest mile ever run by a locomotive anywhere in the world. Yet she is now hauling a milk train on the New York Central because she weighs only 100,000 pounds, and hence is too light for the speed demanded by a people who rest not.

One more illustration of railway passenger facilities. Put all our passenger cars and all our locomotives on a single track end to end, and they would form a train 800 miles long, reaching from New York to Charleston, South Carolina, and it would take a conductor twenty-six working days to walk through the cars and past the engines.

An Army of Railroad Men.

A good result of the unrest of Americans is that it gives employment to 1,300,000 railroad men, employment by which they earned last year $817,000,000. Of the number named, more than one-half are employed directly in the passenger service, including 12,000 locomotive engineers and as many firemen, 11,000 conductors, 25,000 trainmen, 50,000 switchmen, flagmen, and watchmen, 40,000 station and ticket agents, 30,000 other station men, and 10,000 telegraph operators and despatchers, not to speak of 4,900 general officers, 5,000 other officers, and 12,000 clerks.

Altogether the total number of railroad men to-day actually nursing the American disease of railroaditis (without intent to cure) is greater than that of all the students enrolled in all the colleges of the country. The number of trackmen alone, 125,000, is twice as great as the number of enlisted men in our regular army. Among these employees there are at least four gray-haired conductors who have traveled each over two million miles, and one engineman who has covered over one million miles during his period of service. In this great industrial army are representatives of every country on the globe, from the aboriginal American to natives of China, Siam, Burma, and Afghanistan.

As for accidents among our two million passengers of to-day, according to the law of averages at least one passenger and ten employees will be killed. This is based on the official figures for average annual accidents, namely, 440 passengers and 3,600 employees. By the same computation, at least twenty passengers will be injured to-day, and 180 employees, for the average yearly injuries is 8,200 passengers and 60,400 railroad men. And, parenthetically, it is possible that at least one train may be robbed to-day, for the average of train hold-ups shows one in each fortnight.

With only one in each million passengers killed in a year, and only one in each 400,000 passengers and employees injured, the most interesting facts are to be written, not about the number of accidents, but rather about a passenger's comparative safety on the road. So many and such thorough safeguards have been thrown about the passenger since the "De Witt Clinton" made her first trip that an accident insurance company to-day is a kind of get-rich-quick concern. For instance, it is a fact that the average number of miles that an individual in this country may travel before being killed in a railroad accident is 510,000,000. Which is to say that if all the people of this country traveled within the United States all the time, spending their entire existence on railroads, and the sole cause of death was railroad accidents, the average length of life of an American would be a little over 3,000 years.

Even railroading as a profession is not nearly so hazardous as in former years. So true is this that the life insurance companies now insure firemen and engineers at a premium only slightly advanced beyond the average. Railroad men, in short, are no longer deemed "bad risks.''

No More "Sleeping at the Switch."

Since the restless nation must travel by rail, let us focus our attention upon safety in that travel. So argue the railroads. The result is that those employed in the departments that make the wheels go round, watch the movement of every train more closely, more carefully, than a sleuth shadows a suspect. Each train on the road at this minute is watched by so many men, stationed at such frequent intervals along the line, that it is as if the track were fenced in with human beings, each with his hand on a telegraph key.

"Asleep at the Switch" could not have been written if the railroads of the poet's time had been what they now are. The melodramatic situation used to such advantage, the switchman snoring at his post, the train coming madly on through the night and saved in the very nick of time by a maiden with her hair streaming in the wind, would not be true to life in these days of the block and other scientific and automatic systems of signaling. The fate of no trainload of passengers on the road to-day is left to a single man who may or may not snuggle up to his switch and take a nap.

Then, too, nearly every train carrying our two million passengers is equipped with air-brakes. A party of railroad men traveling in a special train through Pennsylvania came to a town where mammoth factories were built in a row half a mile long. "Hats off to Westinghouse!" cried one of the party, and every man doffed his traveling cap. In the factories past which the train was speeding thousands of men were employed making the device which has reduced railroad accidents to a minimum - the air-brake. With this brake a passenger train of 300 tons, traveling at sixty miles an hour, can be stopped in about 4,500 feet, or in about ninety seconds; and, in case of emergency, in 1,200 feet, or in thirty-one seconds. And so, along with the railroad men the restless nation should take off its hat to Westinghouse.

For the safety of the passengers, too, there are the locomotive engineers whose coolness and judgment amount at times to something very like a sixth sense. Long experience gives them a certain intuition for which there are no rules, but which often saves hundreds of lives.

The higher the development of this "sixth sense," the greater the engineer's compensation. The men who are running the crack trains to-day earn a salary that the president of a small college would be glad to have, $250 a month for fifteen days of actual service. And if one were obliged to pick out the ten men in this country having the best eyesight, one would find the ten among the $3,000-a-year passenger engineers.

Hotels on Wheels.

A nation on the go must indulge its restlessness not only in safety but also in comfort. On the through trains, which are itinerant hotels, the passenger expects attention as good as in a first class hotel - and he gets it, the Pullman company having reduced the comfort of travelers to a science. That company's cars are in operation on 184,000 miles of railway to-day. At the shops in Chicago the company is turning out each week three sleeping-cars, costing an average of $30,000 each, also twelve passenger cars of the most comfortable type. The longest unbroken run of any cars in the Pullman service is from Washington to San Francisco, 3,626 miles. The company employs 18,000 men to look after the comforts of passengers, paying them $10,000,000 in wages.

For their comfort on the road, further, our people, changeless only in their desire for change, have such things as hospital cars - notably one on the Long Island Railroad - car windows built on an angle - on a train on the New York Central - so that the passengers within may see forward or back, and road-beds covered with oil for a thousand miles at a time to lay the dust - on the Southern Pacific in Texas.

Millions to Save Minutes.

Finally, for the restless man, speed. What millions are spent each year for minutes! The Pennsylvania Railroad at Trenton, New Jersey, eliminated a curve and elevated the track at a total cost of $600,000 - to save three minutes. And why is that road spending $100,000,000 for a new terminal in New York? In the last analysis it is to save the fifteen minutes consumed in a ride on a ferry-boat. In New Mexico the Santa Fe is spending $10,000,000 on the Belen "cut-off " to save six and seven-tenths miles - in fact, to save less than half a mile, since the principal saving is in a reduction of 2,000 feet in the altitude of the highest point on the line.

Behold we travel to-day in every comfort between New York and Philadelphia in two hours, whereas our forefathers spent at least two days, in comparative discomfort, to accomplish the same journey. And if, on any Sunday evening, you take a certain train leaving New York, you will eat your supper in San Francisco on the following Thursday evening. Four days from New York The framers of our Constitution would have deemed a man mad who would have suggested such a possibility.

Among other journeys to delight the heart of the man with the move-on mania, passengers are this very day being railroaded from Philadelphia to Atlantic City, fifty-eight miles, in fifty minutes; from New York to Buffalo, 436 miles, in 420 minutes; from Burlington to Chicago, 206 miles, in 200 minutes from Chicago to Pittsburgh, 525 miles, in eight hours; and from New York to Chicago, about 1,000 miles, in eighteen hours - and the latter run has been made in sixteen hours.

Speed has had the effect of reducing the number of working hours among railroad men. It has been "legally" decreed that no man can endure the modern pace of our railroads for more than ten hours, and remain physically and mentally normal. As a matter of fact, every railroad seeks to avoid keeping any employee on duty beyond ten hours, and most roads beyond eight hours. Storms, washouts, accidents, any unusual conditions of weather or traffic keep men at their posts, however, beyond the "normal" period fixed for a day's work. Men have worked continuously twenty-five or thirty hours, and circumstances have sometimes demanded the services of a train crew continuously for thirty-six hours.

Myriads Touched by the Railroad.

One further great good is to be credited to the spirit of unrest that impels people to take to the road. It is that with a million employees of all classes engaged in railway transportation in this country, each person so employed affects the interests of at least four more. Here, then, are five millions whose welfare depends upon railroads, in the last analysis upon the people's restlessness.

And five millions are not all. Many more millions, employed in kindred industries, are affected. Thousands are engaged in building the locomotives that haul us; 213,000 persons are engaged in constructing the cars that carry us; more thousands in the manufacture of rails; and still other thousands in other industries and professions upon which railroads depend for supplies and for services. It is plain, therefore, that the profession of railroading, developed by a national travel-fever, affects the present and future of more persons in the United States than any other kind of employment excepting agriculture.

The growth of the railroads that has made necessary this vast industrial army is indicative of the development of the grand national steeplechase, the race to get somewhere. Before Stephenson invented the locomotive in 1829, and before that first American train was run Baltimore-way, the most of the people were content to stay at home. With the growth of railway mileage, however, grew restlessness. In 1830 there were only twenty-three miles of railway. By 1840 the mileage had grown to 2,800, and in 1850 to 9,000. At the outbreak of the Civil War the mileage was 30,000, and by 1870 it had reached 53,000. By 1880 it had jumped to 93,000, and then in the next decade it more than doubled itself. Only six years ago the mileage was only 193,000; to-day it is 220,000. And now, with the facilities to go and to come back and to start out again, this nation as a whole is traveling to-day and to-night three million miles each hour and half a million miles each minute.

Restlessness Indulged Means Prosperity.

The restlessness of the nation is the surest sign of national prosperity, for there can be no better proof of wealth than this, that people travel, that they can leave the routine of life for the sake of change. Money it costs, much money, to take to the road, to pay for new quarters for a short period. Where people can do this there must be great prosperity - not to speak of such benefits as the widening of the viewpoint and the increased appetite for knowledge that come from a short journey.

Last year we, the restless ones, paid to the railroads the sum of $456,343,380. Think of the tremendous restlessness - why not call it energy, or enterprise? - producing in one year a number of railroad passengers that pay for their movement a sum nearly equal to the total revenues of the Federal government; a sum equal to one-fourth of the entire public debt; a sum of money equal to one-fourth of all the currency in circulation in the country.

Is it a wonder, then, that the railroads can furnish us with $10,000 dining-cars, and $30,000 sleeping-cars, and $50,000 railroad presidents? We pay the railroads only two cents a mile, to be sure. But then we travel billions of miles. The distance from the earth to the moon is said to be 240,000 miles. Paltry distance that! Last year our 716,000,000 passengers traveled 22,000,000,000 miles, which is a distance equal to 44,000 round trips from this land of unrest to yonder inconstant lantern of heaven.

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