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    The "Lightning Express" Makes History in 1876

    Jarrett & Palmer Train Pass: The First Transcontinental "Road Trip". During the period of Western expansion, a recurring dream was the completion of a railroad line linking the country from one coast to the other. This was accomplished at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869 with the driving of the "golden spike." The next stage in the process was someone actually using the rail system for a cross-country "road trip". The businessmen who organized this visionary excursion were Jarrett & Palmer. Henry Jarrett was a theatrical producer who had the clever idea to transport the props, costumes and actors appearing in "Henry V" in New York to San Francisco, to appear there just a handful of days after the play closed in New York at the Booth Theater. They planned it out, invited a dozen special guests, and left New York City on June 1, 1876. The tracks were cleared and the "Lightning Express" was given unfettered right-of-way. Aside from ferry trips from New York to Jersey City and Oakland to San Francisco, all travel was by rail. The train ran almost continuously with brief, planned stopovers to replace tired personnel, change locomotives and refuel. They were also unforeseen problems, such as washed-out tracks in Utah and overheated axles. On the last leg of the journey, the locomotive was "The Black Fox", guided by veteran engineer Hank Small who received a gold medal for his exploits. Miraculously, the entire trip took 3 days, 11 minutes and 39 minutes from Jersey City to Oakland, twelve hours ahead of schedule. The scope of the accomplishment is realized when one considers that a similar trip today by Amtrak takes only 2 less hours.
    As the cover of this pass booklet indicates, it was officially called "Jarrett & Palmer's Special Fast Transcontinental Train." This booklet was issued to one of the invited few, Theodore M. Dougherty. The five passes and ticket for a double berth in the Pullman Palace car are signed by General Manager Henry C. Jarrett. The inside last page lists distances of cities from New York... San Francisco being the most distant at 3,317 miles. The trip was an unqualified success and paved the way for transcontinental travel. We are unaware of any recent auction appearances of a similar book. By its very nature, there were only a few printed... just enough for the passengers, promoter Jarrett and possibly members of the cast. The six leaves of the booklet are currently detached, but otherwise in excellent condition.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2012
    12th Saturday
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