Hi Anna, thank you so much for inviting me today to discuss a small portion of history about America’s railroads. One of my favorite TV series is Hell on Wheels. This series has so much history of how the railroads built the West and the people who gave so much for us to enjoy our way of life in the present. If you like westerns, this is one series you should watch. It’s even on Netflix. In my second Silver Sage Creek book, Better She Live, I always pictured my hero Jesse Stryker as the strong good-looking Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (actor Anson Mount). In the series, Cullen follows the railhead across the plains and works on the railroad while tracking down the Union soldiers who murdered his wife and son during the war. Looking forward to season four this fall. What are you favorite westerns? Oops, I digressed. Here’s a few tidbits from my research notes for my western books, the Silver Sage Creek series.
In the 1800s an explosion of growth occurred when the railroads connected the east to the west by adding over one-hundred, ten thousand miles to the rail system. President Abraham Lincoln approved the Rail Act in 1862 authorizing federal financing for the transcontinental railway. As always, man can be impatient, the race was on between Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad, laying tracks as quickly as possible with the help of the Chinese and Irish laborers (which is another historical story on its own).
The First Transcontinental Railroad crossed the western United States to connect to the Pacific coast at San Francisco Bay, with the last spike hammered at Promontory Summit, May 10, 1869, Utah Territory. This revolutionized the settling of the American West by making transportation quicker, cheaper, safer and affordable to travel from coast to coast. The rails crisscrossing our country transported cargo of goods, machinery, tools, supplies, and lumber, as well as people. For the cattle ranchers the railhead presented a way to get fatter cattle to the market and less time driving them thousands of miles to the Kansas stockyard, and ultimately closing the Chisholm Trail.
Between 1863 and 1869 western towns were born, developed and expanded – living and dying by the railroad. Towns and cities grew along the rail lines where there had been prairies, hills and forests. The American West was advertised throughout the United States and in Europe, and most towns had at least one weekly newspaper announcing its existence and encouraging settlers to live the prosperous life of the west. No longer having to travel by wagon trains, walking, riding horses, or stagecoaches, folks longing for a better way of life were able to ride the rails, seeking out a place to settle.
While researching the railroad’s history, I watched the History network, PBS on a series called, The Transcontinental Railroad and was fascinated with the building of the iron rail. Even then, greed popped its ugly head by unscrupulous financing, and the cost was heavy. While the iron rail shaped our nation, many lives were lost, as well as the Native Americans’ way of life.
When I wrote my first western, Better She Die, I found myself building a western town in northern Texas, called, you guessed it – Silver Sage Creek. At first, there were only a few necessary buildings to accommodate the cattle ranchers in the area. My town consisted of a mercantile, saloon, church/schoolhouse, a hardware store, livery stables, Molly’s café, Rangers’ headquarters, and a small building for the weekly Silver Sage news. But, it didn’t stop there; in other words, another story developed. Silver Sage Creek exploded into a full-blown town with a railroad coming through, bringing easterners to live and prosper as the town grew.
In Book 2, Better She Live, a wealthy railroad businessman moves into Silver Sage Creek, bringing rails and a migrant camp of hundreds of labors. The bad/good character has the entire town smitten with his charm and his plans for a booming town. He builds his railroad from Kansas to the small Texas town and connects with the Nevada line going into San Francisco. The economy explodes with shops, like the custom sewing house for fine fabrics, hotels, brothels and eating establishment for cowboys and drovers. He built a rail station for new arrivals, a gambling house and a stockyard filled with fatted cattle to be loaded on the railcars for transportation to the market in the east.
Without this character building his railroad (RWRR) Silver Sage Creek might never have grown to introduce other characters for a third book, Better She Love. If you would like a free mug with my book covers, go to http://judybaker.coffeecup.com and click on contest to learn how you can receive a free mug.
Once again Anna, thank you for the opportunity to spend time with you and your fans.
Buy links for my Silver Sage Creek series: