Jul 30

Railroads Building the West by Judy Baker

jBakerHi 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.

train 4By the way, the first known train robbers were Jesse James and the James-Younger gang in 1873.

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.Three cowboys on horseback silhouetted against dawn sky

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.

Three cowboys on horseback silhouetted against dawn skyWithout 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.BetterSheLove_MED

Once again Anna, thank you for the opportunity to spend time with you and your fans.

Buy links for my Silver Sage Creek series:

Buy Link:  http://www.amazon.com/Better-She-Die-Judy-Baker/dp/1618858661/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391549639&sr=8-1&keywords=better+she+die+by+judy+baker



Website:  http://judybaker.coffeecup.com                http://anna_sugg.coffeecup.com


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  1. Melissa Keir

    The building of the railroad is a great part of our history. We’ve seen how it brought together the country and tore up the Native’s of the west. The movement of trains brought people and new ideas to both coasts and the interior. I can see it very romantic but also back breaking work.

    I love the books and the covers. I wish you all the best, Judy.

  2. Judy

    Thank you Melissa for stopping by, and again, thank you Anna for inviting me to your site.

  3. Judy Baker

    Thanks for stopping by Melissa, and thanks again Anna for the opportunity to be a part of your site.

  4. Lana Williams

    Love Hell on Wheels! That period of history is fascinating, isn’t it? I look forward to reading your books, Judy! Love the titles!

  5. Cynthia Woolf

    Great blog. I used to work for the Union Pacific, so I’m always fascinated by railroad history.

  6. Sylvie Grayson

    What a great article! The settling of the west is a unique story in the world view, and most of us have family who were part of it. Well done, Sylvie

  7. Judy Baker

    Oh my gosh, thank you Lana, Cynthia and Sylvie for your comments, I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  8. Shelia Rudesill

    Great article, Judy! Railroads have always interested me and I learned a few things today. Thanks for posting!

    1. Judy Baker

      Thanks Shelia, glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Pat Amsden

    I love Hell On Wheels having discovered it on Netflix. It’s definitely an exciting period in history and your books sound intriguing. I’ll be checking them out. Just writing them sounds like a lot of fun.

  10. Judy

    All three books were fun to write and I always love doing research. Thanks for stopping by Pat.

  11. Jacqui Nelson

    Great blog, Judy! I’m a huge “Hell On Wheels” fan too. It was the inspiration for one of my books as well. Can’t wait for the new season of HOW to start this Saturday!!

  12. Judy Baker

    Me too. Can’t wait for the new season. I’ll have to visit your website. I love reading authors that I’ve haven’t read before.

  13. Mary

    Wow, great post. I did not know all of this information. And I love trains!

    Thanks for sharing.

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