1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador)

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1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador)

Postby gokeefe » Mon Sep 24, 2012 1:29 pm

In some recent reading that I did I came across a mention of a United Press article in 1929 that was written on the occassion of the completion of a link between the two divisions of the International Railways of Central America in Guatemala and El Salvador. The article apparently described the theoretical possibility of a 5,000 mile passenger trip beginning in Hudson Bay, Canada and ending at La Union, El Salvador on the Gulf of Fonseca.

Although there were many interesting possibilities I had to consider whether or not in some way the existence of this link represented the height of American railroads, at least in their passenger capacity during what I like to refer to as the "legacy" era. At least to my knowledge this example almost certainly represents a historical "high water mark" for American passegner rail in that era.
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby ExCon90 » Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:59 pm

It's certainly pretty close. When a 1926 Official Guide was reprinted some years ago (I don't have it handy right now), I believe the year 1926 was cited as the peak year for rail passenger service in the U. S. and that was the reason for choosing it for the reprint. I'll have a chance to check on Wednesday and see whether they made that specific statement.
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby gokeefe » Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:09 pm

Here is the a link to the site that I saw the reference to the Canada - El Salvador trip and the reference by a United Press correspondent. Unusually this remark, when searched verbatim on Google, does not appear in Google's search results, which is interesting in of itself.
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby ExCon90 » Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:26 pm

I checked the 1926 Guide reprint, and I could have sworn there was a foreword from the publisher stating that they picked that year because it represented the peak of American railroad passenger travel, but there's no foreword; so I checked the Encyclopedia of North American Railroads, and it states that the peak year was 1920, with 47.3 billion passenger miles. By 1923 traffic had dropped to 38.3 billion, and by 1929, to 31.1 billion. I guess the question now is whether some intrepid mileage collector (were there mileage collectors in the 1920s?) actually made the trip from end to end, and did he have two witnesses to attest to it?
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby gokeefe » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:50 pm

There very well may have been mileage collectors back then but perhaps not under that name.

One of the things I find interesting about this potential trip is that often when the media publicizes something there are often people out there who will go and do it just out of curiosity. Of course we know this tendency better by its short name, "tourism". Although it isn't necessarily likely at all I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if somebody, somewhere did it at least once.

I have to wonder if the 1920 peak may have been related to the return of American service members from WWI. The armistice was in November 1918 and it took quite a while for everyone to come home.
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby frank754 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:05 pm

Among many of the rail lines carrying passengers in the early 20's, interurbans still were a big factor. Many of these were listed in the Official Guide as well. After 1920, many of these saw their demise at a much more rapid pace than the mainline railroads, although the explosion of automobile ownership took its toll on both. Also, according to this site, the extent of the rail system peaked in 1916 with 254,000 road-miles.

http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ ... 02003.html
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby gokeefe » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:21 pm

frank754 wrote:Among many of the rail lines carrying passengers in the early 20's, interurbans still were a big factor. Many of these were listed in the Official Guide as well. After 1920, many of these saw their demise at a much more rapid pace than the mainline railroads, although the explosion of automobile ownership took its toll on both. Also, according to this site, the extent of the rail system peaked in 1916 with 254,000 road-miles.

http://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/ ... 02003.html


An interesting site!

It seems however that this site is only counting mileage inside the United States. Is that correct?

I would think ICC reports don't include Canadian railroads....
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby frank754 » Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:25 pm

Yes, just the U.S.
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby ExCon90 » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:32 pm

Also, one source measures passenger miles while the other measures road miles. It could be that 1916 was the peak year for road miles, while passenger miles increased until 1920 over the miles that remained.
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Re: 1929: The Peak of Passenger Rail? (Canada to El Salvador

Postby gokeefe » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:46 pm

I'm sort of under the impression (however wrong this may be) that the Canadian transcontinentals didn't finish their full build out until the '20s. Is that correct?
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