COBWEB CORNERS: The presidentís train trip of 1901
By Mel McFarland
In 1901 the White House announced that President McKinley was going to tour the United States for seven weeks on a train. The presidents after Lincoln had used the railroads on their election campaigns, but this would be the first national tour.
One of the first significant uses of the railroad had been delivering President Lincoln's body to Springfield, Illinois, after his death.
For the tour, the train traveled first through the South on the Southern Railway to New Orleans and from there on the Southern Pacific to California. The entire route was specified past El Paso, Texas, where the president had a meeting with the Mexican president. Also scheduled were Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacra-mento, Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane, Butte, Yellowstone Park, Salt Lake City, Glenwood Springs, Leadville, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Cripple Creek, Kansas City, Chicago, Buffalo and back to Washington, D.C. The engineer and conductor would change, depending on the railroad, but the attendants in each of the cars were to remain during the entire trip.
New locomotives pulled the train, changing at each railroad and sometimes at railroad divisions. In those days steam engines rarely traveled more than 150 miles before requiring maintenance.
The train had seven opulent cars. At the rear, the president's car was the Olympia, as far as California, where it was to be exchanged for the Lucama. Next to the engine was a combination baggage and smoking car, followed by a dining car. The next four cars were sleeping cars. Two cars were for the support staff and reporters. Two cars were for the president's staff and members of the Congress, traveling with the train. President McKinley's party of thirteen traveled in his private car.
The open platform on the end of the president's car was used along the way to address the public. A telegrapher traveled on the train and kept the president in contact with Washington political news.
Never heard that President McKinley visited Colorado Springs? As it turned out, he did not. As the trip passed into California, the balance of the trip was canceled. The president sped quickly back to Washington. It would also not be long before he was assassinated and Teddy Roosevelt would become president. I have described Teddy's visits to Colorado in previous columns.