Waiting for the Cars

This is a fun book and if you like the early railroads and the Transcontinental in particular, it’s wonderful.  But those are not the only ones who will like this book.

Those who like old-time stereopticons (see the viewer below), or stereo views, will also enjoy the book as well as those who just like western history.

This book is not the kind you’d read straight through, although you can.  More fun is to leave the book on the coffee table and pick it up from time to time to page through the pictures and read little bits.

The title comes from a child’s comment in 1867 as he was looking at a stereo view of Bloomer’s Cut on the transcontinental railroad.   He held the viewer to his eyes for so long that he was asked what he was doing.  He was “waiting  for the [railroad] cars” to come down the track.  Imagine what he’d think today of an Imax movie?  That’s a digression though.

The book is a collection of stereopticon slides by Alfred A. Hart of the CPRR  (transcontinental railroad) in the mid-1860’s.  He was the  official photographer and he chronicled the construction. 

The collection starts in Sacramento at the beginning of the book and ends at Promontory Point in Utah.  Each view is a two page spread.  The left page has the original slide and describes it.  The descriptions then expand with details, facts and stories.   The right page of each spread has a stereo view so you can see the image as 19th century viewers would have.  To see the 3d image you don the red/blue glasses that come with the book. 

The stories are fun reading.  There is the story of the snowshed walker who came across a tiger.  There are train wreck stories, fire stories, the story of the drunk who stole a box car and went on an “exhilarating downhill run,” and the story of how the locomotive Sacramento was taken by wagon from Gold Run to Donner Summit to work as a hoisting engine.  There are interesting  details of track layout and construction methods, the origin of town names, Chinese workers, locomotives, and facts like it took 20 cords of wood to run a train from Rocklin to the Summit which is 83 miles.

For those interested in Donner Summit, which is why you are reading this webpage, there are a lot of slides of Donner Summit.

The book comes with a website, www.waitingforthecars.com that includes pictures not in the book ,  If you click on “see other media” you can take a trip into Tunnel 6 and then spin the camera’s view up, down and 360 degrees around.

The book is available from www.waitingforthecars.com which comes from the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.