January Question of the Month – an irregular series

 I would like to know how long it would have taken to travel by train from Seattle to Boston in 1910. Thank you for your assistance.

Thank you for using our Ask a Librarian service with an inquiry about the length of time it would take to travel by train from Seattle to Boston in 1910. Although we can’t give you a definitive answer, we used a 1909 Baedeker’s United States guidebook to arrive at a theoretical number of hours.

The Baedeker itinerary goes from New York to Chicago-St Paul-Livingston-Yellowstone Park to Portland for a total of 18 hours. You will still have to add in the time needed to get to or from Boston and to get to Seattle from Portland.  Ultimately, the time needed for that travel could vary depending on the railroad line and the routes taken. Unfortunately our general railroad histories did not provide any information on the length of travel time from place to place during this period.

You can also consult our reference copy of Baedeker’s United States (R917.3 B144U) in the Special Collections Department of the Central Library if you would like to determine for yourself the length of time for train travel from Seattle to Boston.  It will involve alot of math as you add travel times for individual routes on individual passenger train systems.

We hope that this information helps, please feel free to contact us for further help.

Got a stumper? Click on Ask a Librarian. It’s what we do.

2 thoughts on “January Question of the Month – an irregular series”

  1. 18 hrs seems hard to believe to me. The distance traveled would be something like 2500 miles (more, given the route, which implies the train would have to move an average of 139 mph, which exceeds what a steam locomotive could in 1910 if they ever could go that fast).

  2. Jon;
    I agree completely. I don’t think you could make the journey in this amount of time today. Since the total was arrived at by adding up the individual times of each trip according to the 1909 guide, it is possible that there are errors in either the individual times posted or perhaps in the adding up.

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