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Many ways to get to the 1893 World’s Fair

Bob Cox • Jun 19, 2017 at 8:14 AM

The 1893 Chicago World's Fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the New World in 1492. Tennesseans desiring to travel to the event had a variety of travel plans to choose from, including three that are listed below:

Big Four Route

All trains of the popular Big Four Route were vestibuled (having an enclosed entrance at the end of a railway passenger car) and equipped with palace sleeping cars, reclining chair cars and elegant parlor cafe dining cars.

You could begin at the Central Union Station, where connection was made with the Queen & Crescent Route and Louisville & Nashville Railroad, avoiding the disagreeable transfer across "The Windy City." You entered it in full view of the World's Fair Buildings and stopped at Van Buren Street opposite the Auditorium, Leland and Richelieu Hotel.

Five trains ran daily between Cincinnati and Indianapolis and two trains daily for St. Louis and Peoria. Connections were guaranteed for all Western and Northwestern points. Rates were said to be "as low as the lowest."

Tickets via the Big Four Route were on sale at coupon offices throughout the country. Passengers were urged to order them from D.B. Martin, General Passenger Agent, Cincinnati, Ohio.

The East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad

Col. B.W. Wrenn sprang another idea in railroading. He had things so arranged that when a traveler going to the World's Fair bought a ticket from the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia coupon agent, he engaged a room for them at a hotel in Chicago at the same time and at no extra charge.

The Lelands leased The Ingram, a large new hotel containing over 1,000 rooms on Sixtieth Street, opposite one of the entrances to the fairgrounds. Colonel Wrenn arranged with them to let his agents have a certain number of rooms for the use of the patrons of the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad.

So no matter how great a rush, it was possible for a patron to be certain of a room before starting on the long journey. For example, the city agent here would have a diagram of the hotel and the rooms placed at his disposal. Every day the agents learned by telegraph about their rooms, so that there was no confusion, and when the passenger arrived at the hotel, he or she would have their room awaiting their arrival.

The baggage would be conveniently checked there and there would be absolutely no trouble to encounter. The traveler paid 20 percent of the price of the room when he or she engaged it, but if the passengers did not like it upon arrival at Chicago, the railroad agent would refund the money with no questions asked. A room coupon would be attached to the tickets.

This system was merely for the convenience of the road's patrons. If they preferred to stop at some other hotel or at a private boarding house somewhere, the usual ticket was purchased. But this house, which the Lelands leased, was kept as well as any in the city. Warren Leland Jr., who had the Oglethorpe Hotel at Brunswick, was the manager.

Col. Wrenn, who was in Atlanta a day or two prior, said that the arrangements between the road and Leland would be so complete that he felt confident that the patrons of his road would be pleased.

The Monon Route

This option was the most popular and direct route to Chicago and all points North and Northwest. If patrons were going to Chicago to attend the World's Fair, they were told to remember that the Monon Route was the line with vestibule trains, dining cars, palace chair cars, Pullman buffet and sleepers. It was advertised as having the lowest rates and urged travelers to obtain rates, maps and all information by addressing James Barker, GPA, Chicago, or W.G. Caush, Louisville, Kentucky.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair must have been a magnificent experience for travelers. Riding a vestibule train to and from the event would was an added thrill.


Reach Bob Cox at boblcox@bcyesteryear.com or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.

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