This Train Is Bound For Glory - Online Book

Table Of Contents

Table of Contents

Chapel Car Emmanuel, one of thirteen American chapel cars that followed the transcontinental railroad lines westward, brought the gospel and the sacraments to thousands of new towns along the tracks.
American Baptist Historical Society, Mercer University, Atlanta.

Online Version, 2012

Wilma Rugh Taylor
In Memory of my husband and co-author
Norman Thomas Taylor

Introduction: Hell-On-Wheels or Heaven Along the Rails
Hell-On-Wheels or Heaven Along the Rails Download the Introduction as a PDF
To rack up the most miles and profit expediently, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads, in the race to connect the nation coast-to-coast, established end of track points to provide food, lodging, and supplies for growing stables of workers. Along with the basics, other "necessities" were allowed if not actually promoted by the railroads--gambling, women, and alcohol. These needs, real and desired, stacked on rail cars, moved from place to place and gained the name "Hell-onWheels." The railroad companies advanced America's socalled Manifest Destiny, jump-started its post-Civil War economy, and provided undreamed of opportunities. But in their greedy rush to crisscross the nation, they had, probably without malice and perhaps unwittingly, fostered a moral wasteland.

1. Church on Rails Concept: Nothing New Under the Sun
Church on Rails Concept: Nothing New Under the Sun Download this Chapter as a PDF
Thirteen American chapel cars, in service from 1890 to 1946, were a novelty but not the first attempt to serve the spiritual needs of people along railways. In the 1860s, Pope Pius IX outfitted a rail coach for traveling through the Papal States administrating the sacraments, but perhaps the earliest chapel cars were Russian Orthodox, built to serve the workers and people along the Trans-Siberian Railroad in the late 1880s. The Russian cars resembled an ordinary railway carriage except for a cross over the roof and a little belfry at the entrance; although inside, gilded icons and elaborate altars added to the adoration of worshipers.

2. Bishop David Walker: Cathedral Car of North Dakota
Bishop David Walker: Cathedral Car of North Dakota Download this Chapter as a PDF
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When North Dakota Episcopal Bishop David Walker saw the beautiful Trans-Siberian Russian Orthodox chapel cars on an 1899 trip, he visualized how effective they would be as a way of serving Episcopalians in his huge mission territory. In 1990, in spite of the disapproval of other bishops that he was building a rail chapel car and not a great cathedral in Fargo, and with the financial backing of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Walker had the Pullman Palace Company build a rail car, outfitted with a worship area and a small private apartment for his private use. Although experiencing great accomplishments in Bishop Walker's ministry across the prairies of the Dakotas, the next Bishop set aside the Cathedral Car of North Dakota: Church of the Advent to build a Cathedral.

3. Bishop Mott Williams: Episcopal Cars of Northern Michigan
Bishop Mott Williams: Episcopal Cars of Northern Michigan Download this Chapter as a PDF
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Although not having a wealthy donor like Bishop Walker of North Dakota, Bishop Mott Williams desired a chapel car for his Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan, so he did the next best thing--he purchased retired business rail coaches and had them refitted as chapel cars. Those cars, and there would be two of them in service from 1891 to 1898, served many communities on the Upper Peninsula, especially those that had been devastated by forest fires. In 1896 a blaze started at the Diamond Match Company and raced through the lumber center of Ontonagon, destroying most of the town including all of the churches. The Chapel Car of Northern Michigan served the spiritual needs of the people of the town until a new church could be built.

4. The Chapel Car Syndicate: Rockefeller, the Hoyts, and Friends
The Chapel Car Syndicate: Rockefeller, the Hoyts, and Friends Download this Chapter as a PDF
On a train traveling west with his railroad executive brother Colgate, Minneapolis pastor Wayland Hoyt saw many churchless towns along the tracks. He recalled the pleas of missionary Boston Smith for a rail car that would travel from town to town establishing Sunday Schools and churches. Hoyt convinced his brother to engage his wealthy friends in the construction of such a chapel car. At the 1891 meeting of the American Baptist Publication Society, it was announced that Colgate Hoyt, John D. Rockefeller, James B. Colgate, John B. Trevor, Charles L. Colby, William Hills--all Wall Street laymen--had paid for the construction of a chapel car. E. J. Barney, of the Barney and Smith Car Company, built the car at costs. This first Baptist chapel car would be the only car this Syndicate would finance, as it was not long before Rockefeller and friends fell at odds in the dealings of young Everett, Washington.

5. Bright Evangel: From Everett, Washington, to Indian Territory
Bright Evangel: From Everett, Washington, to Indian Territory Download this Chapter as a PDF
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From 1891 to 1924, Evangel, the first chapel car of the American Baptist Publication Society stopped at new rail towns across California, Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, Montana, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Indian Territory, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Wyoming. After a maiden journey with Boston Smith, Rev. and Mrs. E. G. Wheeler set the pattern for chapel car life--living in the small but efficient parsonage at the rear of the chapel area, distributing Bibles and religious materials in seventeen languages, starting churches and Sunday Schools, and preaching and teaching while sided in rowdy rail towns along the right-ofways. One of the major missions of Evangel was its ministry to the thousands of railroad workers in the expanding rail towns. After thirty-three years in service, Evangel would become the physical heart of the First Baptist Church of Rawlins, Wyoming.

6. All Hail, Emmanuel: Longest in Length and Years of Service
All Hail, Emmanuel: Longest in Length and Years of Service Download this Chapter as a PDF
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What would become the longest railcar in service in 1893-ten feet longer than Evangel--Chapel Car Emmanuel almost did not get built. During the Financial Panic, the company had orders for only four passenger cars; Emmanuel was one of the four. Over a period of forty-nine years, Emmanuel, with Rev. and Mrs. E. G. Wheeler, from Evangel on board, sided in towns across California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Leaving Emmanuel in the Sacramento shops for repairs, Rev. Wheeler was killed in a washout while traveling home on an Atlantic and Pacific train. Rev. and Mrs. B. B. Jacques resumed Wheeler's ministry revisiting Hell-On-Wheels towns in California, Nevada, and Utah; and then Rev. and Mrs. E. R. Hermiston established churches in Arizona, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho; while Rev. and Mrs. Blanchard took over the ministry at towns in Montana, Colorado, Missouri, and South Dakota. In Colorado, Rev. and Mrs. Howard Parry stabilized diverse congregations before retiring the car in South Dakota.

7. Glad Tidings: Across the Prairies to the Southwest
Glad Tidings: Across the Prairies to the Southwest Download this Chapter as a PDF
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Newly-weds Rev. and Mrs. Charles Rust heard the declaration at the 1894 dedication of Chapel Car Glad Tidings, "Well may the whirling of its wheels, the hum of its hurry, and the whiz of its speed express the strength of sacred impulses to bear the 'Glad Tidings' to others." Little did the Rusts know then that they would be the first missionaries on Glad Tidings, and that their two baby girls would swing in cradles from berths as the train trundled across Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri. Rust handed over the car in 1905 to other missionaries who served in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. In 1926, the car was moved to Flagstaff Arizona, where a Baptist church was established using dismantled parts of Glad Tidings in the construction.

8. Good Will: Texas Frontier, the Great Storm, to the Pacific
Good Will: Texas Frontier, the Great Storm, to the Pacific Download this Chapter as a PDF
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In cooperation with the Texas Baptist Convention, Chapel Car Good Will began its service in 1895 as thousands of Bohemians, Swedes, Germans, Norwegians, a growing population of African Americans and Mexicans flooded the state. With the dynamic ministry of newly-weds Rev. and Mrs. E. S. Stucker and Rev. and Mrs. E. G. Townsend, and the freedom-fighting Dr. E. J. Diaz, and seasoned Rev. E. J. Rogers, Good Will traversed the state from the Panhandle to the border and to central and east Texas, and survived The Great Storm. Leaving Texas in 1903, the car served in Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, and Oregon with missionaries Barkmans, Days, and Drivers. World War I created many problems in the movement of the chapel cars, but aside from the war, friction between the Home and Publication Societies, and the physical condition of the chapel car, the ministry produced spiritual successes. At Wellsdale, Oregon, 40 percent of the population attended every night for a month and many were baptized. In 1938 Rev. I. Morris Dryer settled Good Will in Boyes Hot Springs, California, where it stayed on private property until it was discovered in 1998.

9. Messenger of Peace: World's Fair, Railroad Y, to the Northwest
Messenger of Peace: World's Fair, Railroad Y, to the Northwest Download this Chapter as a PDF
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Several significant events happened during the tenure of this fifth Baptist car in addition to its missionary endeavors through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Idaho, Montana, California, Oregon, and Washington. At the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, Father Francis Kelley of the Catholic Extension Society toured the car and declared, "If the Baptists Can Do It, So Can the Catholics." Three Catholic cars would be put into service. Then in 1910 Messenger of Peace served with the Railroad YMCA, and Thomas Gale and wife visited rail centers like Montpelier, Idaho, and Thurmond, West Virginia. After many years in the Northwest, the last ABPS chapel car in service was sold, used as a roadside diner near Snohomish, Washington, and eventually moved to private property on the Olympic Peninsula. In 2007 Messenger of Peace was obtained by the Northwest Railroad Museum in Snoqualmie, Washington, where, with federal and state preservation grants, the car is being renovated.

10. Herald of Hope, the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia Mine Wars
Herald of Hope, the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia Mine Wars Download this Chapter as a PDF
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In 1900, like its five sister cars, this new Barney & Smith church-on-wheels, longer by 10 feet than Evangel built nine years earlier, was still a novelty and people flocked to it. The car began its travels in Michigan, and its threefold mission still focused on places destitute of religious privileges, or with struggling churches, and among railroad men at railroad centers. Herald of Hope suffered many changes in leadership as it made its way through Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, and West Virginia until Rev. and Mrs. Walter J. Sparks began a fruitful ministry in Illinois, Iowa and back east across the Mississippi to Ohio. Refitted in a new coat of paint and varnish and carrying Rev. and Mrs. William F. Newton, Herald of Hope came to the coal mine wars and threats of West Virginia in early 1915. In those same lovely yet stormy hills, the chapel car was retired from service about seventeen years later in a deserted coal tipple.

11. St. Anthony, If the Baptists Can Do It, So Can the Catholics
St. Anthony, If the Baptists Can Do It, So Can the Catholics Download this Chapter as a PDF
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Father Francis Clement Kelley had not forgotten the concept of the Baptist chapel car he had seen in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair. In a 1906 issue of Extension Magazine, he explained how the novelty of a chapel car would draw non-Catholics to hear about the faith, carry literature in large quantities, while also being the home of missionary priests. He concluded by asking, "If the Baptists can do it, why not the Catholics? Who will give us a chapel car to place in the service of the scattered ones of the flock?" Ambrose Petry, president of the Ambrose Petry Company; and Richmond Dean, a vice-president of Pullman, both Extension Board members, purchased Pullman Wagner Palace Car Mentone #187, Plan 3049, Lot 1205, built in September of 1886, and! Dean, a Pullman general manager, had the interior of the car reconstructed for chapel car use. St. Anthony, aptly named after "the saint of the lost," began it mission in Kansas under the management of lay leader George Hennessey and continued through Louisiana and Mississippi before finishing its existence in Oregon around 1921.

12. Steel Apostle St. Peter Travels to the Midwest and Northwest
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Steel Apostle St. Peter Travels to the Midwest and Northwest A wealthy Dayton, Ohio, businessman, Peter Kuntz, visited St. Anthony, the renovated Wagner car, and said, "Why doesn't your Society build a good chapel car, instead of this old thing?" So in 1912 the Catholic Church Extension Society turned to the Barney and Smith Car Company to build their second car -a steel St. Peter, with a $25,000 donation from Peter Kuntz. During its service in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Kansas, and North Carolina, this first steel chapel car faced threats from the Klan and other anti-Catholic factions. In many towns along the route, St. Peter and the new all steel Baptist Chapel Car Grace sided at the same depots, as well as being coupled together at the 1915 Panama Exposition in San Francisco. !

13. Barney & Smith, the Kossuth Colony, and the Flood of 1913
Barney & Smith, the Kossuth Colony, and the Flood of 1913 Download this Chapter as a PDF
To insure cheaper labor for the production of steel cars, Barney & Smith engaged J. B. Moskowitz, a labor contractor, to create a workers' colony called Kossuth, like the one George Pullman built at Pullman, Illinois. By 1912, the company showed a modest profit, and 1913 began as an even more promising year--until March 25 and the Great Flood of Dayton. The surging waters of the Mad River obliterated levees and poured into the Car Works, inundating the plant under 14-feet of water. Precious hoards of rare wood for car interiors were fished out of the water as far downstream as New Orleans. The flood caused more than a million dollars worth of damage, dealing the fragile company a blow from which it would never recover.

14. St. Paul, the Great Steel Ark, Built to Go South Ends North
St. Paul, the Great Steel Ark, Built to Go South Ends North Download this Chapter as a PDF
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Peter Kuntz paid $35,000 for St. Paul, his second chapel car gift to the Extension Society. After all the problems with the Baker Heater, he was adamant that St. Paul was never to go north. This great 86-foot steel ark would spend from 1915 to 1918 traveling the rails of Louisiana, devoting its work to the Black, French Creoles, Irish, German, French, cotton farmers, and of course, rail workers; as well as serving in Texas, North Carolina and Oklahoma. Due to a mix up in 1936 at the Pullman Shops in Chicago where St. Paul and St. Peter were in storage, the Bishop of Great Falls, Montana, procured St. Paul for use in his diocese. St. Paul went "North," much against the orders of the now deceased Peter Kuntz, in a move that was to be the beginning of its end. In 1967 St. Paul was sold at a token price to Montana State Senator Charles Bovey, who wanted the car for his railroad museum at Nevada City. In 1996, Ford Bovey of Nevada City and John Larkin, owner of the EscanabaLake Superior Railroad in Wells, Michigan, traded four Soo Line cars and a steam engine for a restored 1911 Baldwin steam locomotive and three railroad cars. Included in that trade was Chapel Car St. Paul, which is presently in the possession of the Escanaba-Lake Superior Railroad.

15. Amazing Grace, the Last of the American Chapel Car Fleet
Amazing Grace, the Last of the American Chapel Car Fleet Download this Chapter as a PDF
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Thirteen years had passed since the Baptist chapel car, Herald of Hope, had left the Barney & Smith Shops at Dayton, and the Publication Society hoped to build one more chapel car--a steel car. The Conaway/Birch Oil family donated $20,000 in memory of their daughter Grace, and Barney & Smith, at a price of $21,150, over five times the cost of the first chapel car, Evangel, contracted to build Grace. This last Baptist and last American chapel car shared shop space with Catholic Extension Society St. Paul from September of 1914 to January 1915. One of Grace's first stops, after its Los Angeles dedication in May 1915, was at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. On board were Rev. and Mrs. E. R. Hermiston, former missionaries on Emmanuel, who were fortunate to be appointed to Grace with the extra luxury of a separate bedroom and a brass bed. After eight years working in California's border towns, fishing villages, orchard valleys, military posts and ocean communities, Grace headed toward the sinful streets of Las Vegas, Nevada, where Rev. Hermiston started a church. After Hermiston's sudden death in 1923, Rev. A. C. Blinzinger continued the work and built churches in Wyoming before Rev. and Mrs. Howard Parry established stable and more permanent congregations in Colorado and Utah. In 1946 Grace arrived at the American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake, Wisconsin, to serve as a memorial to the chapel car work and its missionaries, and where it continues to serve as a ministry of worship.

16. The End Of The Chapel Car Era
The transcontinental railroads, no doubt, helped make America great, but at their beginnings, they did little to help America to be good. In their beginning, the chapel cars were the fastest, most exciting, state-of-the-art, high-tech way "to go." For "to go" was and is the command to the church. From 1890 to 1946, thirteen chapel cars made spiritual journeys across America's West, Northwest, South, and Southeast. They brought faith, morality, and hope to the faithful and faithless alike. The end of the line for the chapel car era had come, but behind, along shining rails of steel, communities had been changed for the better.


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