Instructions for Team 2: Passengers
(The West, Lesson 1, Activity 4)

You are individual travelers and settlers. You are journeying the entire distance from Omaha, Nebraska to California. Your perspective is a personal one. You will keep a diary in which you will describe yourself, the reasons for your journey, your expectations of it, and the "real life" experiences you have as you travel. In the early 1870's this was an exciting adventure. With no TV's or movies to watch, the public eagerly read accounts like yours, which were published in magazines and newspapers of the day. You may choose to draw sketches of sights you see. Cameras of the 1870s were still cumbersome and the process time-consuming, but photographers certainly made this sojourn. So your diary can be adorned with drawings and photos if you so choose.

Before you begin your actual diary complete the following steps:

  1. Decide on who you are and where you currently live? What is your occupation, your reason for taking the trip? Who are the friends and/or family members you are traveling with? Do you know anyone in California?
  2. Figure out how you will travel from your home base to Omaha, Nebraska.
  3. Map out the actual route of the Transcontinental Railway.
  4. Think about what have you heard about the great American West. What have been your sources of information? Is there anything you are longing to see? Afraid to see?
  5. Decide what are you bringing with you?
  6. Consider whether you ever thought of moving out West? If so why?
  7. Create your personality. Are you an adventurer or homebody, a lover of cities or the country, gullible or worldly-wise, etc.

Suggested Web sites for Research

Now write your diary. In the 1870's the train generally traveled at about 18 to 22 mph and the journey would have taken approximately one week.

Write a journal entry for each day of your travels. Include topics such as:

  • Sleeping and eating arrangements. (You may or may not have been traveling on a Pullman sleeping car.)
  • Passengers you meet.
  • Geographic points of interest; changes in climate as you travel along.
  • Cities or towns of interest, including the Mormon city of Salt Lake, Cheyenne, mining towns, etc.
  • Animals you have not seen back East.
  • American Indians. Would you be likely to encounter any; why or why not?
  • The tracks themselves, especially the tunnels and bridges as the train crosses the Sierra Nevadas.