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A Railroad Tycoon’s RV

February 21st, 2009

Jay Gould's Exquisite Railway Car

What do you get when you combine one of Jenn’s favorite games (Railroad Tycoon) and the RV lifestyle? You get a railroad car fitted out for fulltiming! That’s just what we found as we were passing through Jefferson, Texas a couple of weeks ago. The Garden Club has acquired the personal car of Jay Gould, a railroad tycoon, and restored it to something close to it’s original splendor.

The car had four staterooms for passengers, two of which were adjoining with a bathroom, including tub and shower between them. The others all had their own plumbing, even if a bit primitive by modern standards. There was a couch as well as a pullman bed in each of the staterooms. The car would be able to take on water at the same water depots that the train used. We didn’t ask, but I assume the black and gray water would have been simply dumped along the tracks as soon as it was generated.

There were two rooms devoted to cooking with a pass through between them. Based on the layout, I would assume that the car originally had bunks for two servants, but only one of the kitchen cars still had a pullman berth at the ceiling. The icebox had something I think we could all use today, a glass door. How often have you opened the fridge and stared at what was there while deciding what you wanted?

In addition to the above mentioned rooms, the car also had an observation/lounge room and a dining/office room. Many RV’s today have a table that fold out from the wall with a leg that folds down to support the table. The design is more than a hundred years old! Jay Gould’s car had slots along the side where a table with a folding leg could be secured to place a table wherever it was needed at the time. The observation room included a speedometer so that Mr. Gould could see how fast the train was moving and call the conductor if he wanted to go faster. Apparently, Jay Gould was often in a hurry to get somewhere.

Jay Gould's Parlor

The entire car was lavishly appointed with a different decor for each room. How much of this is original is hard to say, but the Garden Club has done an excellent job recreating what must have been a very high class conveyance in it’s day. You can still see the original mother of pearl buttons to summon servants and the glass fixture with Jay Gould’s signature jay bird, which he would draw when signing his first name.

If you’re ever in Jefferson, I recommend taking the tour. It’s cheap and the ladies will tell you all kinds of stories about Jay Gould and how he was connected to the town during the heyday of the railroad. The town also has some interesting ‘antique’ shops full of all kinds of junk and a hotel that dates back to the days of the wild west. Overall, it’s a gorgeous small town with a nice drive along the Texas Trails system if you’re tired of the interstate route.

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