The CB&Q vs. Disease

As we enter the final stages of processing the CB&Q circulars I wanted to add a post about one aspect of life (and death) on the CB&Q that many may not be aware existed.

The two circulars below demonstrate some of the CB&Q administration’s concerns with how to handle death and disease on the railroad. With new routes constantly being opened to train travel there was more than just freight and tourists to transport — there was disease as well. It is interesting to note how particular the CB&Q was about transporting corpses (see first circular) for fear of contaminating passengers, crew, and towns that they would pass through. There are many circulars like the first one below found throughout the circulars of the 1880s — often accompanied with a stamped note saying DO NOT POST IN WAITING ROOMS — which may give researchers some idea of the medical knowledge, feared diseases, and general health considerations of the period.

The second circular is one of only a small number that contains quarantine information. It is difficult to imagine a region of the United States being quarantined for medical reasons today, but as this 1879 circular shows, the entire state of Texas was briefly quarantined for over three months and barred from travelers under certain circumstances. This would be especially important for early train travel since never before could an infected passenger, animal, or bit of freight move so swiftly through the country and spread disease at such a rapid rate. It is unclear if these regulations were in place since the inception of the CB&Q or if the early railroads learned these lessons the hard way, but it is still interesting to note the careful attention they paid to preventing and containing serious outbreaks of disease in the late nineteenth century.

CB&Q 32.8 Transportation of Corpses Circular

CB&Q 32.8 Circular on Texas Quarantine, 1879


The CB&Q vs. Disease — 2 Comments

  1. Can you offer larger copies of these documents (transporting bodies and Texas quarantine) so that we can read them, either on line or when downloaded. Thanks

    • Hi Rupert – you should be able to view a larger version of those images by left clicking on them once, and after the image has loaded clicking again can make it even bigger. If this still does not work for you let us know. Thanks for reading!