That’s what I was trying to do last week, with a combination of fictional and real towns in the mix. The idea was to get a reasonable travel plan for my characters.
The challenge for me is in deciding what is reasonable. How much time should I devote to poring over railroad buff websites, finding the exact stops and times and years and costs of this trip and how much should I just wing it?
It wasn’t easy to get in and out of Arizona in 1880, nor was it easy to cross the Rocky Mountains. The maps I find have little lines all over them. Some represent railroad tracks, some represent stage coach routes, some indicate smaller trails, some are rivers and streams and it doesn’t always say which is which.
One of these train schedules gives times between Yuma and Tombstone, when I know for a fact there was never a rail depot in Tombstone. The small print tells me that you had to get a stage from another town to actually get to Tombstone, but I guess you could book that through the railroad.
My partner spends this much time surfing around for the best airfare deals when we all have to go somewhere. I’m not actually going anywhere. And the town my characters are in is fictional. It roughly resembles the depot-less Tombstone, but if it’s a fictional town, can it be on the line of a fictional railroad?
For some reason, I think it can’t. I’m okay with a fictional town, but I insist on verisimilitude in getting in and out of it.
At this point, you think I’m nuts, right?
But when I read historical fiction and come across something that just wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t have happened in the period in which it’s set, I get really annoyed.
Maybe my solution is to make sure no one who reads my book knows too much about U.S. railroad history. Or to write more vaguely. Or to have them walk…