America's Chapel Car

By bmberry
  • Russian Orthodox

    Russian Orthodox
    The Russian Orthodox were 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.
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    Chapel Car Era

    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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    Episcopal Cars of Northern Michigan

    The episcopal cars 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.
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    Chapel Car Evangel

    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 thirty-three years in service, Evangel would become the physical heart of the First Baptist Church of Rawlins, Wyoming.
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    Chapel Car Emmanuel

    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.
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    Chapel Car Glad Tidings

    Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rust would be the first missionaries on Glad Tidings, and their two baby girls would swing in cradles from berths as the train trundled across Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri. The Rust's 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.
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    Chapel Car Good Will

    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.
  • Harold of Hope

    Harold of Hope
    Harold of Hope 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.
  • Chapel Car St. Anthony

    Chapel Car St. Anthony
    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.
  • Messenger of Peace

    Messenger of Peace
    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.
  • Chapel Car St. Peter

    Chapel Car St. Peter
    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.
  • Chapel Car Grace

    Chapel Car 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.
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    Chapel Car St. Paul

    Chapel Car St. Paul would spend from 1915 - 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.