Railroads and Ships:
Making our Way from Here to There



In the years before the advent of commercial aviation, the only way for someone who wanted to emigrate from somewhere on the European continent to another country was by ship.

At first there were clipper ships. Then shipping lines, that usually shipped livestock or merchandise across the Atlantic, that, after unloading their cargo returned to their port of origin with any empty hold, decided it would be profitable to transport human cargo. And so they did. Eventually the ships became bigger, better and faster. They then began to transport passengers in both directions, many in the steerage compartments, as well as others who could pay for better accommodations.

But, how was the emigrant and perhaps other members of their family, to get to one of the many ports in Europe so they could board the ship that would take them on a transatlantic voyage? In the early 1900s, there were cars, though it is doubtful that the majority of those wanting to go to such ports as Antwerp (Belgium), Bremen or Hamburg (Germany), or Le Havre (France), arrived there in this manner. Though one could get there on the back of a horse-drawn wagon, and some did, many who could afford both a ship ticket and a railroad ticket, went to the nearest railroad station  where they could board a train that would take them to their port of interest.

As shown in the photo on the left, sometimes the shipping company even arranged train transportation for the prepaid ship passenger.

: cover of the railroad's Rates of Fare from Germany, Austria and Switzerland to the ports of Hamburg and Le Havre.


Czernowitz (Cernauti) Railroad Station

Berl Schreiber (seen by the window of the railroad car) is leaving Czernowitz for the United States.
He will be traveling from the port city of Le Havre, France, aboard the SS Normandie
 (the most modern ocean liner at the time), arriving a number of days later
at Ellis Island. B. Schreiber will be visiting his brother who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Standing on the platform, l. to r., is Mizzi Schreiber, her sister-in-law Fanny Klein,
Fanny's husband (and Mizzi's brother) Kubi Klein, Duzi Schreiber (husband of Mizzi and brother of Fanny).


14 September 1938

Birds-eye view of crowded dock to lower left, water and full-length view
of ocean liner Normandie with tug to right and Palisades in distance.
North River, Manhattan, from Pier 88.

SS Normandie was a French ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France for the French Line, Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT). When launched in 1932 she was the largest and fastest ship in the world, and she maintains the distinction of being the most powerful steam turbo-electric propelled passenger ship ever built. Her novel design features and lavish interiors have led many to consider her the greatest of all ocean liners. Despite this, she was not a commercial successcand relied partly on government subsidy to operate. During her service career as the flagship of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, she regularly sailed transatlantic crossings between her home port of Le Havre and the port of New York.

During World War II, Normandie was seized by United States authorities at New York and renamed USS Lafayette. In 1942, while being converted to a troopship, the liner caught fire, capsized, and sank at the New York Passenger Ship Terminal. Although she was salvaged at great expense, restoration of the vessel was deemed too costly, and she was scrapped in October 1946.

After more fitting out and final touches, the maiden voyage came on May 29, 1935. Fifty thousand people came to Le Havre to see the large ship off, on what was hoped would be a record-breaking crossing. And indeed it was. Normandie reached New York after just four days, three hours and fourteen minutes....


photo (gelatin print) of Normandie courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Text  concerning SS Normandie courtesy of Wikipedia.


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